I give up: What's the perfect counter surface?

caveman_mikeMarch 22, 2013

Though I've asked some specific questions about granite and quartz, it occurs to me I know nothing about counters and perhaps I should not have started my investigations by assuming granite and quartz are the only two choices.

I've decided granite is not for me; whether or not bacteria, radon, radiation, hassle of selection, etc are real concerns, I don't want to deal with it.
So, if I want something fancier than Formica, and I'm excluding granite, are there other surfaces that are:

1) Scratch and Stain resistant,
2) Don't absorb bacteria
3) Don't emit dangerous things
4) Look fancy
5) low maintenance

6) as a plus: high gloss without lots of fussing

Please direct me into what surface to further investigate.


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Kristen Hallock

Yes. Quartz does all of that! We had Cambria in our last house and were very happy with it. I'm hoping to put it in our kitchen when we remodel this one.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 9:36AM
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I disagree. there is NO pefect surface for every situation and every type of use. That is why many put more than one surface in their kitchen.

Quartz is not perfect and can stain and scratch. Granite does not have bacteria issues.

What about SS? Glass?

Take your list and put in in order of importance if its not already. For us we wanted heat "resistant" and stain resistance. Got granite. Note is "resistant" NOT "proof".

I'm not pushing granite just trying to give you some balance of opinions.j

Looks fancy??? How about fits with the look/character of your kitchen, condo?

At one point I was interested in quarzite. Looked really cool but didn't really fit the character of my kitchen.

One more time....NO surface fits everyone or every situation.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 9:46AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Quartz definitely would probably be the best choice! Our budget is very stretched due to a whole house remodel, and our contractor put his hand in the air very high and said "This is Quartz." He then dropped it an inch, "This is Granite." Then he dropped it 2 feet! "This is porcelain!"

Porcelain is hard, non absorbive, doesn't stain or burn, and comes in all sizes and types. I chose a matte chocolate 13 x 20" with a rectified edge, which will be laid offset wit a thin grout line. The grout will also be treated so I will never have to seal it and it will not absorb. Small, 6" tiles will be the backsplash with a very decorative band included. When touched, it feels like soft swede. Instead of an edge piece, I chose to separate the edging with a brushed stainless schleuter between the edge and the drop.

My husband was so impressed, he commented "This looks more expensive than granite!" It truly does. It's unique, not trendy, sort of artsy, and will never look dated because it's just not trendy.... yet! LOL!

I'm happy with my choice, although it's not installed yet, but if you have the budget, quartz will be the answer you might seek!


This post was edited by desertdance on Fri, Mar 22, 13 at 10:13

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 9:50AM
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Thanks @debrak_2008: Good points.

In order:

I guess the most important thing to me is stain & scratch resistant.

I guess stain resistance would be tightly tied to being non-porous so though bacteria isn't the major issue, it is probably co-bundled with the #1 of being stain resistant.

I guess next important is low daily maintenance: I don't want to have to frequently buff or micro-fiber clean the counters. My beige formica doesn't require any of that. Perhaps it's kinda like getting a black car: looks great, but shows all the dirt. I don't want to have that effect with my new counters.
I don't want the nagging worry about radiation so even though that's probably not a big issue, and for sever other issues too, I don't want granite.

I've always had formica and have never put hot things on counters, so that's not a feature.

I forgot to mention budget: under $100 per square foot installed for my 30 square feet ($3,000 total)

That probably rules out glass or stainless steel

Thanks again for helping me narrow down this maddening array of choices!


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 9:56AM
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Quartz fits all your criteria. Will you have an undermount sink?

Others have mentioned that quartz is not totally scratch and stain resistant, but then again, not everyone uses their counter as a cutting board (I could not, no matter the surface).

Transitioning from formica, we do have two silicone drying mats permanently on the counter, not to protect the counter as much as to protect glasses from being being gorilla smashed down from the cabinet onto the counter (ask me why we needed this).

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Circus Peanut

I can't imagine stainless steel would cost that much for 30sqft, would it? Check with local metal fabricators (you know, the guys with the squiffy-looking shops out by the automotive repair places). For what it's worth, I did DIY copper countertops for something like $20sqft, although stainless would be more maintenance free.

Radiation is only a factor, and a tiny, much disputed one, with some of the red typhoon granites. Many types of granite do require sealing with petrochemicals. Some don't.

Quartz appears to vary quite a lot in its durability, depending on manufacture and composition, so look carefully if you go that route. Some are touted as bulletproof.

Given your criteria, I'd hazard that stainless steel covers your desiderata well, all but the blingy shine factor. Personally I don't like living-room shine on hardworking kitchen work surfaces, but it might be a larger factor for you.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:13AM
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Have you looked at the Formica 180FX? It has a nice sheen to it, and it is not granite :)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:16AM
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Ok, so go out and get some samples this weekend. Get some quartz and laminate. Yes I said laminiate. There are different brands and types now. You might be surprized. You can choose matte, high gloss, and lots inbetween. It offers the low maintaince you want and can be durable for many people.

Do some stain and scratch testing.

Do not rule out anything do to expense until you get a few estimates. Don't assume anything. If SS even slightly interests you (or any other surface) get a few estimates. Again you might be surprized.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:18AM
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I was ASSUMING that formica is not as durable from a scratch & stain perspective as Quartz.


If not, maybe I should entertain that: The one thing that would be nice is the bend up to a 4" mini backspash so water or liquids don't get in/under where the counter meets the backspash. I live in a 50 year old highrise so there is some settling issues and the old back spash became detached there.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:24AM
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quartz slabs (actual quartz, not "quartz surface".)

quartz is the 3rd hardest naturally occurring material (after diamond and sapphire)

impossible to scratch, beautiful, doesn't stain, transmits enough light to allow backlighting, extraordinarily beautiful

however, it's expensive.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:41AM
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Have you scratched your current laminate?

I got samples from a few different companies. One sent me sandpaper and said to try it out on the sample.

I also used the point of a steak knife and a hot pot.

Its pretty durable. Again get lots of samples.

You don't need the 4" backsplash. Tiling and caulking correctly will be fine. I have an unlevel kitchen and have no issues with the joint of the granite and tile. Its about doing it right.

Have fun and post all the results if you do testing on samples!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:45AM
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I'm a big quartz fan, but it's not the perfect countertop (no such thing exists). Honestly, I second the opinion that you should give a serious consideration to Formica or a laminate if you're OK with some of its limitations including the heat resistant thing. We have used and abused our laminate countertops and they have never stained or scratched. Since those along with ease of cleaning seem to be your top criteria, I think it's worth a look and it will certainly be more budget friendly than some options.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 11:41AM
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Add in low cost, and Uba Tuba granite fits all of your criteria.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 11:55AM
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@desertdance: That porcelain looks fancy but I have grout baggage.

Is Corian something that should be considered based on my requirements?


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 12:53PM
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There is no "perfect" surface. While many people like quartz, there have been complaints about pools of orange resin showing up on the surface and the manufacturers claiming that they're within normal tolerances - so unless you can pick your actual slab, you may end up disappointed with the look.

The issues of bacteria and radon with granite are mostly BS propagated by the solid surface industry - yes a very few types of granite do emit radon but you can actually google to find out which ones and avoid them.

Many people do like Corian but it is an expensvie plastic surface.

I agree with live_wire_oak that uba tuba granite meets all of your criteria as would blue pearl and various other dark granites.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 1:26PM
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beachlily z9a

OK. Yesterday I saw my future countertop at the fabricators place. It was cut and complete with seam, and they were carefully polishing it. HOT DOG! I loved it. It is Cambria Praa Sands. Way, way lighter than the standard sample. There was a Cambria truck there with more Praa Sands on it and they were darker and closer to the sample. I took their sample back to them and asked if I could have a piece of my own countertop so I could look for tile. Yep, just a minute, ma'am. It was damp after it was cut and the edges were sharp! Brought it home laying on my lap as I petted it. Tried to gouge it with a very sharp screwdriver. Thought I had, but couldn't feel it. Then poured vinegar, mustard, a very sharp brandy (yuk!) and some coffee on it and let it set for 4 hr. Everything wiped off with a paper towel.

I wanted a white granite, and husband wanted man-made. With this Cambria I got a piece that really, really looks like white granite (although with no light in the kitchen it reads a very pale gray) and he got his wish too. My husband has had 3 types of cancer related to Agent Orange (40 yr ago), and I won't take any chance with his health. The countertop goes in March 29 (Good Friday, and I really think it is a omen) and appliances go in on Tuesday. The end is near!!!

Good luck with your hunting, caveman!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 1:54PM
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Ahem...I know it's not popular, but my perfect countertop surface is porcelain tile with epoxy grout.
No sealing or maintenance required other than standard cleaning with any cleaner you like. The epoxy grout is completely impervious (and a pain in the neck to work with if you are DIY). Hot pots and pans right off the stove or oven are set right on the tile without a thought. The kids are often cutting or slicing right on the counter (much to my dismay, having a dozen suitable cutting boards). No scratching or staining.
And most people walk in my kitchen and ask if it's slate - which is exactly what I wanted, without the work of real slate - that's as "fancy" as I would ever want it. And not too crazy expensive.
Rectified porcelain tiles can be set as close as 1/16" (although we opted for 1/8" as DIY - 1/16" just looked too difficult). A search on GW for rectified tile will tell you what you need to know about that.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 2:00PM
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I've been trying to decide on counter tops for a long time...and I still keep coming back to laminate. Just use a cutting board and some potholders. Ceramic tiles are also durable, but you will have the grout lines.

I think laminate can be great, especially if you want to mix up your surfaces a bit. Maybe a laminate by the sink, wood on the island and marble by the baking area?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 2:02PM
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We have had corian all these years, with a corian sink. I have loved them both! There are some mystery scratches, and a burn ring from a friend who put a pan right from the stove to the counter (grrrr) But they are easy to clean and pretty durable.
When we remodel, I am going with Cambria. Fell in love with a sample, and like you, didn't want to have to seal it or mess with it again.
Good luck in your search!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 2:32PM
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Perfect is what you love

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 2:40PM
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I have these musings, too. Lurking here and other places, hearing horror stories of basically every single brand-new counter? It makes me very squeamish!

I get that there is no such thing as a perfect material. I get that there are pros/cons for each choice.

What I find exceedingly hard to swallow is stories of brand new counters that are high dollar, failing. Same with shoddy installation. That's bad enough, but when the manufacturers or installers refuse to stand behind their product, fix the problem and get it right? Reading those stories stuns me - and gives me paralysis.

