Black or dark grey countertops?

crl_September 24, 2012

I am currently thinking about black or dark grey countertops, not shiny and not much pattern or movement. I don't mind patina, but I am not much for maintenance We might do a pennisula and if so it would be a likely spot for kid art projects and/or homework. Cost is definitely a consideration, but this is early days and no budget has been set. Anyone want to discuss the possible options?

Honed or leathered granite


Paperstone or richlite


Ceasarstone or silestone

I am ruling out corian and tile as I don't care for them.

Any other possibilities? Any thoughts on which options would be most durable? Any thoughts on cost (we are in Northern CA, where everything is pricey)?

Thank you!

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Just went through this process myself, also have kids and live in northern ca, so I thought I'd chime in. We wanted a charcoal or dark countertop that is durable, requires little maintenance, and would not break the bank.

To meet all of those criteria, you might want to start with a dark granite, although I hear honed absolute black is problematic for fingerprints. There are many other beautiful dark granites that might work for you and require little to no maintenance. A bit more expensive, but have you seen Caesarstone raven? Dark gray/almost black, zero upkeep. Once or twice a year, Ikea has a 10-20% off sale on their countertops, and they do carry Caesarstone (and some granites, too). You just missed the latest promotion, but might be able to time it right to get the best deal when you are ready.

Not sure about the durability of paperstone/richlite so I can't comment on that end, but do recall that we ruled those out on price right away. Love slate too, but the nice Vermont slate stuff was incredibly pricey. same for soapstone, which is my favorite, but also chips and would need oiling for the look I wanted.

It really does depend on the look you want and what you are willing to compromise in terms of durability and pricing. Although I read here that pricing can vary widely depending on the fabricator, I did not find that to be the case at all. Every one of our estimates came to within a couple hundred dollars of each other. We were able to bargain a bit by working with the fabricators (e.g. lower demo price, discounted sink), but in the end you may find that pricing for fabrication in your area is fairly consistent. Hth.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:16AM
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There's always laminate; it's durable & cheap. We have a honed laminate: Basalt Slate by Formica, and I wouldn't change it for anything. Everything wipes off, and it's fine for rolling out cookies, doing art projects and as a basting surface when i sew.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Thank you! And thank you for sharing your lovely kitchen pictures!


    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 1:45PM
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It sounds like you're having a similar debate that we did, so I'll pitch in. We both love the look of soapstone, but we also recognized that we wanted as low-maintenance a surface as possible. I'm a terribly messy cook, and have decided to stop pretending I can change :) We decided to go with quartz and picked Caesarstone's Raven. We also really liked Cambria's Fieldstone, but the Caesarstone was easier to source in our area (BC, Canada).
I'm really happy with it. The movement is very minimal, the seams are essentially invisible and you can do anything to it; I've cleaned up paint splatters, day-old red wine drips, bacon grease. From what I've read from other posters, it sounds like other surfaces are as durable if you take a bit of care, but I get peace of mind knowing that I have one of the most fool-proof options - I can transfer that anxiety to the white grout in the marble backsplash instead :)

Here's a pic. Good luck with your choice!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 1:53PM
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Bobby99, thanks for the picture! You have done exactly what I am currently thinking, white cabinets, black/dark grey countertop and marble tile backsplash. I have had white subway tile backsplashes before and not had any problem keeping the grout decent (unlike my experiences with tiled floors). Lovely kitchen!


    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 2:25PM
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Brickmanhouse took a low-cost butcherblock wooden countertop and dyed it with India ink. I believe it meets all your criteria, and is cheap to boot.

Here is a link that might be useful: India-ink-dyed countertops

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 4:54PM
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Perhaps I should have included some of Brickman's pix to whet your appetite:

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 5:07PM
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Your list looks almost identical to ours when we started our kitchen remodel a few years ago. We had long thought we'd use honed Absolute Black granite but after reading tales of smudges and finger prints on GW we ruled that out. Then, we were on the verge of ordering Caeserstone Raven when we went to look at soapstone. My husband and I fell in love with it. At that time (I think it was 3 years ago, in Austin) the soapstone priced out the same, or a little less, than the Caeserstone (we may have gotten a deal from the fabricator, who had just starting doing soapstone).

In any case, although I've heard stories on GW about soapstone maintenance issues, we haven't had any. Yes, we have some small dings around our undermount sink (I'm betting the C'stone would have chipped just as much) and there are probably some scratches here and there but maintenance is spraying on some kind of cleaner and wiping down. We've never oiled (our variety is naturally very dark, almost black, and is also quite hard; it's Beleza) and the stone has gradually darkened naturally in any case.

It's our favorite part of our kitchen. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:22PM
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Those india ink butcher block counter tops are awesome! We actually had ikea butcher block in our last kitchen mostly because you just can't beat the price. Thanks so much for the visual! And for the link. Definitely a strong contender in the counter top department and one I would never have thought of on my own.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:23PM
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Angie DIY--

We cross posted. Thanks for sharing your experience and beautiful pictures!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:27PM
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Oops, I meant sw in austin in that last post. Darn forum that won't let me edit. :)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 6:28PM
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There is a charcoal gray quartzite that is fairly uniform in color, but I'm not sure how its characteristics compare to other quartzites, which are often very strong and make excellent kitchen surfaces.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gray example

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Checkout soapstone at M.texeira in SF. You need to see several choices (soapstone and others) and play with it in your house to decide. There is a feel aspect to countertops that may be as important as the look. Also consider concrete.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 1:12AM
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LOVE my soapstone and my faux marble backsplash. I don't find it maintenance at all, but I have a slightly harder (not the hardest) variety. Be aware of the varying softness/hardness of soapstones which could change the overall maintenance or upkeep. If you decide on soapstone, be sure to take samples home and abuse it, oil it, strip the oil off again, and be sure you are OK with the hardness or maintenance of the one/s you like.

