When selecting surfaces for your floors, walls and counters, also consider the long-term cost of maintenance. With a huge variety of color and size options, the cost to purchase install your surface, as well as costs to maintain should be the determining factors for selection. Here is a brief guide to surfaces and their care:
Recommendation from the designer: Porcelain tile and Quartz counters are two of the most durable, easy care, competitive cost alternatives. For both, the selection of colors, ways to use, and overall performance are fantastic. The options in porcelain tile sizes and styles are ever-increasing, with trim tiles to finish edges. I prefer porcelain and quartz to their natural stone counterparts.
1) Granite: Porous, igneous stone. Tile and slab available. Must be sealed annually in baths, more often in kitchens. Stains and etches. Don't let oils or vinegars sit on surface too long. Great heat resistance. Be aware that some colors have radon. Not impervious to bacteria. Clean with stone cleaner to avoid removing sealer or dulling shine. Don't use acidic products or shine can be dulled.
2) Quartz: (Silestone, Cambria, Caesarstone, etc..) Stone-epoxy composite.Tile and slab available. Non-porous so no sealer required. Heat and stain resistant. High durability. Often embedded with antibacterial compound. Clean with almost any household cleaner. Some versions by Silestone are 'green'. Colors can be stone-like or unique in pattern and particulate. This bath uses a fossil-like quartz in a soft white.
3) Travertine-limestone-soapstone-marble-slate: These are all porous stone products that can be used on counters, floors and walls. Tile and slab available. They MUST be sealed often so water and products don't penetrate. All are stainable and prone to scratches. Soapstone has good heat resistance. Requires regular cleaning with stone cleaner or neutral non-abrasive cleaner. Products for ceramic tile may NOT be used on these stones. Soap scum is difficult to remove. Special products are available to help remove stains.
4) Porcelain: A subset of ceramic tile. Highly durable surface for floors, walls, and even counters. Generally through-body color with a glazed surface. No porosity. Clean with nearly any household cleaner. Recommend that you seal grout after installation for best stain resistance in high use areas. Patterns, colors, and sizes nearly limitless. Unique stone-like patterns available for more durable, easy care surface than real stone.
6) Solid surfaces (Corian, Corinthinan, Wilsonart, etc...) : Solid, manufactured with plastic or acrylic. Durable, non-porous, stain and bacteria resistant. Not heat resistant. Through-color and easy to buff scratches or make repairs. Often has integrated sink options. Seams are inconspicuous.