I admit, I'm not the most decisive person in the world. I also admit I find it hard to splurge or part with my hard-earned dough more than the average bear. I'm also failry risk aversive. That being said, this is a huge deal for me and while I am willing to spend big money to get the "right" counter, I am not willing to do it if it doesn't look great from the get-go and hold up well over time.

One thing I am doing about that is making it perfectly clear when I talk to fabricators what I expect and assess whether they are detail-oriented perfectionists about their work. I'm also doing a lot of research re: pros and cons of various materials.

I'm considering corian, granite/quartzite and quartz, primarily. Soapstone isn't totally off the list, but I don't think I want a counter that dark again.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Yep, stainless steel should be within your budget if you're interested. I had about the same square footage as you and measuring the space and countertop fabrication (including welding in a stainless sink that I purchased separately) ran under $1,500 (this is in Portland Oregon). I built subtops and installed myself (this takes some time, but is not too challenging).

Now that I have stainless, here's what I have to say.
-looks great; a classic industrial look
-obviously, impervious to pretty much everything, and easy to clean
-integrated sink with no seam is awesome
-No seams (I believe their sheets are 10' x 4' so as long as you're within that, it's not a consideration at all, and if they do need to make a seam they can weld it and finish so it's invisible)
-I got 14 gauge steel, so it's beefy! (probably overkill, but they really feel substantial.)

-Not a warm look (depends what you're looking for, of course)
-It does scratch

As noted earlier in the thread, it pays to shop around. I found a sheet metal fabricator that primarily works on restaurant kitchens. When I had an architecture / GC firm quote the same work, they wanted $4,000!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 5:09PM
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Given your criteria list, and your aversion to granite, I'd pick a multi-colored "stone look" Formica.

I have always had Formica counters, and my experience has been that old (like, put in during the 70s) white Formica has stained, but I was able to get out the stains with a lot of elbow grease and chemicals. In my current house with a mostly mid-gray sort-of stone look Formica, I have never had a stain, and I do not baby my counters. If I put my face like two inches from the counter and really look, I can see teeny scratches, but I've never seen a scratch from "normal" viewing distance. We do not cut on our counters, but I have small kids and I'm not a terribly neat person, and we leave things out, slide things on the counter, etc.

You may be able to get a glossy Formica counter with the 180 line. I would think that no matter what counter you get, just like with a floor, the glossier the finish, the more easily scratches will show up.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 5:15PM
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I have Uba Tuba on my island and it is bulletproof. No sealing, no scratches, it's glossy and hard as a rock (LOL) and easy to clean with Windex. I could put hot pots on it but have no reason to do so. I have Corian on my perimeter counters because I love its seamless, low-maintenance, soft surface. As others have said, there is no perfect counter, only perfect for YOU.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 6:04PM
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Well, I'm thinking soapstone for me, but it does scratch and is NOT high gloss. I think it meets the rest of your criteria though.

If I wanted high gloss and the rest of your list, I would be looking at stainless steel. It does scratch, but otherwise meets your criteria.

The low end granites like Uba Tuba and Blue Pearl don't "look fancy" to me. They are nice (we DIYed blue pearl tile in our first kitchen in about 2002) but not "fancy" to my eye. Some of the wilder granites look fancy to me, but they may require sealing and such. And they are not heat "proof".

The quartz products also sound like a strong contender for your list, but they are stain and heat resistant, not proof.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:32PM
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As to: "Perfect is what you love":

The perfect is what won't scratch, stain, won't absorb bacteria, won't nuke me, and looks awesome, all for under $3,000 for 30 square feet.

What is it??


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:43PM
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There are lots of quartz owners here, some who have had quartz for many years. I haven't seen anyone say they got a permanent stain on their quartz. I think a Sharpie will do it, but not food. If it gets direct sunlight, I've been told the resin can yellow after a few years.

Even though quartz is partly made of resin, it really does look and feel like stone.

I do know someone who cracked a black granite by filling canning jars on the counter. He thought it was heat proof.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:47PM
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@iroll I'll be getting a new undermount sink as part of the process.

As I'm re-reading this thread, and the more I think about it:

If I can't drag a heavy stainless steel pressure cooker across a quartz counter, I think it's out :-(


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:49PM
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@circuspeanut my stainless steel pressure cooker is really scratched up so I'd be concerned about using it as a surface.

Plus: it screams high school cafeteria / industrial kitchen.

I don't think I would go stainless.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:52PM
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@may_flowers: add yellowing resin to the list of cons for quartz and I think I'm ruling that out.

I very well may be left with Formica :-(

(I realize, of course, I've added so many constraints, some real, and some probably bogus (like bacteria concerns on granite) )


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:54PM
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@teachertile: I guess I owe it to Formica to investigate the various lines (like the one you mentioned).

Maybe I just have beige Formica baggage :-)


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 7:55PM
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Mike, I don't think yellowing would be noticeable on the dark colors you like. Why don't you get a sample of quartz and do some scratch tests? I just sawed a leftover piece of mine with a serrated knife, looked at it in front of a window, and I don't see or feel anything. I also think it meets your #4 criteria more than Formica.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:21PM
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I think you're being a bit ridiculous with your constraints. There is no material that meets your requirements.

I really do think granite is the ideal material for you if you actually just sat down and thought a bit rationally. Your concerns about radon, radiation, and bacteria are absurd.

