Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Skinny on Natural Stone Surfaces

Hey everyone! How are y'all?? Okay, so just a brief background on me. Before I became a stay at home mother and wife, I was in the natural stone industry for roughly 7 or 8 years. I mainly worked for a natural stone supplier (they supply the stone to the fabricators), but I did work for a fabricator (they are the ones who actually cut & install the stone) for 2 years somewhere in the mix. I LOVED my job. Everyday I had the privilege to work with amazing co-workers and clients...and do what I love best...decorate. So what exactly is a stone supplier, you ask? Okay, say you need your kitchen countertops go meet with a fabricator. He then comes to measure your kitchen and get the specs to give you a quote or estimated cost for the final project. Here comes the fun part- the fabricator would then send you to the natural stone distributor (supplier...same thing) to pick out your granite, marble, soapstone...whatever. You get the idea. So people like me would help you pick the best choice for the kitchen (or bathroom, fireplace surround, etc) while informing you about the pros and cons to each particular stone.

Now. With that said, I'm going to try and clear up the myths and confusion with granite, marble, etc, while giving you a few tips as well. The biggest concern I had from clients was maintenance of the stone. Does it scratch? Stain? Do I have to seal it? To make it easier, I'm going to go over the 4 most popular kitchen countertop selections and give you information on each of them and hopefully answer a few questions that you may have.

Being the most popular for countertops, this is going to be the most durable surface. Now, this surface comes in polished and honed. Polished = shiny, Honed = matte finish. Duh, right? You'd be surprised at the confusion on that one....moving on. I have never seen the polish version scratch, but have seen the honed version scratch before. Not deeply scratched, just tiny little scratches all could see them when the sunlight hit the countertop for example.

Granite is a natural surface so it needs to be sealed. The quarrys will polish the stone on site, then ship it to the distributor/ supplier. It is NOT sealed. I had a lot of people think that because it was polished, it had been sealed. This is wrong. Quarrys do no sealing on site. Typically your fabricator will (you need to make sure, don't assume) seal the granite before they install the stone. Here's where panic came in from clients....I have to seal it?? No worries. It is VERY simple. Most of the time, sealers come in a jug. Simply put a little (a little goes a long way) on a rag and wipe it on your countertops, working in small sections at a time. Work it into the granite in circular motions. Do this, section by section, until you are finished. Let it sit for 24 hours before you put anything back on the counters so the sealer can really penetrate through the stone. You should seal your granite once a year.

What should you clean your granite with? soap and water. Yes, simple as that. You can pay the big bucks for the cleaners, but soap and water is best. What works especially well is Murphy's Oil Soap. Grab a spray bottle, add about 1/4 cup of Murphy's Oil Soap to it and fill the rest with water. Bam, there's your cleaner. Murphy's Oil Soap is thick. It acts as a cleaner while helping to keep your granite sealed because it is so thick that it penetrates through the stone every time you use it. This stuff is thick...I have found that it's easiest to wipe on and off with a paper towel instead of a rag. It doesn't leave streaks....I have found that rags leave streaks. Don't clean your granite with 409, Lysol, etc. It's okay if you accidentally do it. You haven't ruined your granite. It's more or less something that ruins your granite over time. I had a customer call me once who had her black granite installed 3 years prior to the problem...she had been using Windex to clean her black kitchen island. Over time, the Windex ate through the sealer and polish. It left her island very dull. It ate through the sealer which made it more susceptible to stains.

Granite typically does not stain, however, I have seen cases where it has when not sealed. I had a lady call me very upset one day because her white granite stained. The problem was it had never been sealed and she had the granite installed many years ago. She canned fruit for a hobby. The fruit ended up staining the granite. Keep in mind, she never sealed it. I've only seen this happen a few times. What to do if it stains? Take equal parts of baking soda and Dawn dish soap. Mix together in a bowl. Evenly distribute the mixture over the stain. Maybe about 1/4" thick? Next, cover with cellophane (saran wrap) and seal the edges with duct tape. Make sure to really seal your edges good. Then take a toothpick and poke maybe 3-4 holes in the top. Leave for 24 hours, then wipe clean. Your stain should be gone. If not, do it again until the stain is gone. Then, seal your granite so it doesn't happen again.

                                    ~New Venetian Gold Granite~

Ah, the beloved marble. Everybody wants it in their kitchen but everyone is too afraid to take the plunge for the fear that it will ruin. Let me tell you...if it's what you really want, go for it. Think about it. People have been using marble in their homes for years and years in Europe. America is just a little slow to catch on to things sometimes. Marble is more porous than granite, which means that it is more absorbent. However, if you are good to your marble, it will be good to you. I would seal it every 6 months. It takes every bit of 10 minutes to seal your marble. Don't let the fact that you have to seal it twice a year stop you from getting it installed. I've even seen people realize how easy it is to seal, so they go ahead and seal it every 4-6 months and that's okay, too. Other than that, marble is just like granite when it comes to the different finishes, scratching and staining.

