Doesn’t the term “engineered stone” sound like a contradiction in terms?

I mean, who was the original engineer of stone, anyway? Whether you believe that the forces of nature or volcanism or a Supreme Being originally engineered the world’s supply of stone, you might want to think about engineered stone as a source for your new kitchen countertops.

What is it? 

Excellent question. Basically it’s a composite of certain kinds of crushed rock, usually quartz, held together with a polymer resin glue. The typical engineered stone formula contains 93% stone and 7% epoxy or polymer resins.

Home builders and remodelers increasingly use engineered stone--sometimes called cast stone, geopolymers or even agglomerated stone in European markets--for kitchen and bath countertops because of its natural appearance and its hardy resistance to the abuse a kitchen or bathroom can dish out. Brands like Avanza, Caesarstone, Cambria, Concetto and Silestone offer engineered stone countertops in literally hundreds of colorations and even different kinds of stone content, from quartz to granite to marble to, believe it or not, semi-precious stones.

The Pros:

Engineered stone slabs, because of their resin content, aren’t porous like natural stone. Marble and granite weren’t made in a factory, so they have tiny pores and cracks that liquids and foods can seep into, which causes staining or discoloration. Mildew and mold can grow in those crevices. That doesn’t happen with engineered stone, which has none of the flaws or cracks that natural stone does.

Also, engineered stone products typically don’t have the cracking or breakage potential that natural stone has—the resin content in natural stone allows for some flexibility, especially when the product is new. This makes installation easier and more risk-free, too.

The Cons:

Engineered stone, although the formulations and colors have improved over time, can look, well, like it’s been engineered. Some manufacturers tout their products’ resemblance to real marble or granite, but that resemblance is usually in the eye of the beholder. A kitchen designer I know won’t usually use engineered stone for this reason—she says its cost, which is pretty close to the real stone products she recommends for her home remodeling clients, doesn’t justify its artificiality. She does have a practiced, professional way of looking at a remodeled kitchen, though, so you may want to ignore that one opinion and look at a variety of engineered stone samples--and then decide for yourself. If you do that, remember that a small sample in a home improvement store will not give you the same impression as a large countertop surface will—so make an effort to look at close-up photos or real engineered stone installations before you make up your mind.

One more caution: 

as with any resin-based product, engineered stone doesn’t like heat. A warm bowl won’t hurt it, but something hot from the stove can leave a wound, and all of the engineered stone manufacturers recommend that you protect their surfaces from high heat.

Top image credit: