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
So what's the truth?????????
Thanks in advance for any and all help!
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
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.
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.
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
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".
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
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.
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.
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
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
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...
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
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
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.
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.
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
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....)
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
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
One company does make a granite countertop testing kit, but even THEY
will tell you that there's no widely accepted testing procedure out
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
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
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
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