What was once sediment, animal skeletons, shells and solidified plant matter is now coveted countertop material.
Granite. Marble. Quartz. Limestone.
It's sounds more fifth-grade science class than house beautiful.
Just like in grade school, you have to do your homework. Better to know the facts before putting these to the test in your kitchen or bathroom.
For example: Calcutta marble. It's pretty, but not practical for kitchen tops.
"It's porous, and it will scratch," said Becca Schreiber of Everett's Quality Counter.
Not to worry, though. You can still get the Calcutta look in your kitchen. There are clones made of acrylics, engineered stone and other materials able to withstand the daily grind.
Family dynamics determine the right tops for your household. If there's a tendency to leave fizzing cans of orange pop, knives with grape jelly and (gasp) hot pans on the counter, try a nonwhite quartz.
There are tons of color and pattern options for tops. Each material has its own pros and cons.
"The leaders are granite and quartz," Schreiber said.
Prices vary, but often these two are comparable in price.
Granite is quarried from the earth. Granite tops can turn cookie-cutter kitchens into a dramatic showplace.
"It's amazing what mother nature can pop out," Schreiber said.
Some maintenance is require. If left unsealed, granite can absorb stains and cause dark spots and discoloration.
Quartz is engineered stone.
It is about 95 percent crushed natural stone. The rest is a filler, typically a synthetic resin to bid the stone.
"They lay it out on a sheet and get it to the thickness and let it dry and harden," Schreiber said.
Solid surface acrylics and polyester blends are synthetic.
"A lot of medical offices use the nonporous acrylics. It's sanitary," Schreiber said.
Other countertop options include wood, concrete and laminate.
And if you can't decide. No problem. Choose two. It's trendy to use a different material on islands than the main countertops. It differentiates and accents the spaces.
But wait. You're not done. You still have to choose an edge. Square, rounded, bullnose, bevel, egg, ogee ... oh, my.
• Pros: Nonporous. Sanitary. Scratches can be sanded or buffed out. Seamless.
• Cons: Not heat resistant.
• Cost: $39 to $72 square foot
• Pros: Low maintenance. Durable. Patterns more consistent than granite.
• Cons: Can cost as much as granite.
• COST: $58 to $84 square foot
• Pros: Bold movement and colors. Wide price range. No two slabs exactly alike.
• Cons: Must be sealed. Seams.
• Cost: $60 to $100 square foot
• Pros: Natural beauty. Elegant. Unique patterns and designs.
• Cons: Porous. Stains. Scratches.
• Cost: $60 to $80 square foot
Source: Quality Counter, 3411 Hayes St., Everett; 425-303-9180; www.qualitycounter.com.
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