A universal option for arranging kitchens and bathrooms – countertops made of artificial stone. They are durable, practical, look great, can be integrated with the sink. The similarity of artificial stone with natural is striking, and the difference in price is considerable, therefore it is becoming cheaper to organize a stylish and functional interior. How to choose a countertop made of artificial stone, so that it justifies all expectations and become a practical and durable decoration of the apartment? We deal with the main existing production technologies and the secrets of a successful purchase.
№1. Advantages of countertops made of artificial stone
The secret of the popularity of countertops made of artificial stone lies in their numerous advantages:
- high strength and ability to withstand decent mechanical loads, which is important for the arrangement of the working surface in the kitchen ;
- Moisture resistance, hygiene, resistance to aggressive environment, temperature and mood changes, so artificial stone can be considered one of the best and most suitable materials for kitchens and bathrooms. Often, by the way, bar bars, tables in restaurants, fast-foods and beauty salons are made of artificial stone ;
- full environmental safety ;
- durability ;
- A huge variety of colors and shapes. The technology of production of artificial stone allows imitating any natural rocks, and at the same time create countertops of any shape and size;
- Value, which in relation to natural stone is at times more accessible. For the sake of fairness, we note that it is impossible to call cheap tabletops made of artificial stone (although the spread of prices is sufficient), they are more expensive than their analogs from MDF, steel and, especially, chipboard. On the other hand, if you consider the durability and unique performance, the price can be called more than justified.
The drawbacks of this type of countertops are few, and each technology of artificial stone production has its own. Acrylic stone, for example, does not react very well to contact with hot objects, and quartz agglomerate cannot boast good maintainability. These shortcomings seem completely insignificant in comparison with the possibility to create an exquisite interior that fully meets the requirements that are put forward to rooms with a high level of humidity and temperature changes. It is easy to take care of the top of the artificial stone countertop, which is especially important for the kitchen: drops of grease, dirt, water and food residues will not eat up, leave traces, and you can wash the surface with almost any detergent, except abrasive.
№2. Types of artificial stone for countertops
Artificial stone is made from mineral filler, a polymer binder, dyes and modifying additives. Different technologies provide for a different ratio of these components, the use of different types of filler and binder, hence the differences in those types of artificial stone, of which today produce countertops. The main ones are:
- acrylic stone;
- quartz agglomerate;
- polyester stone;
- casting marble.
The first two types of artificial stone today found the most common: most of those table tops that are presented in the modern market made of acrylic stone or agglomerate.
№ 3. Tabletops made of acrylic stone
The technology of manufacturing acrylic stone was the first among all now known methods of producing artificial stone. A composite material is made on the basis of acrylic resins, mineral filler (stone crumb, its share is 60-70% ), dye and aluminum hydroxide. All components are thoroughly mixed until a homogeneous viscous mixture is obtained, which is poured into the mold, where the cooling takes place and the material is formed. The technology allows you to create countertops of almost any shape and size, but this does not end with the advantages of acrylic stone. The pluses also include:
- The ability to create large enough worktops without seams, and this, firstly, is aesthetic, and, secondly, reliable, because moisture does not seep into the seam;
- High strength and resistance to impact loads, and according to these parameters, acrylic stone surpasses a number of natural analogs;
- Absolute moisture resistance and impermeability to bacteria, which is explained by the lack of micropores characteristic of natural stone in the structure of the material. Acrylic stone can be used in rooms where it will be constantly in contact with water, suitable for use in public places and medical institutions;
- Easy cleaning. Pollution can be washed with soapy water;
- Pleasant to the touch and not cold surface. The table top made of acrylic stone will not cause discomfort with its cold – it acquires the temperature of the environment;
- High maintainability. Scratches on the acrylic stone are easy to grind;
- A wide variety of options. The table top can be any color, repeat the texture of natural stones, and have decorative inclusions. Acrylic stone
There are acrylic stone countertops and some disadvantages:
- Fear of very high temperatures. If you put on the counter a hot pan or a pan that has just been removed from the fire, then the trace on the surface will remain – to ensure the preservation of the original type of countertop it is better to use special holders for hotter;
- From washing with abrasive agents and moving the dishes, scratches can form. However, it is easy to get rid of them by grinding.
№4. Worktops Made Of Quartz Agglomerate
Quartz agglomerate, even more, resembles a natural stone, but at the same time, it considerably exceeds its basic physical properties (see the table). Produce material based on mineral filler, which is often used as a crumb and even pieces of natural quartz, less often marble or granite. The bulk of the mineral filler in the total mixture is 91-93%, which explains the unique properties of the material. Polyester resins are used as the binder, color pigments are also added to the mixture.