If you insist on not considering granite, quartz is the next best thing. Your concerns about yellowing are unfounded. If I recall correctly your kitchen is nowhere near a window. The chances of your counters being exposed to direct sunlight for extensive periods of time is nil. As for the dragging your pressure cooker across the counters, is this absolutely necessary? Why can't you lift it up? If you treat the counters like crap they are going to look like crap, thats true for any counters. Take a little care and the counter will stay nice.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:57PM
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Thank you @realism. You are probably correct that radon, radiation & bacteria not likely to be real issues for granite. And your memory is perfect: the kitchen is not in direct sunlight so I guess the yellowing would not apply to me.

Not being able to put a stainless steel pot or pressure cooker on the surface without fear that it will scratch is HUGE to me. Not that I will be dragging it across the counter, but my partner is not that careful and I can see it being put on the surface, and if not dragged, at least nudged or moved a bit which apparently can scratch quartz. The odds of the pressure cooker always being placed on something soft after being washed is zero.

I don't want to treat my counters like crap, but if someone in the household is not as careful as me, I don't want to be looking at the consequences for the next 20 years.

Scratch and stain resistance remain my absolute requirements. I may need to give on some of the other ones.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 9:42PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Happy you gave up on your grout constraint! I raised 3 kids and 2 husbands with ceramic tile and grout, and OMG! We are all still alive! And nobody is sick!

They do have sealers for grout, you know, and porcelain tile can stand up to dancers with high heels! Not a scratch!!

Just saying.........


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:01PM
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desert --"porcelain tile can stand up to dancers with high heels! Not a scratch!!"
ROFLMOA. That's why my floors are Italian Porcelain tile.
but no partygoers have tried to dance on my beautiful Soapstone--or else !
you raised 2 husbands ? you saint you.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:25PM
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Just follow along for a moment...
Right now I am looking for a new (used) car. DH and I and on websites every few hours, reading reviews, looking at inventories etc. Guess what I can't decide what to get?

My DS said "get off the internet and go drive some cars". So I did, I will again tomorrow.

So Mike you need to drive some cars, I mean counter tops. Go out tomorrow and look at all different kinds of materials. GET SAMPLES. Test the samples. Have some fun.

I'm going to check in tomorrow and want to hear about what samples you got, ok? I'll even tell you what cars I drove. Todays was hot and fast. Maybe tomorrow you will find a hot and fast counter top.

ok I need to get some sleep. Really, we both need to get out of the house.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:27PM
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I agree with the previous posters to check out the Formica 180fx series. I originally thought I had my heart set on granite counters but I found my perfect backsplash tile first; and when I tried to find a complimentary granite, nothing stood out. Someone suggested looking at the Formica samples and while none of the little 2x3 chips caught my eye, I happened to find a large book with (I think) 12x12 samples and found one that had just been released (hasn't been made into chips yet) and it was a perfect match. It has several finish options (gloss, matte, etc.) so you can get shine if you want it. But I was really impressed by the Formicaâ¦with some of them, unless you stand over the counter and knock on it, it's hard to tell if it's granite or formica. I've been suitably impressed.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:17AM
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Caveman mike-I have a stainless steel surround around my cooktop and I absolutely love it. It's been in place for two years and looks great I know that if I need to I could easily bring it back to new.

I have Cambria Torquay and am pleased with it but regret not getting marble.

You can scratch quartz: I have a few tiny ones at my prep sink, from when I use the cutting board on top of the sink (I.e., almost flush with the countertop).

The question in my mind is really what material or materials do you have now and with what would you replace them if you could, and had unlimited funds?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 8:15AM
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@oldbat2be : I currently have hearty formica which I must say has been extremely forgiving, even if I get blueberry smoothie or tumeric on it: I have used bleaching comet and been able to get the stains out.

At this point, it's not so much about unlimited funds (though I don't want to spend more than $100 per square feet installed.

I'm really glad I found this forum and have been able to tap the knowledge of folks who know more about this stuff than me.

The only reason I was thinking quartz is a counter guy at the Philly Home Show said it was more hearty than granite, which appears not to have been correct.

Had I gotten quartz, and it got all scratched up, I would have been really sad (money aside).



    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:16AM
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@debrak_2008 I know you are 100% right about getting off the internet and actually looking & touching samples.

I am enormously grateful to the folks here for helping me identify and prioritize my requirements.

I initially was looking at various samples of Cambria quartz. However, now, I absolutely will NOT get quartz. The scratching thing is HUGE to me.

Last weekend, I had a fun time with my granite advocate friend looking at all the slabs at the big slab yard in King Of Prussia PA.

Good luck with the cars. May I respectfully suggest that you check www.safercar.gov and iihs.org and buy the safest car you can afford.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:29AM
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Thank you @meangoose for "the glossier the finish, the more easily scratches will show up."

I think that's a really important point.

Would it likewise be true that the darker the finish, the more scratches show, or doesn't it work like that?


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:35AM
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@beachlily : Good luck with the install next week - I'm sure you're going to love it !!

And please thank your husband for his service to our country. I'm really sorry that happened to him.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:46AM
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I don't want to leave the wrong impression; my quartz is most DEFINITELY NOT all scratched up. My point was, in the one place where I accidentally cut directly on the quartz, there are some very small scratches. I've dragged plenty of things across my quartz and haven't noticed any scratches. I assume you don't plan to cut directly on your countertop?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:48AM
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@oldbat2be I certainly would not cut on the counter.