                                      ~Carrara White Marble~

I LOVE Soapstone. It truly gives a kitchen a classy, old world look. Now, the thing with soapstone is that it doesn't technically require sealing. Instead, you use mineral oil, which acts like a sealer while penetrating through the stone to darken it. When soapstone comes in from the quarry, it is very light in color- so light that you can't actually see the natural veins or it black, green...grey? What darkens up the stone is mineral oil. Typically, a fabricator will go ahead and put the first coat of mineral oil on the stone upon installation. It is your job to put the mineral oil on after that. Usually after about 3 coats, the mineral oil has penetrated enough that the color has reached it's peak, meaning it's as dark as it will get. Soapstone will scratch because the surface is very soft. If it does, you can sand the scratch down, then "reseal" it with the mineral oil until you reach the exact color you want. Here is a website that I feel gives accurate information when it comes to the care & maintenance of soapstone. Like any other natural stone, you should clean it with soap and water. Ya know who has soapstone in their kitchen? Paula Deen. You KNOW that she does a lot of cooking and spends lots of time in her kitchen. If soapstone is what you want...get it.

~Durado Soapstone~

Man-made Surface (Zodiaq, Ceasarstone , etc):
Most people resort to this surface because they want the marble look without the upkeep. This is a man-made composite mix of quartz and resin that is poured to make a slab. It is very durable and does not stain or scratch. It is not a natural stone, so there is no sealing required. However, colors are limited and often times my clients had to go with solid white if they wanted the "marble look". Other-wise, most of your choices are solid colors, with tiny specs all over.
~DuPont Zodiaq- Toasted Almond~
Take my advice. Do not use this for a countertop. I have heard way too many horror stories. It is fine to use for flooring or backsplash but I personally do not recommend this for a countertop. I'm talking don't even use it in your bathroom....don't even think about using it in your kitchen. Travertine was formed under the ocean a really long time ago. That's why when you see it, you see tiny little sponge-like holes in it. In the slab/countertop form, the quarrys will fill these holes. Sealing is a must for this product.
                                         ~Durango Travertine~

Okay, I really hope this answers any questions you may have had. There is so much to discuss regarding natural stone, so there's no way I can cover everything in one post. If I have missed something or if you have any further questions, feel free to contact me.      {}

                                        Y'all have a good day!

Linking with...

Coastal Charm
Cedar Hill Ranch- Cowgirl Up
Not JUST A Housewife
No Minimalist Here
French Country Cottage


  1. Lots of great info!! Beautiful examples of each as well.
    Mary Alice

    1. They are beautiful kitchens, aren't they? I especially love the white kitchen with the white carrara!

  2. Very imformative post, thank you! Little Bit from

  3. Hi Amber, Thanks for sharing this information at the Open House party! We have a lot of granite in our kitchen. I don't know what the previous owners used on it but now it has lots of streaks and is dull. I have tried a number of things on it but nothing has helped. Any suggestions would be appreciated! I am a new follower.
    xx, Sherry

    1. Hey Sherry. This product may help with the dullness & streaks. It is a special sealer- an awesome one- that usually works for situations like yours. When you first put the sealer on, do a little at a time. If you put too much, it will leave your granite really foggy looking. The only way to get rid of the "fog" look is time & buffing it out with a rag. You can always add more if needed...just start with a little. If this sealer doesn't work, I would contact your local fabricator and have him personally look at it. Maybe they can put a tiger ager on it to help with the problem. Here is the link to the website. On this page, you will see the option to purchase the product.

      Let me know if you have any questions!

  4. Amber,
    Thanks for sharing all this info at my party.

  5. Amber,
    What an informational post!!
    I couldn't have come at a more perfect time.
    We are completing both a kitchen and bathroom renovation and it's time to choose counter tops.
    I am a shabby chic girl and I LOVE the Carrara White Marble! I have had my heart set on it.
    Thank you for all the information!!
    Appreciate it very much!

  6. You ladies are mighty welcome! I'm glad I could help. I know that picking countertops can be stressful. Sherry, I think that the previous home owner probably never sealed it. I will get the name of the sealer that works to bring back shine & durability to the surface and get back with you asap. Elizabeth, if you have any questions feel free to contact me! I love Carrara White...the best part is that it is not an expensive marble. Linda, You are very welcome. Thanks for hosting.

    Y'all feel free to link up with me for Moonshine Monday. I'd love to have you.

    Amber :)

  7. The things that the natural stone in Montreal accomplishes is awesome. I hope to see more articles like this.

  8. Thanks for sharing. I would love to find some natural stone in Toronto. This is great. I love the way you break down the styles.

  9. Nice Post.
    Interesting and valuable information is here.
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    Granite fabricator

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