Natural Stone vs. Engineered Stone Benchtops: What is the Difference?

Perini Team

In Home, Kitchen, Renovating Tips, Trends Posted

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is: “What is the difference between natural and engineered stones?” Although achieving a unique and luxurious look with each option is possible, there are a few key differences that are important to consider when making your decision, from budgetary constraints, to colour options and long term maintenance. 

Natural Stone Kitchen Benchtops

Natural stone benchtop options such as marble and granite have long been favoured in kitchen designs thanks to their incredible strength and longevity in the home as well as the unique, rich and elegant style they create in any kitchen renovation. Natural stones are available in a wide variety of colours, each with its own distinct characteristics and patterning that can only truly be achieved in a natural product. Sophisticated marble benchtops for example, can be sourced in bold dramatic black tones (Nero Marquina), creamy hues (Crema Marfil) and sleek, modern warm white tones (such as New York Marble for a dramatic vein or Calacatta and Carrara marbles for a softer look).

Our Armadale kitchen renovation uses a combination of engineered and natural stones, taking advantage of each material’s unique characteristics. A crisp white engineered stone benchtop covers the key working zones of the space, ensuring these areas make the most of this material’s durability and ease of maintenance while a natural marble stone top adorns the central island bench, injecting the design with an elegant and timeless charm.

Natural products are porous in nature and as such, will require a little bit of extra care and maintenance to keep the surface fresh. A natural stone benchtop will require sealing after installation as well as a professional clean and seal every few years thereafter depending on the stone’s wear over time. Even with a properly sealed and maintained natural stone, it is still advised that any spills be cleaned off the surface as quickly as possible to avoid any potential staining, discolouration or even erosion of the natural material.

Engineered Stone Kitchen Benchtops

Engineered stone benchtops (also known as composite stone benchtops) are most often created using a combination of quartz and a resin binder. Engineered stones will provide a more economical choice in comparison to natural stone, with the added long term saving of a maintenance free surface. There are many brands of engineered stone available, from Caesarstone to Essastone and Silestone, each of which includes their own unique colours and styles to choose from. Some of their most popular options however, are their simulated natural stone varieties that create a superb representation of a natural product at a fraction of the cost. 

Engineered stone benchtops in the kitchen provide a strong and durable surface that will never require sealing. Once again, it is recommended that any food and liquid spills be cleaned up quickly off your benchtop to avoid any potential staining or discolouration of the stone however, being a man-made product, the surface is usually more forgiving when it comes to absorbing liquids.

Our Albert Park kitchen renovation uses a deep, warm black engineered stone that is specifically designed to emulate the organic veins and colouring of Nero Marquina marble.

Cracking in Stone Benchtops

Although both natural and engineered stone options can be susceptible to cracking, the cause of this issue is most often mistreatment of the benchtop or improper installation. Both products require efficient support (substrate) beneath the stone itself especially when the benchtop spans over an empty space (such as over a dishwasher for example). Without proper installation and support, these areas can be prone to sagging and eventually cracking, making top quality workmanship a priority. 

Our Brighton kitchen renovation includes an oversized central island that serves as both a worktop and breakfast bar. The cantilevered stone benchtop is not only supported by hidden steel bars but also a central exposed floor mounted beam to ensure there are no issues with cracking or sagging in this luxurious kitchen. 

Temperature shock can also lead to cracking in any type of stone benchtop, be it engineered or natural. Extreme heat can damage your kitchen benchtop so any hot trays should always be placed on either a chopping board or trivet and never directly on the surface. Constant sources of heat can also cause damage to your stone benchtops over time, often leading to the formation of cracks and discoloration. For example, a slow cooker placed directly on the benchtop will release a constant source of heat that is targeted in that specific area of the stone which can cause it to eventually crack. Once again, the use of a chopping board or trivet beneath your cooker will alleviate this issue, keeping your stone benchtop safe from damage. 

Natural Stone Vs. Engineered Stone: Which is best?

That all depends on what you are looking for! Each option provides its own unique benefits to a design, allowing you to achieve an ultra-luxurious feel in your kitchen renovation. The final decision will come down to the simple factors of your budget, preferred design style and long term maintenance options of each product.

Our experienced and knowledgeable team at Perini Renovations can guide your through the process of selecting your new stone benchtops to help you find your ideal match. Contact us here to arrange a consultation for your next project!