Basalt Kitchen Countertops

Remodel_MamaFebruary 14, 2011

Does anyone have experience using basalt as a kitchen countertop? I surfed the web for examples this weekend and can't find much on the subject. A countertop fabricator suggested it as an alternative to soapstone or granite, but I'd like to learn more about it from others who have used it. Thanks

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isle2isle

Remodel Mama - We have honed 3 cm Classic Basaltina, and we love, love, love it. Try searching "Basaltina" (the name it's sold under). We couldn't find much on the web either, but saw the Basaltina in person in Seattle at both the Henrybuilt showroom and the display kitchen of the Seattle Pental location, and (after veering toward Paperstone counters in the early planning for our kitchen) we became enamored with Basaltina and never looked back. I don't know if you've seen it, but Basaltina has a particular look and virtually no variation in color (gray) across the inventory. But it has characteristic black, dark gray and white specks, and sometimes veins. We really like the clean minimalism of the stone, but the fact that it IS natural stone is cool. So if it's the look/color you want, it's fabulous! You can alter the color only slightly by using an enhancer (which will darken it from slightly blue-gray to a darker brown-gray).

We've never had granite, so I can't compare it directly, but for us the Basaltina has been just wonderful. We had regular ol Formica counters in our old kitchen, and cleaning the Basaltina is just as easy -- nothing special needs to be done to clean or maintain it.

Once the fabricator installed it, we sealed ours with two coats of 511 Seal & Enhance (by Miracle Sealants), then wiped the counters with mineral spirits and hand buffed with soft towels. We then did one coat of 511 Super Seal followed by mineral spirits and another hand-buffing, and the counters have been in full, non-fussy use in our kitchen for nine months. We use a lot of lemons/lines in our cooking, plus olive oil (and drink a lot of red wine!), and the seal has protected the Basaltina from all of those things (and more). It's very absorbent if not sealed, and it would stain.

The other thing I love is that people ALWAYS comment on the counters, because it's so unique.

Here are a couple pix -- it's hard to get the color accurate in my photos...it's definitely a GRAY stone, and not blue:

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 11:03PM
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tanem

I plan on posting pictures towards the end of the week. I used Basaltina on my perimeter countertops (quartzite that looks like marble on my island). I have sealed mine twice with 511 enhance and sealer in 8 months. It is absorbant when not sealed. It's a great choice at withstanding kitchen elements. It's commonly used in Italy and paired with Marble. We used our remnants for a bar area that had red wine, lime juice, lemon juice etc. left overnight (new Year's Eve Party) and it just wiped off with no marks in the morning.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 12:26AM
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elba1

I hadn't heard of this stone. isletoisle, are the "specks" shiny pieces of mica by any chance?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 9:10AM
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kaismom

Basalt (basaltina) is a volcanic rock. The little specs are airholes created by molten lava which has been filled with resin, I believe..... You may want to check with someone more knowledgible.

Basalt is extremly porous. I brought some samples home and played with them and they were no go for me due to their porosity. It however, does not seem to etch.

I did not want to seal my stone. I do not want to use chemicals where the chemicals can come in contact with my food. This is not most people's criteria for stone, but this was mine.

Basaltina's color is very even and very beautiful. If you want a dark grey that is even, another option is quarzite. They may not need to be sealed. (I am not sure of this.)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 1:41PM
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isle2isle

Elba1 - I'm not a geologist, but most of the shinier specks that you see could be mica (or quartz). Either way, they're definitely a solid part of the stone, embedded during the volcanic process.

Some of the lighter spots in Basaltina are as Kaismom says, a filler that is used at the quarry (in Italy), because of the porosity of the stone. Basaltina is "filled and honed" before it comes to the US. IMO you don't notice that it's filler unless you're looking for it. It just looks like part of the stone.

We love Basaltina, and are so pleased we went for it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 2:07PM
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elba1

Thank you. Kaiasmom, I have a sample of a white quartzite I want to use on a pantry/buffet piece - it is beautiful. On the perimeter cabs, I want to use a darker neutral with some shiny flecks. My fabricator said they can get anything, so I will ask where I can see a sample of basaltina. Thanks isletoisle glad to hear those are shiny flecks I was seeing - I'm still learning new things everyday on here - I will check it out!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 3:17PM
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rhome410

The basalt rock I have seen doesn't look anything like the Isle2isle's basaltina, which I love, but more like soapstone...Dark with veining...sometimes white, sometimes colored red or green by minerals. I saw it in a sculpture park, where one stone in particular was round and cut flat, like a table. A very smooth and beautiful surface. I could see it as my dream, if-price-was-no-object island. :-)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 4:31PM
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elba1

Wow rhome, I would really like that, as I was hoping for something with movement like soapstone! Hope there is some to be had (and afforded) around here!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:25PM
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rhome410

I tried to find on-line pics of the sculptures I was talking about, but no luck. His other basalt sculptures seem to range from light gray to striped black and gray to solid looking black. So it must be one of those things that doesn't have one sure look to it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:56PM
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littlesmokie

Thanks for asking this question remodel mama...

