September 18, 2013
Kitchen Counter Top Trends
This month I interviewed Cheryl Jost of Tithof Tile & Marble. Cheryl is a knowledgeable industry insider with over 15 years of experience at Tithof. Dan McFadden, Past Basket Design What are the most popular choices in stone counter tops right now? What’s hot? Chery Jost, Tithof Engineered stones (quartz) in limestone-looking, quiet colors, and white marble. Grainy looking granites are not so popular. D.M. Has the popularity of white marble such as Calcutta or Carrara waned at all over the past few years or is it strong as ever? C.J. White marbles with a honed finish are still extremely popular. We are seeing more requests for thicker edge treatments i.e., special ogees with lamination making the “look” of the edges 2.5” or thicker. (Ogee is a molding with an S-shaped profile) D.M. Are there any materials that are giving Calcutta and other white marbles a run for their money (less costly)? C.J. Not really. A lot of clients are choosing the Danby material, which is quarried in Vermont, due to the soft look of a white marble and at a lower price point than Calcutta. Some of the engineered stones like Vicostone, Caesarstone and Color Quartz are coming out with materials that are a nice imitation of white marbles and Crema Marfils. D.M. We showcase both limestone and marble in our showroom, as we appreciate the look of these natural products, while understanding some of their limitations. It is common that customers shy away from them, saying they would “never do marble or limestone in the kitchen” (too porous, stains easily, etching, etc.); what are your thoughts on this? Is this still true? Or are there sealers out there that make maintenance a snap? C.J. We are still guaranteeing that all marbles polished, honed or brushed will scratch and stain. The sealers do help, but due to the material anything but a polished granite will stain. We do recommend a mild cleaner like Revitilizer that is made specifically for stone tops. D.M. You mentioned the quartz (Caesarstone, Silestone, Cambria, etc) materials are gaining in popularity? Do you like them? Why? C.J. I love the look of the quartz material because it has the soft wavy feel with the maintenance of a granite. I feel that clients are tired of the grainy granite look from years gone past and are looking for something fresh and new. We are installing as many if not more quartz counter tops as we are granite and marble. D.M. What is Quartz made of? C.J. Quartz is manufactured with pure quartz (which is extremely hard) and a small amount of pigment and resin. It is formed into slabs, similar to granite, marble or limestone. D.M. If a client is interested in “green” construction; how do you advise them? Aren’t natural stones stripping away natural resources, expensive to mine, dirty and burn a lot of fuel transporting from exotic locations. i.e. NOT GREEN? C.J. There are “green” stones that are quarried in the United States. One being in Minnesota and one being in Vermont. Some slates are also quarried in the USA. There are also the cement counters that have recycled glass chips in the tops. They are usually sorted by color and can be stained to change the look of the cement. One of these plants is located in Wisconsin and of course using a lot of the local brown beer bottles. Being a fabricator with all state of the art equipment in our Wisconsin fabrication facility, all of our water is recycled daily to be reused project after project. We have worked out a deal with the State of Wisconsin to toss all our scraps into specially labeled dumpsters, that are picked up on a regular schedule that are recycled, crushed and made into asphalts for the local roads. We are very conscious of recycling our air in the plant for a healthy environment for our employees and clients. We feel that unlike Corian, Formica and other counter tops, that natural stone is manufactured once in the lifetime of a kitchen and never needs to be replaced. The quarries in other countries are owned by local families who sometimes own the land for generations, and this is their livelihood. D.M. What do you recommend for clients on a budget but still want natural stone; what guidance do you give them to keep their budget in check? C.J. I would suggest that you use moderately priced granite with a simple edge detail. Edge details can run from $9.00 lineal foot to $150.00 lineal foot so keeping the extras in mind will help you in the total scheme of the budget numbers. Depending on the size of the kitchen, sourcing a fabricator with remnants is a fast and easy way to save a lot of money on your bath or kitchen remodel. D.M. I’m seeing a lot of the modern European kitchens are doing very thin countertops, is that trend in the US too? C.J. We are seeing more contemporary kitchens and baths considering using porcelain slabs with mitered edges as their choice for counter tops and wall applications. This material is almost bullet proof being a poured porcelain product that is dried and then shipped. Due to the weight of this material, you can put the material on areas that may have a weight constraint and the installation is much easier to do. We are bidding and fabricating a lot more stone with clean straight lines, but still using standard 1.25” material not ¾” material like years gone past.