What is the difference between natural and engineered stone?

Perini Team

In Bathroom, Kitchen, Renovating Tips Posted

Engineered stone has become a favourite choice in kitchen renovations over the years thanks to its incredible strength, durability and virtually maintenance-free surface finish. Natural stone on the other hand, boasts the organic aesthetic and beauty that has become synonymous with luxury home interiors, while also creating a stunning feature in the kitchen.

Exploring the differences between these two very worthwhile options comes down to the simple fact that one is a man-made product whereas the other is of course, a naturally occurring material. Aside from this key difference, there is of course pricing as well as general maintenance factors to consider when making your final selections during the kitchen design process.

What is Engineered Stone?

Engineered stone is a man-made stone surface that is usually made up of up to 93% natural quartz aggregates combined with pigments and polymer resins. The end result is a highly durable surface that offers a virtually maintenance free benchtop choice for the home that can be used as a kitchen benchtop, splashback or internal wall cladding. Engineered stones are available in a wide variety of colours and patterns that are sold in standard slab sizes of approximately 3050 x 1440mm (these dimensions can vary between manufacturers). Each slab is 20mm thick (13mm thick options are also available for vertical installation) and can be mitred to achieve a thicker countertop.

kitchen renovationA very chic Albert Park kitchen renovation by Perini Renovations, this kitchen design uses Caesarstone’s engineered stone in colour: Vanilla Noir™ 5100 to replicate the natural veins of a marble benchtop without the need for regular maintenance or sealing.  

With normal, everyday use, an engineered stone benchtop will provide a strong, scratch and stain resistant surface that will last a lifetime in the home. Your new engineered stone surface will not require sealing and can be cleaned with just a bit of warm, soapy water and a soft cloth, making it a perfectly suitable option for the busy kitchen.

You will find that engineered stone products are in general, much more cost effective than natural products. Each brand of natural stone contains several different price tiers within their own collections, from a standard, more economical range to the more sophisticated and costly luxury options, normally being natural stone replica products. It is always recommended that an engineered stone benchtop be cut to size and installed by a qualified and trained professional to ensure the best outcome, in line with the manufacturer’s specifications and in terms of warranty requirements. 

What is Natural Stone?

The natural stone category includes surfaces made of marble, granite or onyx to name a few. This product is not a man-made material and therefore, will require different forms of cleaning and maintenance to ensure its longevity in the home. Being a porous material, natural stone benchtops will require sealing immediately after installation and roughly every couple of years thereafter, depending on their wear and use. A great way to test if your natural stone benchtop requires professional sealing is to leave a few drops of water on the surface; if after about twenty minutes the water has seeped into the stone, then it’s time for re-sealing. If the water droplets are still present on the surface, your natural stone benchtop is good to go!

This crisp and contemporary Armadale kitchen renovation by Perini Renovations includes the best of both worlds: A luxurious marble benchtop has been used as a central feature in the kitchen island which has then been paired with an engineered stone surface on all other work surfaces.

Natural stone slabs are available in similar sizes as their engineered stone counterparts, measuring approximately 3100 x 1400mm and can also be cut to size and mitred along the edges to achieve an increased thickness. Once again, we would always recommend a natural stone benchtop be cut and installed by a qualified professional to ensure the best outcome that will meet Australian Standards. 

In general, you will find that natural stone products are higher in cost than man-made engineered stones and then of course, there is also the additional cost of continued maintenance to consider. A natural stone kitchen benchtop however, boasts an organic beauty that is simply unparalleled by anything else and as such, will always make for a timeless feature in any home.

The Similarities Between Natural & Engineered Stones

Despite their differences, both stone products have some similarities that are important to keep in mind throughout the kitchen design process. Both natural and engineered stone options are available with feature edging at an additional cost to help tie in your new kitchen benchtop with your selected interior design style. Lamb’s tongue, pencil round, provincial edge profiles and many more can all be achieved using either natural or engineered stones.

edge profiles

Another similarity each of these products share is that they can both be affected by heat. Stone benchtops will react to sudden changes in temperature which can lead to cracking in the surface. It is always recommended that any hot items be placed on a chopping board or trivet to avoid any potential damage to your kitchen benchtop. Aside from being damaged by sudden changes in temperature, both engineered and natural stones should also not be exposed to constant sources of heat as both are combustible materials. This includes small appliances that generate continuous heat, resting directly on the surface, for example slow cookers, pressure cookers or electric frying pans.  Neither option can be used as a splashback for example, where the stone will be installed within 200mm of a gas cooktop burner as the radiating heat can cause a fire hazard in your kitchen (as well as voiding your warranty). They can however, be used as kitchen splashback in any other situation, making for a luxurious end result in the kitchen.

No matter which material you choose in your kitchen renovation, each option will last a lifetime, making for a standout feature in the home. Our team at Perini Renovations will assist you in making the best decision to suit your style and budget to create the perfect kitchen design.