We talked about quartz vs. natural stone in this blog post. Now, it’s time to shine the spotlight on natural stone vs. solid surface. How are these materials the same? How are they different? How should you determine which material is right for your application?
Let’s get to it.
Natural stone (granite) is just that—it’s 100% organic, made by Mother Nature herself. It’s quarried from the earth in large blocks, sliced into slabs, polished on one side, and then shipped to the broker or fabricator.
Characteristics of natural stone:
100% natural. ‘Nuff said.
Unique. No two slabs are alike, which can be a huge selling point (originality), but this also means you won’t find identical color and pattern from one slab to the next.
Strong and durable, but not indestructible. You can damage natural stone through excessive force or sudden fluctuations in temperature (which is why you should always use a trivet before placing a hot pan or pot on a natural stone counter).
Porous. In order to prevent staining and, more importantly, the harboring of germs and other icky stuff in the stone’s nooks and crannies, we recommend sealing natural stone countertops once a year.
Easy to clean when sealed properly. Use a soft cloth with warm water and any pH neutral, non-abrasive cleaner or mild dishwashing detergent. Rinse well to avoid a filmy residue and streaks.
Seams will be plainly visible, especially if the stone has veins or directional movement in the pattern.
Characteristics of solid surface:
- Manufactured surface.
- Color variety. The color is controlled during the manufacturing process, so you can count on color consistency throughout the entire sheet and a wide variety of colors and patterns from which to choose.
- Highly durable. Even more so than natural stone. Solid surface can withstand stronger impact than stone. That said, solid surface can be damaged by excessive force and heat (we still recommend using trivets with hot pots and pans).
- Non-porous. This surface is hygienic and doesn’t require sealing.
- Easy to clean. A little soap and water usually does the trick.
- Stain resistant. Thanks to the fact it’s non-porous.
- Inconspicuous seams. This provides much more design flexibility. One popular application is combining a solid surface countertop with a solid surface sink bowl for a sleek and seamless look that is super-easy to clean.
- Can be used in horizontal and vertical applications. Think beyond countertops—you can use solid surface in shower surrounds, wall panels, and backsplashes.
Now that you know more about natural stone and solid surface, how do you determine which material is the best choice for your application?
Think function. This is a personal decision, and only you can answer it honestly. If you want an ultra-low maintenance surfacing option due to the fact you have a large family, for example, and the countertop will see a lot of “action,” then solid surface beats out natural stone.
If, on the other hand, you want a truly unique look and you know you’ll keep up with a regular sealing schedule, natural stone can be a lovely choice. There really is no right or wrong answer—only what’s right or wrong for your particular circumstances.
Think aesthetics. Again, this is extremely subjective, and that’s OK. Your opinion is the only one that matters, at least when it comes to choosing materials for your own home. When you’re choosing materials that will appear in commercial settings, you need to think of the people who are using the space and what their likes and dislikes might be (same is true for the “function” test above…always consider the people who’ll be using the space).
The biggest difference between natural stone and solid surface when it comes to aesthetics is this: with natural stone, you’re truly going to have something that’s one of a kind. This might be extremely appealing.
When it comes to solid surface, you’re going to have many, many options in terms of colors and patterns. This can provide you or your designer a lot more design flexibility, which might carry its own appeal, depending on your goals.
Think price point. We’ll be honest here—natural stone will usually cost more than solid surface, so if budget is a big factor, keep this in mind.
Once you’ve made your decision, now comes the fun part: buying the material and awaiting the next step in the renovation process (e.g. the fabrication and installation of your new countertop). Before you buy, be sure to check out our product lines: Natural Stone Countertops, Meridian Solid Surface Countertops, and Meridian Solid Surface Acrylic Collection Countertops.