Question: Would you drag the pressure cooker pictured above across your quartz counters?


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:51AM
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Mike, I have glossy dark gray mottled Caesarstone. No scratches, at least none I can see or feel, since I must use the Braille method of finding missed drips and spills, so little does anything show. I typically don't drag things across the surface, not because I'm afraid of scratches, but because it's just not how I move things. If someone offered me a new counter, I'd probably look for something else (another color), but would consider quartz again.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:55AM
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Thanks for the feedback @linelle .

And just to clarify: it's not that I routinely drag stainless steel pots across the counter, but if if washing the pot in the sink, when done, it does get "placed" on the counter.

When I say "placed", it does not descend 100% perfectly straight onto the counter. The natural movement would involve some left to right motion as it is placed onto the surface.

Therefore, I'm concerned about the "point of impact" (developing small lateral scratches in the surface).

So, I hope I'm not blowing the whole scratching thing out of proportion for Cambria. It would really make this whole project much simpler because Ikea is having a 20% off sale good till the end of april 2013.

I'm actually warming up to the suggestions made in a different thread and replacing the existing cabinets (not just adding new cabinets and counters on the opposite wall of the main kitchen).

My thinking is that installing new quartz (or granite) on top of 13 year old ikea cabinets is probably not the best idea for the long haul.

And, if I'm replacing the bottom cabinets, I might as well bite the bullet and replace the old uppers.

And, if I'm doing that, I should probably replace the 8'x12' 13 year old pergo laminate floor with tile.

YIKES! This project originally started as just 7' of new counters and some lower & upper cabinets.

Talk about scope creep !!!


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:40AM
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Maybe I should frame it this way:

To all your quartz counter folks:

Would you be comfortable washing pots & pans in the sink, and then placing them directly on the quartz counter without something soft underneath to prevent scratching?

If it turns out most of the quartz peeps do this without problem, I'll probably just get the quartz.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:43AM
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Mike, I honestly don't think empty pots and pans would be any problem at all. When I first read of your concern, I was thinking about a large pot full of water and spaghetti noodles.

Once again, I highly recommend you order a few samples from Cambria (or elsewhere), and play around with them - all your "what happens if" questions can be answered through experimentation. I got my samples in about a week.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:53AM
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Would you be comfortable washing pots & pans in the sink, and then placing them directly on the quartz counter without something soft underneath to prevent scratching?

Mike, I wash pots and pans in the sink all the time. It's my standard operating procedure. But here's the thing...regardless of what my counter material is, I would not set just washed (i.e., dripping wet) items of any heft or weight directly on the counter with nothing underneath. Nobody wants all that water that then has to be wiped up. I use a drying rack and sloped catch pad underneath that sits on my counter next to the sink, so all the water runs back into the sink. I know it isn't GW chic, but that's how I roll. Even if I didn't use a rack, I'd put something absorbent underneath to catch and trap the water rolling off the pots/pans. Not because the pot will scratch my quartz, but because I don't want a wet mess.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:11AM
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Mike - here's the thing that seems to be missing - no quartz or granite will be more delicate than your current laminate. It won't scratch easier or stain easier than your laminate. Formica will not manage your pressure cooker better than one of the solid surface.

You are sounding a little OCD about some of your issues, and you may want to address if they are real issues or distractions.

Honestly, with your list of wants - I would probably go with one of the dark granites (blue pearl, uba tuba) which do not emit radon, are pretty close to bulletproof, read as a solid color but since not actually a solid color, hides a multitude of sins. I think concrete would also be good for you (with the finish you want, would likely be too pricy though).

I also need to say - on my last kitchen, I was full of plans and opinions until I got the samples into my space. That changed everything.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:37AM
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@kailuamom I hope I'm not appearing OCD because I'm asking quartz folk how it performs in real world situations over time.

If the OCD comment pertains to concerns about granite radon and radiation, that's not OCD, that's just me not having enough facts to dismiss the concerns.

In any event, if either quartz or granite is LESS susceptible to show scratches or stains, that's great, I'll go for the quartz.

My quartz concerns resulted from some of the answers here in this thread about scratching.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:53AM
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Debrak said this:

"Quartz is not perfect and can stain and scratch."

Owners of quartz have said repeatedly it doesn't stain. Now we are discussing the scratch issue. If you want to base your decision on her statement, she should come back and provide the source of her information. Does she own quartz and how did she stain and scratch it? I'm certainly curious.

I'll weigh in as having a light-colored quartz for 10 months and no scratches. I don't baby my countertop except I put a hot pad down for hot pans. I don't cut on it. I don't scrub it because it doesn't need it. In the spirit of getting you out of your cave and into a shiny new kitchen, I took a serrated knife to my leftover scrap and could not see or feel a scratch. I have a large work surface on my peninsula which is backlit by patio sliders and a DR chandelier. If there was a scratch to be seen, I'd see it there.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 12:58PM
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@may_flowers: it was very kind of you to go out of your way and take a knife to the sample. As if this caveman wasn't confused enough, getting conflicting info on the scratch resistance of quartz is really keeping me in my cave :-)

In the 10 months you had it, do you ever put not-hot pots & pans on the counter? Even if you don't slide pots on the counter, if it were susceptible to scrapes & scratches (metal on quartz), I suspect you would have seen those issues by now (assuming you put metal pots on quartz).


