Corian, Silestone, Granite, LG or Plywood???? :O/

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We're pretty winding down on our new cabinets and we're seriously seeking our best countertop choices (no, plywood is the temporary choice until the real stuff arrives). We've heard stories of heat affecting Corian and LG and things like if you cut on the countertop itself it will scor or mark like a plastic cutting board. We've also heard stories of everything from emisions of radon gas from granite and the need to seal and care for the surface. We have seen granite at places like Lowe's that is supposedly sealed for 15 years now, too. We've heard good and bad about Silestone but then today someone said it's just Home Depot's branding of granite.
We'd like to get to the truth of the matter but I'd rather throw it out to the knowledgable public (i.e. alt.home.repair) then from some vendor or distributor. What's the truth about these materials????
Also, we like the molded in sinks that come with Corian and LG but heard that if they get damaged from dropping something in them, then you have to replace the whole counter top and can't just replace the sink. We don't really like the stainless sinks sitting under a granite countertop as there is a slight mating 'crap trap' between the sink and the countertop and although we know this is sealed, there is still the mating recess between them. Doesn't seem to be something I'd want.
So what's the truth?????????
Thanks in advance for any and all help!
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infiniteMPG wrote:

Man made materials - Corian, Silestone, "Quartz", et al - are made by embedding minerals in plastic. How soft and/or durable they are depends on what *kind* of plastic mostly and which minerals secondly. And on the ratio of plastic to minerals. Regardless, none of the plastics will resist a steel knife. Nor high heat. However, they are resilient and should resist damage from things dropping on them.
Natural stones can be formed either in a similar manner to the above or by the interlocking of the crystals of the minerals of which the rock is composed. Most limestone and sandstone are examples of the former, granite an example of the latter. Again, their hardness and durability depends upon the characteristics of the minerals comprising them...limestone is soft, sandstone is hard (assuming it is comprised of quartz sand). Their permeability depends upon how tightly the grains are hooked together and the types of minerals. A few natural rocks - talc, for example - have virtually no permeability.
BTW, "granite" has a fairly narrow definition petrologically. Most of the "granite" sold for counter tops should more accurately be referred to as "granitic". As far as radon from such goes, I would worry far more about being zapped by a death ray from aliens somewhere in Andromeda than I would about radon emissions from a granite counter top. http://www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf
Which to choose? Up to you. Personally, I think all of them - particularly the man made ones - are way over priced so I like tile.
Sink-wise, I wouldn't want a Corian type sink...too easy to stain and scratch. IMO, you can't beat cast iron covered with porcelain.
--

dadiOH
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Radon from granite is a potentially serious problem if you happen to get the bad slab. I wouldn't buy it unless it was tested according to recent articles including one from a geologist who had the stuff ripped out of her house after discovering the problem.
I had corian in my last house and we are putting it into our current house. We never had a stain or crack or heat problem. Darker colors can show scratches, We had white so it wasn't an issue. The corian sinks are fantastic and we are currently installing a corian shower with molded corian shower pan.

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Art wrote:

The worst case granite type in the tests to which I linked emitted 7% of the radon level that would cause concern. The next two worst cases emitted 1% of that level. Emission of all others was "negligible".
dadiOH ___________

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The article you linked isn't exactly from an objective source.

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Art wrote:

It is from the Dept. of Geology and Environmental Science of the University of Akron. I would consider them to be objective. The individual professor who made the study seems well qualified.
dadiOH

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infiniteMPG wrote:

    I would like to say that Silestone is a brand that Home Depot carries, but it is not a re-branded version of granite. Silestone has advantages that granite does not have, such as not needing sealing and not subject to staining due to red wine for instance. Silestone falls into a category classified as manufactured stone if I am not mistaken. There are several brands in addition to it, such as Zodiaq that have similar characteristics.
    I have no interest in Silestone except that I had a countertop installed in April using it. It turned out very well and I am quite pleased. In my case I installed an under mounted stainless steel sink and your contention that there is a joint is correct. The joint is caulked with a caulk that harder than latex so it is quite durable. The alternative like you say is to have a seamless basin, and I think your countertop choices would be very limited as well as being a major expense should it become damaged. Just my two cents.
    What I would suggest is that you search the Internet and read up on all your choices and their cost. The countertop is not cheap and you do not want to make a mistake on something you are likely to have for a long time. Below are a couple of sites, you will find many more.
http://www.howtodothings.com/real-estate/a3991-how-to-choose-a-kitchen-countertop.html http://www.countertopcompany.com/products.htm
P.S. I chose what I thought would require no further effort for MANY years as I do not want to mess with it again. If you do not feel this way, there are other choices that are less expensive.

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Fast forward to year 2028...your children home for a visit, saying, "Mom, Dad, that old countertop is sooo 2008!"
Joe
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infiniteMPG wrote: ...

Right--you'll take the word of a zillion anonymous usenet posters over that of the folks that actually make and install (and stand behind) the stuff? ...