Mine has lots of green in it, but not all do. I love the feel of it, the fact that it is totally non porous (no sealer needed, no chance for microorganisms to grow in it), that I can put screaming hot pans on it from the oven without a care in the world, that my meat thaws quickly on it, that I don't need oil (unless I WANT to put oil on it). I thought I would oil mine all the time, turns out I only do it once in a while. I think mine is pretty spectacular unoiled.

A great choice of countertop but definitely not for everyone and I don't really know how it would stack up cost wise in your neck of the woods.

Good luck with your choice!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 1:56AM
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This discussion is so timely for me -- I am going through the same series of questions, only on the opposite coast. I will be going to MTex in Hackensack to look, as soapstone -- hard, pretty dark and I don't care that much about veining -- is my first choice. But I will tell you the experience of one of my closest friends. Both she and I do NOT do shiny. She picked honed granite, black, and loves it. Her husband, a vet, vetoed soapstone as it reminded him too much of the lab tables in vet school. Sorry I don't have a picture to post. I am considering that and also the india ink Ikea butcher block, thanks to BrickmanHouse, which I thought was awesome when browsing earlier on GW. hth
ps I will let everyone know my decision when I make it. But this is very interesting to me too so I hope lots of us chime in.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 11:32AM
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We have been laboring over this same decision for several months and have finally decided to go with honed absolute black granite. I love, love, love soapstone and there is a fabulous soapstone fabricator in our area, but I just couldn't do it. He primarily uses barroca which is quite easily scratched and it was about 50% more than the honed granite. We tried a leathered cambrian which was gorgeous, but I was surprised to see how sparkly it looked irl - copper and silver - maybe it was just the slabs we found, but it didn't really work with the look we want. I found a brushed nordic black that made my heart sing - I think I made the stone guy a little uncomfortable with my starstruck gaze and stone stroking, but we could not find it the large slab size we need for our island. So all that and we are back to absolute black honed, it is the quiet, matte look we want at a price we can justify. I just hope the method granite spray really does the trick.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 2:04PM
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Thank you all!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 6:50PM
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I'm getting close to choosing honed AB and wanted to know how you are doing with yours. Are you happy with your choice?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 11:02AM
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We pushed our kitchen remodel back partly because we had a leaky shower necessitating a bathroom remodel first. The kitchen remodel is curently scheduled for spring 2015.

We are planning at this point to go with soapstone for the kitchen countertops. We put soapstone on our vanity in the bathroom remodel and are quite happy with it, though master bath use is very different from kitchen use.

We have settled on soapstone because I like that it is appropriate to the era of our house (a 1926 French revival--though not really appropriate to our location unfortunately); my research indicates that it is quite durable; and we both like the look and feel a lot. I haven't decided whether we will oil it or let it darken on its own. I have oiled butcherblock counters before and didn't find that too onerous. Since the oiling is only for looks for soapstone, I feel better knowing that if I am not diligent in that bit of maintenance I won't be causing ruin and destruction of the countertop. I also don't mind patina in the form of scratches and even chips, though I know I would not be happy with staining. So soapstone is a good fit for us in that regard.

Good luck with your decision!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:23PM
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We have had our honed AB countertops in for about 18 months. We have a large island 10' and that limited our choices. I may have gone with a Nordic Black or something similar if that had been an option, but I am happy with my choice.
We have four kids and our kitchen gets a lot of hard use. The honed AB does show water rings, fingerprint smudges and anything else left on the counter - crumbs, jelly smudges, etc, but I don't mind that a bit. I want to know if my counter is dirty so that I can wipe it clean.
I mostly use a water/alcohol mix and it takes at most 2 minutes to wipe down all of the counters. I do not wipe them dry and they look great. As long as I do this, after each meal, they look great. When they are wet I can see rings and marks, but those disappear as it dries.
We do not have direct sun light in our kitchen and that may make a difference. Just in the way that streams of light show every speck of dust on a piece of furniture that looked perfectly clean before - it may make the counters look smudged.
We have quartz in our kids baths and I love it there, but it doesn't quite have the look I wanted for the kitchen.
I attached a quick phone photo - sorry for the poor quality, but hope it helps.

Good luck

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 1:29PM
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crl - thanks for the info. Soapstone sure seems popular right now! It is lovely.

kfhl - thanks for the photo. Really beautiful kitchen! Looks spotless to me. My fabricator told me today he's been installing honed AB for years and never had any complaints.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 4:41PM
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My fabricator told me today he's been installing honed AB for years and never had any complaints

If you did get fingerprints all over your honed AB, would you call your fabricator to complain? :-)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 7:17PM
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What a great post as I keep going back and forth on what I want my counters to be but I know I need a very easy to care for counter.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 12:42AM
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I have a large slab of honed AB. My fabricator did a sealer on one side and an enhancer on the other. Monday I am bringing it to him with my fingerprints all over, and several oil marks from tests. I plan to have him show me how to clean it up.

I told him I had read that going without a sealer was best for honed AB and he disagrees. As long as he can show me an easy way to clean it up, I'll get it done the way he thinks is best.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 9:18AM
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