Apr 11, 2012

Surfaces you can live with.

When you're thinking of changing your floors, walls and counters, keep in mind the initial and long-term cost of that surface. If the cost is high and so is the maintenance, keep looking! With a huge variety of colors, patterns, options, materials and styles, the choices are endless.  There is so much information and variety today that you should be aware of all of the pros and cons. Here is a brief guide to some surfaces:

1) Granite: Porous, igneous stone. Graceful, artistic or sleek depending upon the pattern. Comes in tiles and slabs.  Because it's porous, it must be sealed annually in baths, and about every 4-6 months in a kitchen. It's stone so it will stain. Vinegar and lemon juice can etch off the shine. It does have excellent heat resistance so you can pop a pots from the stove to the counter with ease. Nail polish and nail polish removers can be problematic.  Be aware that some colors have radon and some colors stain more than others. Again, since it's porous, bacteria can grow on the surface; clean well after cooking meats and poultry. It's a good idea use special stone cleaners to avoid removing the sealer or dulling shine. 

2) Quartz: (Silestone, Cambria, Caesarstone, etc..) These are stone-epoxy composites made from the by-products of the stone cutting industry and are available in slabs as well as tile. Since they are non-porous, no sealers are required.  With both heat and stain resistance, they also often have anti-microbial treatments. They have high durability, come in stone-like finishes and colors, and are fantastic for low-maintenance. Work well in any style interior due to the variety of colors and patterns, and many are also eco-friendly and stunning.

3) Travertine-limestone-soapstone-marble-slate: These are porous stones that can be used on counters, floors and walls. Almost all are available in tile and slab formats.  They MUST be sealed often so water and products don't penetrate.  All of these stones are stainable and prone to scratches. Soapstone has good heat resistance. Floors, counters and shower walls require 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. With so many varieties of color, pattern, texture and scale, this is an extremely flexible surface product. It's highly durable for floors, walls, and even counters and you can mimic patterns of stone and even wood without the hassle of using those materials. Generally they are through-body color with a glazed surface so small chips don't show white like ceramic tile. They are not porous and can be cleaned with nearly any household cleaner. 

5) Ceramic: Made from clay or other inorganic materials, hardened by oven firing and usually coated with some kind of glaze.  Ceramic is easy to clean and doesn't harbor germs. It's very popular for baths and kitchens and today's patterns and colors are nothing like the old white tiles used in starter homes.

6) Solid surfaces (Corian, Corinthinan, Wilsonart, etc...) These are solid, manufactured surfaces made with plastic or acrylic. They;re durable, non-porous, stain and bacteria resistant but NOT heat resistant. Many are  through-color and it's easy to buff out scratches or make repairs. With integrated sink options, it's great for an easy clean cooks kitchen. Generally the seams are inconspicuous.