Advantages of countertops made of quartz agglomerate:
- The highest strength and resistance to shock. You can safely say that such a table top will withstand any loads and will serve faithfully for a very long time;
- Waterproof, because the material also lacks micropores. Mold on it will not start;
- Resistance to temperature changes and the ability to withstand the effects of very high temperatures, so hot dishes can be placed on such a tabletop without using any supports and without fear of damaging the surface;
- Resistance to washing with aggressive detergents, incl. with abrasive particles – scratches on the quartz agglomerate leave very difficult so that the surface cannot stand on ceremony;
- Excellent appearance and a wide variety of different options. Such tabletops are as much like a natural stone. Quartz agglomerate countertop
- The technology provides for the creation of slabs of quartz agglomerate with a length of no more than 3 m, so if the parameters of the countertop are larger, no seams are indispensable. On the other hand, they are sealed very well, and they will be almost invisible;
- Quartz agglomerate cannot be restored;
- The surface of the material is cold. On the one hand, this makes it possible to create the closest resemblance to a natural stone, but a cold surface is not always comfortable.
№5. Countertops made of polyester stone and cast marble
Polyester stone and foundry marble are much less used in the manufacture of countertops, but since some offers still exist in the assortment of some manufacturers, we will dwell on the main properties of these materials.
Polyester stone produced in a similar to the acrylic stone technology, but instead of acrylic resin used polyester. They are cheaper, which allows you to get much more affordable countertops. In terms of strength, durability and moisture resistance to them it is impossible to find fault, but there are some nuances that explain the lower demand for the material. Firstly, a specific smell emanates from it, though; in due course, it is weathered. Secondly, the features of production do not allow the creation of bent shapes, so table tops are obtained only from traditional strictly hermetic forms.
Cast marble is produced on the basis of marble chips (about 80% of the total mass), polyester resins and pigments. The material significantly exceeds the strength and moisture resistance of natural marble, looks great, can be used in kitchens and bathrooms as countertops.
№6. Parameters of the table-top made of artificial stone
The first thing you should pay attention to when choosing is the thickness of the table top. Acrylic stone, as a rule, is glued to the frame, using plywood (the best option), MDF or chipboard. It is important that the frame is strong and sturdy, and the quality of the gluing is reliable. The thickness of the stone itself can vary from 3 to 12 mm and more, but this does not affect the performance of the countertop. The thickness affects how many times you can polish its surface, and therefore directly related to durability. If you are not a fan of frequent repairs and global changes of the environment, it is better to choose a tabletop thicker.
Quartz agglomerate usually does not have a substrate, which positively affects its operation, because, for such premises as kitchen and bathroom, the absence of a moisture-resistant substrate means fewer problems. If the countertop of the agglomerate is without a substrate, then it will weigh more, and the more weight, the more difficult the transportation and the more the load on the supporting elements. By the way, some manufacturers propose to glue to the tabletop a thickness of 1-1.5 cm (the most common variant) with a thicker edge, but this is purely for a visual effect.
It is worth remembering that the installation of a countertop made of quartz agglomerate, involving the gluing of several parts and the processing of seams, will cost more than the installation of a similar countertop made of acrylic stone. On the other hand, the cost of the table top made of acrylic stone is higher, and the color palette is wider. From acrylic stone, you can create countertops of more complex shapes.
The width of the countertop corresponds to the depth of the cabinet on which it will be installed. For the kitchen, a standard is 60 cm, in the bathrooms this parameter can vary significantly. Sometimes the width of the table top can exceed the depth of the curbstone, but this is when it is necessary for it to protrude a little.
№7. What else to consider when choosing?
On the acrylic stone tabletops, scratches can remain, and they are best seen on the surface of a dark color. If you do not want to do frequent repairs, give preference to light shades and non-glossy surfaces, and it is desirable that the material has small inclusions, since on a monophonic surface all scratches and dirt are seen much better. In addition, a light worktop suitable for the design of small rooms. There are countertops with a large number of inclusions: they are least noticeable damage, so this is an ideal option for equipping the kitchen, where a lot of cooking.
The color of the artificial stone can be almost anything, and besides the classic light and dark colors, you can also find bright worktops that will become an integral part of modern interiors. When choosing the color of the table top it is necessary to be guided not only by the size of the room but also by the color of other pieces of furniture, incl. A kitchen set or a cabinet for a washbasin, if it’s a bathroom. If the furniture facade is white, then the table top can be black, light and even bright – there is room for fantasy greatest. For beige furniture facades, worktops of warm, rich colors are perfect, for black facades and “under the tree” you can choose white and light worktops.
Finally, we note that if the design idea involves the use of large worktops of curved shapes, it is better to give preference to acrylic stone, which will allow for unassembled installation. The worktop made of artificial stone is a long-lasting product, which, with minimal maintenance, will last for many years.