The truth is all materials have strengths and corresponding weaknesses. All of the ones you have listed are manmade stones except for the granite (again, assuming it is actually granite and not a manufactured "granite-like" product).
All _will_ scratch, all can be damaged by heat or in various other ways, all can be stained in varying degrees and all can be harmed by various chemicals. Many do need surface treatment; obviously the best place to learn about what any particular product requires is from the folks who know it best...
All that said, we installed a manmade, "Danae", which is a similar-to-Corian but less pricey w/ the integral molded sink. It's been in two years now and is proving to be quite satisfactory w/ only a modicum of care.
The sink has not scratched and staining has not been an issue...
--
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I agree that all countertop materials have pros and cons. There is no one perfect solution. It depends entirely on the budget and application. What's right for a rental property isn't right for a property about to be put on the market.
One thing I can tell you though. With the rising price of petro chemicals, the price of the man-made materials, like Silestone has gone up considerably. The cost of man made quartz products, which is what Silestone is, are now around the price of granite, even higher in some cases. If you're at all concerned about resale, ask yourself this:
How often do you see real estate listings that brag about granite countertops, vs anything else? IMO, if your budget allows for granite, I'd go with that over any of the choices in similar price range.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

(snip)
Ah, the freedom of being low on the food chain. Deciding what stone or faux stone countertops to buy, and what 800 dollar sink to buy, will never be anything I need to worry about. If I get a bonus next year, I might spring for new formica and a stainless sink thicker than 22 guage.
-- aem sends...
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Use the money you save to treat yourself to something like a nicely engraved Winchester 12. That's something the overpaid $800 sink people will always be utterly clueless to appreciate. In the end, Formica (and pragmatism) will win.
Joe
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wrote:

Consumer Reports says extra thick stainless steel sinks were no better than thin ones. However we installed a cheap thin but deep one from Lowes and although it performed well, and was great for washing a small dog since it was extra deep, the thinness was apparent in how much the faucet wiggled. We never had any noise or denting problem though which is what they were testing for.
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Art wrote:

You nailed it- that flexing is what irritates me about what I have now. Cheap pull-out faucet that keeps liming up, wiggles all over the place when I have to pull or push extra hard to move it around. Maybe a regular old-style Delta with a separate spray hose would make this one work. But if I have it all apart anyway to change the counter, an upgrade may make sense for resale purposes. (Of course, then I need new vinyl on the floor, and new paint, etc....)
-- aem sends...
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As I was about to say, faucet movement can be stopped by stubbing short rigid connecting copper pipes to the assembly and fixing these firmly to a cabinet back or fabricated support. From there, the usual flex lines can be used to the quarter turn shut off valves. Another gambit that works (haven't tried it myself) is to make a reinforcing plate from 1/8" brass drilled to the sink pattern. Faucet set through the sink mount holes, brass plate under the sink, faucet nuts tightened and you'd be good to go. HTH
Joe
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Oh yeah, I'd believe a press release from the Marble Institute--the trade organization that represents the granite countertop industry.
The truth is that in University of Akron lab studies, about 10% of the granite tested gave off "measurable" amounts of Radon gas. The next issue is, how big is your kitchen. Because in order to calculate a safe level of Radon, you have to figure in the volume of air and the number of air changes. Sure, you can get a measurable amount of Radon by covering the countertop test kit with a dish. But then divide that sample by the number of cubic feet of air in the kitchen.
The bottom line on granite is that the Marble Institute and the EPA are playing word games. There is NO widely accepted test for testing Radon in granite. It just doesn't exist. So how can either group say that it's safe? I get uncomfortable when the MIA and the EPA say, "no problem" and there's no known test to back up that statement. Makes me feel almost as good as knowing that all the hamburger, spinach, and peppers sold are e-coli free.
Yeah, you could say that the background level is too small to worry about--especially since 90% of the samples tested came up with "no measurable results." But if you get a granite that's in the 10% group and add that Radon to whatever Radon might already be in your house, THEN what's the level? Problem is, you can't know until you put it in and test.
One company does make a granite countertop testing kit, but even THEY will tell you that there's no widely accepted testing procedure out there.
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Granite nothing comes close to mother natures e only advice I'll give you no matter what counter top you decide on stay away from Home depot or Lowes especially with an install.
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I have new Silestome in Bamboo from Home Depot with an under mount sink and I'm very happy with it. We didn't care for the LG or Zodiac colors as much -- however if you want black, the Zodiac black looks the best but it will be hard to keep looking clean. Avoid funky colors for resale considerations.
I use a cutting board to be safe. If the sink were to get damaged, it would be "easy" to replace -- assuming you can find a sink with the same form factor. Wait for a sale -- which comes along every couple of months, go for the free sink that comes from most all manufacturers carried at Lowes or Home Depot, and use a 10% off coupon from ebay. Also, be prepared to get a call after the on-site measurement takes place asking for another couple of hundred $ over the original estimate to cover actual installed size. My kitchen had a 10' side, and a side with a 5' and a 18" piece. The total was approx. $2500 installed using a what I think was a B or C group style.
Lastly, I was quoted 2 - 3 weeks for the whole process and it took over a month.
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Thanks for all the info, great stuff. And yeah, I trust what people who buy the stuff and live with it say over the sale's pitch some vendor will say. The way it seems to be boiling down is Corian and LG solid surfaces are good but they're not micro sealed so they can be bacteria traps just like granite. Granite can handle the heat and is more scratch resistant but I also understand now it can be stained if not sealed properly and regularly. Silestone is a good middle of the road option offering almost the heat resistance of the granite while offerring a surface that doesn't need sealing. It also keeps you away from "potential" radon issues. I'm not the gentlest person on my kitchen sink so not sure about the Corian style molded sink. Also not sure if I want porcelin yet stainless steel is clunky and noisy.
The company I got my cabinets from (self installing) also rep's granite and Silestone. They are a wholesaler who generally only deals with contractors and to put it in perspective, my exact cabinets were quoted to me for 40% more by a local retailer. I have been told since I bought my cabinets there they will also cut me deals on countertops, sinks and tile. So I am kind of torn between Silestone and granite, and they have some large granite sheets on display there and one of them is a perfect color and pattern for the cabinets.
One thing I have seen is with granite, the sink is mounted under the countertop. Most I have seen the radius in the corner of the sink doesn't match the radius on the corner of the cutout, making a ledge or recess in the corners. Is there a better way to do sinks in granite?
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