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:10PM
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Simply PLACING cooled-off pots or other items on a quartz counter, ready for washing will not scratch the counter.
SLIDING an item that has a non-smooth bottom may: I'm thinking of maybe a cheese grater or a cast iron frying pan here, not your pressure cooker as pictured.

The reason I asked about your sink is, doing an undermount sink may be a problem with formica, unless it is sealed to protect the substrate from absorbing water. I believe some GWer's have done this.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Nothing comes with a 100% guarantee so forget that.

Maybe I missed something in another thread, WHY is granite completely out of the question? That would be # 1 on my my list considering your criteria.

I don't put much stock in Point # 3, maybe specific types, but not all. If I was going to worry about unsubstantiated health concerns I'd worry about holding my cell phone next to my head.

You don't want to treat your counters like "crap", but don't want to worry about the consequence of others. I had to laugh at that because I guess you could say I DO treat my granite counters like crap!

I routinely hand wash because typically only 2 of us here and it's faster than dealing with the dishwasher. Routinely air dry in the opposite side of the sink and if there are big pots or glassware and I'm too lazy to dry, directly on the counter they go, wet. Casseroles straight out of the oven have been put on the counter with nothing but a dish towel under them. I've rolled dough directly on the counter. Sliced bread, a random onion, lime, etc directly on the counter. I don't make a habit of it because I don't want to ruin my knives, but lime juice, wine, diet coke, etc hasn't made a mark. I've slid heavy Le Creuset. Things have been spilled and splattered and not immediately wiped up.

No guests in our home have ever been as rough on our counters as we are and hopefully that would be the same in your case.

OK now that I sound like a total slob, really not, but we do not baby our counters at all. We started gentle, but that didn't last long.

Our counters and backsplash is sliver sea green, installed 13 years ago and still shines brand new without a scratch or chip and has never been resealed. I imagine the color and type of granite makes a huge difference, but we didn't know that then, just loved the color. This time around I want something lighter, that looks more like marble without the wear and tear issues cuz obviously marble doesn't fit my abusive ways! Hopefully I'll soon be beating up some samples of white granite and quartzite!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Just wanted to clarify. I do not own quartz. I checked into it but got granite. Any comment I made on any surface was made from personal experience or from feed back from this forum, people I know personally, and other sources.

Of course as with everything you tend to hear more of the "bad" then the good. What I have repeatedly, along with other posters, tried to point out is that no surface/material is perfect. I am not trying to say quartz is bad.

Again as I and others have been saying is that YOU must go out and get samples of different materials. Test then in your own kitchen. Drag your kitchen stuff across the surfaces, pour stuff you normally use on it and leave it. Attempt to abuse each type of surface. Then look at the results.

Mike, from your posts it sounds like you are trying to make the final decision just from our feedback. You also put in your title you are looking for the perfect surface. Everyone keeps telling you, there is no perfect surface. Just the right surface for you and your kitchen.

Everyone's vision of what is acceptable or perfect to them is different.

Last night Dh found a chip in our white diamond granite. That is perfectly fine with me. I accepted that this would happen. I would get chips. Its ok I planned on it happening. If you get a surface and expect it to never scratch you might be setting yourself up for major disappointment. Remember "resistant" and "proof" have different meanings.

Wishing you the best with your search. Thanks for the car links, eliminated 1 car from the info.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:58PM
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I bought the Consumer Reports Kitchen Guide back in December and it has a good article on countertops. You can probably find the article online or at your local library. They list quartz, granite, recycled glass and tile as excellent for cutting. They rate all the surfaces on stains, cutting, heat, abrasion and impact.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 2:03PM
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There's nothing that's impervious to scratching, so personally I think your best bet is to get a material that ages well (i.e., looks good even after it's scratched). I can't think of any glossy material that fits the bill, because by definition they lose gloss as they age and every scratch removes the gloss in that area.

In other words... the thing it sounds like you want is impossible in this world.

That being said, I have stainless counters and they're bulletproof--hot pans, metal things, any cleaner I want, scrubby pads to clean them, they're fine. But they have a patina--they already had it when we bought the house--which is another way of saying "they won't look pristine forever but when they age they look good, instead of shabby." I don't have to worry about a sloppy partner; large dogs could have a violent fight on this counter and then vomit all over it and then I could leave the mess for days (not that I would obviously), and once I cleaned it up, it would look just as good as it looked before.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 2:34PM
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Just get the cheapest laminate out there so you can abuse it and afford to replace it when it shows signs of the abuse.

All countertops require you to not treat them like floors. Trivets and cutting boards are needed with all of them. Even floors will scratch with you sliding scratchy things on them. I don't even personally trust it not to leak in a ight user situation.

So either change some habits here, or get the cheapest thing going. And NO, no laminate with undermount sink. Not with your described behavior. You have to be a "light" user for that because it's a very delicate join that can leak if you bang something into it and chip it.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Mike, I have a 14" square piece of my Caesarstone the fabricators gave me. It's supposed to be a cutting board or something, but it's heavy and I just stash it away. I just took a sharp paring knife and with all my strength dragged the tip over the edge of the cutting board. The "scratch" was thinner than a hair and it couldn't be felt. In fact, after I rubbed the area to see if I could feel it, I could no longer see it. So much for the resin binding all that quartz not being hard as a rock.