Can anyone comment-does basalt scratch like soapstone, or is it harder like granite?

isle2isle...thank you for posting your photos and telling us about your counters. I'm scratching my head over both sealing and oiling, though as I had thought one would do one or the other? I'm curious whether you are oiling for the look or perhaps to help mask scratches? How often were you advised to seal/oil?

In case this helps someone else--in addition to basalt someone at the stoneyeard suggested Pietro de Cardosa (schist) to us as an alternative to soapstone. He maintained the reason PdC gets a bad rap for etching is that people try to treat it like a soapstone (oil/wax maintenance) but that if sealed like a granite it would perform like a granite. I was excited about PdC until I realized I could still scratch it (not as soft as some of our soapstone samples, but the scratches still showed/made the PdC look kind of beat up.) Now I'm wondering if the guy meant that we were supposed to seal it AND oil it, not seal it instead of oil it...

PS Kaismom, you raise a point about chemical sealers that concerns me too. Have you decided on your countertop material? Thanks

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 10:09PM
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isle2isle

Littlesmokie, we've not had any scratches on the Basaltina. It's been in our kitchen for about 10 months, and we don't baby it (but we also don't cut on it and we're not careless, like sliding boxes with staples across it, for example). We only sealed/enhanced our Basaltina, no oil. (The final pass on our sequence of sealing was Mineral Spirits, which is a mild solvent, but not oil. The directions on the 511 products said to wipe off the excess sealer and enhancer with Mineral Spirits.) Upon installation our fabricator suggested we should just use mineral oil on the Basaltina, period. No chemical sealers. Like kaismom we had a preference to go with something more natural, if possible, but we tried the mineral oil on a sample of leftover stone and most things stained (ie olive oil and red wine). So we decided to use the 511 products, figuring we prepare food on cutting boards, and serve it on plates/platters, so our food doesn't sit on the counters and absorb the sealer or anything. I like to think that the STONE absorbed the sealer, and what the stone didn't need we took off with the mineral spirits. As for ongoing maintenance, we haven't resealed it yet and I'm not sure when we'd need to.

Rhome, there's a lot of basalt in Eastern Washington that you've likely seen (driving along I-90 even), and in fact my DH really wanted to use that but no one cuts it it seems (or maybe it just wouldn't work for counters). Those "columns" are used a lot in landscaping in E. Wa especially and I did once see one cut flat and polished and it was quite beautiful, as you describe. But VERY different than Basaltina. Even though both are volcanic, the basalt in E. Wa can be either the brownish/red of the columns, OR the dark gray more porous stone like Basaltina. Maybe someone here on GW is a volcano expert and could explain this??! Stone from different states of the eruption/different temps or something?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:21AM
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rhome410

When looking on-line, I noticed that some of this particular artist's pieces look like the columns, but the ones I saw were definitely cut pieces and were all-over dark. Maybe the sides were sand-blasted or something to expose the color. It seems like when I researched the sculpture park pieces when we first saw them that the Basalt was native to Washington. Anyway, if they cut it for landscaping and sculpture, I wonder why it can't be cut for kitchens. Maybe it is cut in a different method that's too pricey for cabinets, or maybe it can't go thin?

You're right, we can ask all day, but need to find someone who knows the answers... We know a man who brings in the columns for his landscaping materials business. Maybe he knows some of this.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:39AM
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elba1

I did see a few slabs of Pietra del Cardosa - they looked slate-like, or like soapstone without much movement - didn't interest me for countertops, but was thinking a piece would be nice as a base and/or mantle for a fireplace (we're adding a gas one). It is also from Italy, but now sounds like Basalt is from Washington?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 7:45AM
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isle2isle

"Basaltina" is the name of the stone from Italy; apparently there's a massive seam near Rome where the majority of "Classic Basaltina" is cut. "Pietra del Cardoso" is also from Italy.

"Basalt" is the generic term for the stone -- in it's natural state, resulting from volcanic eruptions -- and can be found in rock formations all over the world as just plain old basalt. (There happens to be a lot of basalt in Washington state, and since Rhome and I are both located here I mentioned that...sorry to add more confusion!)

Elba, if you've seen Pietra del Cordoso, well that's a lot like Basaltina. It was the only stone that was remotely close. So if you passed that up already for your counters, you may not find that Basaltina will work for you either.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 12:15PM
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tanem

I was also interested in Pietra de Cardosa (there are a few different variations to the spelling, but same stone). Do a search and you will find a kitchen on here if I remember correctly. You can find slabs with a great deal of movement and mica, very pretty. I checked out a kitchen in town that has it and it does scratch and dent. Basaltina does not have movement, which I wanted to contrast the movement of the quartzite on my island.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:52PM
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elba1

Thanks once again isletoisle and tanem - thinking maybe I should focus more on some of the leathered granites, and thanks to remodel mama for starting this very interesting and informative thread!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 3:21PM
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