I know this question all too well. I have bought a number of houses; for my family and as a investor - doing Fix & Flips and Rentals. I have done many different renovation jobs, installing tile, floors, kitchens, baths, etc. We work hard to make what we have - last a long time - fix it right the first time so we don't pay twice for the same thing. My wife reminds me at the end of the day, is this the home where we want to live?
Of course, I get a lot of input from a number of my friends; they are engineers, (if you hang out with these engineering people - you know they are the smart people in the room). One of their favorite phrases is, let's not re-invent the wheel. So, my topic today: "Natural Stone counter-tops versus Man Made" is something I read from another web-site: HubPages @ http://krow401.hubpages.com/hub/NaturalStoneVSManMade I don't think I can do a better job of explaining the difference. Of course, I agreed with the article - choosing to install Granite counter-tops for my homes & rentals. I also know that everyone that came into our homes: buyers, real estate agents, renters, appraisers, and neighbors all said - they LOVE it!
Natural Stone VS. Man Made
Countertops are the focal point of any kitchen. Everyone notices a nice or horrible countertop. A beautiful countertop can make cheap cabinets look better and expensive cabinets look sensational. But when you get to that stage in your remodeling project, what do you want, natural stone or a man made product?
I've worked in the construction trade for a number of years. I've seen a lot of good kitchens and a lot of bad kitchens. For me there is no comparison of walking into a kitchen with natural stone countertops, compared to man made. Companies have tried to make countertops that look like natural stone. In my opinion, you can not recreate something created by nature.
The first thing you have to figure out is your price range. Natural stone is an expensive product. You can expect to spend $55 - $95 per square foot installed. I know that's a broad range, but it really matters what kind of stone you pick and the company you choose. There are obviously cheaper alternatives and that's exactly what they are "cheap". Natural stone will last a lifetime. If natural stone is in your price range then you have to compare to it's competitors. They are: Corian, Quartz surfaces, cultured marble and concrete. If you like natural stone, throw Corian out of the competition right away. It's around the same price and looks like plastic, nothing like natural stone at all. The same goes for cultured marble. Concrete is a decent alternative. The design elements are almost endless. One of the problems with concrete is the upkeep. It's not a maintenance free product by a long shot. Problems with cracking and color changing are the biggest complaints. They are coming up with new products for concrete to make it more durable, but I just don't think it's there yet. That leaves Quartz surfaces. These products are the closest to natural stone. Mainly because they typically are made mostly of quartz. The product consist of 93% quartz, polymer resins and various other natural stone products. The cost is almost exactly the same. The positives of quartz surfaces are: 10 year warranties in most cases, stronger than granite and for the most part stain and impact resistant. The 10 year warranty is probably the only real difference maker to me. You will not get a warranty for natural stone. I have seen some cases where you might get a 1 year, but chances are your not going to get one.
So, what are the advantages to natural stone? Granite is probably the most popular of the natural stones. The others are marble, limestone, soapstone, onyx and slate. Granite is the most practical of the bunch. It's the most widely used for kitchen applications. The others are used for low traffic areas, more for looks than practicality. Granite is heat proof, up to 350 degrees safely. Typically a very hard surface depending on the color of stone. A rule of thumb is the darker the granite the harder it is, in most cases. You can cut on it, but you might leave some scratches. It's a very low maintenance product, some sealers you might only have to do every 3 - 5 years. The main advantage to me is that no one will have the same countertops as you. Someone might have the same color stone, but no two slabs are exactly alike. With man made products, a certain color is produced exactly the same every time. Every slab has it's own characteristics. Some of the colors are absolutely beautiful. The stones can come from all over the world; Brazil, China, India or right from the area you live in. You can certainly have a totally unique countertop, that no one else has.
At the end of the day it's ultimately up to your individual taste and needs. This is just one man's opinion. Natural stone vs. man made? I choose natural stone.