Seriously Mike, you should relax and trust that granite and quartz are made to stand up to most kitchen abuse.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 3:36PM
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@sparklep came to the rescue with the suggestion to check Consumer Reports. I'm already a member (but never thought to look there).

Basically, granite and quartz are a tie (best score) for resistance to cutting and abrasion. Both did dramatically better than laminate.

Quartz & Granite did almost as good as laminate for stains.

All this, combined with my strong desire for an under-mount sink has ruled out laminate. (Thank you @live_wire_oak for mentioning that)!

THANK YOU! A professional review was exactly what I needed. Though the suggestions here to request samples and conduct my own tests were good, it's really not my cup of tea and I would not have done as good of a job (or had a good point of reference) as did Consumer Reports.

Since I wasn't comfortable with granite (as irrational as it may be), and since I can get cambria at Ikea 20% till the end of next month, I have now officially ruled out granite (and laminate).

None of the other surfaces achieved a better combined score on balance, so all those are out.

So, my life just got dramatically simpler !!!

After I get my counters installed, I will take the suggestions of those suggested I conduct an abuse test with my pressure cooker and pots. (I will do so with a piece of scrap left over from my install, not on my actual counter of course)

Thanks again @sparklep , Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Since I successfully convinced my partner to agree to a complete kitchen renovation of our 8'x12' kitchen, I'm no longer constrained to try and match half my 12 year old kitchen.

I spent the last 3 hours browsing through HOUZZ pictures on my ipad, tagging color combinations for the floor, cabinets & counter that appealed to me.

I must confess I really feel rushed. Trying to make all the decisions in 5 weeks will force me not to get tied up in analysis paralysis.

Thanks again for everyone's input.

My next task is to use the ikea website to configure cabinets, and layout. I am accepting the suggestions from one of my other threads and will seal off the door from the kitchen to laundry room, and move the fridge to the side of the galley kitchen.

Now that I'm not necessarily going with white, I will stop by ikea tomorrow to browse cabinet color, and look at whatever limited quartz samples they have on hand.

Thanks again!

Caveman Mike!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:21PM
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Hi Mike why the 5 week timeline?
Better to do your abuse test BEFORE you install your countertops.
Good luck, keep us posted!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:39PM
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Ikea's 20% off sale ends in 5 weeks. I don't want the price of my tendency towards indecision to cost me 20% !


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:49PM
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I think Ikea carries Hanstone Quartz. At least I've seen my exact samples with the same names at Ikea. Here is a picture of our kitchen counters in Pewter. Our bathrooms are Swan Cotton, which is a white. They've been great.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:52PM
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Wow! @Etera , That looks great. I really like that combo.

Ironically, even though I'll be tossing white cabinets, I'm really partial to white cabinets.

It's hard to tell from the picture: what did you do with the back splash?


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:56PM
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Nothing yet. We'll be ripping out the 4 inch splash when we figure out what we want.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:11PM
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Mike, Ikea will no doubt have another sale - better to think everything through and not rush all of your decisions. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:16PM
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@annkh From what I understand, this is their "annual" sale, although I didn't ask if there are other 20% sales (I guess I should explicitly ask).

If I have to wait another year, I will surely drive myself crazy (any everyone else here :-)


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:23PM
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Selecting a counter material is only one half of the equation. The other half is the fabricator.

I'd seriously consider whether you want Ikea to handle your counters. Ikea doesn't actually do any of the fabrication, they just have agreements with various fabricators who responded to a request for bids. In order to maximize their profits Ikea likely selects the fabricator who submits the lowest bid. This doesn't necessarily mean the fabricator is crappy, but I would much rather be able to select my own fabricator. Fabrication is a skill. A poor fabricator can take a beautiful product and make it look like garbage.

I don't necessarily think Ikea will be that much cheaper than a fabricator you select yourself. Get an Angie's List account, look up at least 3 fabricators in your area and get some quotes.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:41PM
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Thank you @realism.

There's two reasons why your suggestion might be really good:

1) Ikea seemed to have limited samples of the cambria quartz. Though they said I could select any cambria color, I really don't want to browse samples at one place, then order from ikea.

2) Assuming Angie List references are legit (and not left by the fab's mother & brother), I might be more likely to get a better install.


Aside from the 20% discount, one perceived advantage of getting the cabinets and counter from Ikea was having "one throat to choke". However, that might be lost if I have my contractor install the ikea cabinets, and not their ikea installer.

There's a very good contractor in my building who does a lot of work, and actually rents space in the garage to have a 'home-base'. That's really handy when things have to dry, and he would have to come back later. It allows him to multi-task multiple projects in the building, and his rates are very reasonable.

Thanks for offering this suggestion @realism


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:08AM
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Ikea has two sales/year, so the next one should start in September.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:28AM
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@nosoccermom : That really takes a lot of pressure off. September would give me plenty of time to carefully plan out the whole project without feeling rushed.

Folks here have been enormously helpful and I really appreciate it !!


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:36PM
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Mike, I am about to meet the 5 year date for my Cambria countertop, and there's not a single scratch or chip in it. It is dark, and despite part of it being in front of a south-facing window, there is absolutely no fading or colour change at all. We are pretty messy cooks, and there will frequently be splodges of balsamic vinegar, red wine, tomato sauces, and so on: they just wipe off.
I do not put hot things on it, because I never have: grew up with formica, so it would never occur to me to do so. I wash up my pots and pans in the sink and have no concerns about putting them on the counter: I turn them upside down to drain. I plonk the pan on the counter and pull out the tap hose to fill, because it's easier than lifting a full pot from the sink. Not a scratch.

I asked the installers if it could be scratched if I used it to cut on (not that I intended to, but as you point out, you can't control what other people do) and they said "sure, but it'll destroy your knives". I roll out pastry and use metal pastry cutters without flinching.

It does tend to show where water has dried on, but so do most surfaces. When I wipe the counters, I use a soapy sponge in one hand, and a microfibre cloth in the other, more or less following each other. Hardly time consuming . . .

I wish you success and happiness with whatever you end up with. There is no perfect counter for everyone, just the one that's right for you. Cambria is right for me.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 4:59PM
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Mike. I too am a quartz fan. We had Cambria counter tops installed 10 years ago, and they look as good today as when we put them in. No scratches, no chips, no fading, no stains. And how did we do this you ask? We wipe up the red wine and spaghetti sauce with a damp cloth within 24 hours (yes, I hate to admit it, but there are days that I will notice these "stains" the next morning), I have always placed my hot pots and pans directly onto the surface, and I bought a really great knife sharpener because the counter is constantly being used as a cutting board thus dulling my knives. It survived a major renovation where extended the kitchen and added a basement below the kitchen and new addition. The kitchen island was jumping around during the excavation, but the counter did not crack or chip.

Did I say that I love my Cambria?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 6:16PM
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Thank you for posting about you plonking pots on the counter (what a great word)!

And thanks for mentioning about putting pots up-side-down to dry after washing. I do that ALL THE TIME!

Now that I have decided on Cambria (after such a long agonizing thread: thank you everyone for enduring it), hearing comments like this makes me SMILE !!!!


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 7:40PM
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Thanks @sherri58 ,

Now that I've decided on Cambrai, I really love hearing people say they love it.

Though I would never dream of cutting on it, or putting hot things on it, it's nice to hear it as survived that usage for 10 years!


    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 7:46PM
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"1) Ikea seemed to have limited samples of the cambria quartz. Though they said I could select any cambria color, I really don't want to browse samples at one place, then order from ikea."

It costs a store nothing for you to look at samples - in fact, it was while DH and I were looking at flooring that we happened to see the Cambria we love. And though we spent a lot of time looking at flooring samples at the store that has the biggest display, we will buy from a different store that has a better installer.

I haven't seen any store that has 12" x 12" samples of every color that Cambria has on their website - but many stores have a dozen or so samples. Go ahead and look, then order a couple of samples to have at home, to see it in your lighting, to have with you when you buy paint and choose cabinets.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 7:55PM
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Hi Everyone, what an interesting thread...

I'm at a crossroad...we are in the middle of the kitchen remodel and I'm having doubts about the slab granite we selected. I never wanted granite to begin with. For years I admired Caesarstone Buttermilk, thinking that would be my next kitchen counter. Upon entering the store, we were told quartz is 30% more, and so considered, and ultimately chose granite.

The granite we chose is beautiful, and a bit different, but granite itself does not contain the clean lines I envisioned for my new kitchen.

I've been trying so hard to make it work with my colors - and I think I can pull it off - and yet when I see pictures of quartz countertops in a solid, neutral surface, I get a bit sad, and think that it is more my style.

Does granite 'grow on you' once installed? Granite is so different, and fascinating, and straight out of the earth, I would imagine every day would present a new view.

It is not too late to change my mind. I just need to make up my mind, and reconcile the cost difference. I called the store today and requested a bid on Caesarstone Buttermilk, and am waiting to hear back.

So...granite or quartz, sigh, what to do? I like to decorate with color, solid color, not patterns. I keep a neutral background (walls, floors, furniture) and use plenty of solid colors for accent. I've got bar stools in 4 leather colors, and am about to order pendant lights in 4 colors, and have dishes in many colors, and also local pottery dishes.

The granite we chose is a flow of browns and creams with flecks of gold mica. It's called Splendor Gold, or Gold Splendor. My 2 slabs have a good amount of ivory and cream in them, and the browns are warm. I'm trying to imagine all of my accent colors and dishes working with the granite. I'm trying to imagine the dishes sitting on the granite counter, and the different colored bar stools and pendant lights nearby.

Do any granite owners have feedback on coordinating with their granite? I would appreciate your input very much!


    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Cave_man Mike, can't wait to see your kitchen remodel. When you didn't post for awhile, I was concerned that you may have backed out. This was a fun thread to follow, kitchen remodeling from a male's perspective!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 1:06AM
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@Texasgal47 Very kind of you to ask!

I haven't backed out, but had to pause it and get a bunch of tax returns done before anyone went to jail :-)

I actually spent 2 hours today at Society Hill Kitchen: they invited 3 perspective customers to their show room (normally closed on saturday) to hear their sales pitch.

It inspired two threads I hope to create tomorrow.

In browsing around their showroom, I kinda like Cambria Minera or their funky red with specks (two very different choices).

I really have to block out some more time with the HOUZZ app and add more ideas to my idea book. I don't have a good imagination when it comes to stuff like this so seeing some awesome pre-designed combinations is really helpful !!!

Thanks again for asking!


    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:39PM
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