Sintered stone worktops. ‘Say whaaaat?’
When it comes to renovating a kitchen, choosing a worktop can be a difficult decision. The worktop is often the largest surface area in the kitchen, and has a major impact on the look and feel of the whole space.
As if we didn’t already have a myriad of options to choose from (including marble, granite, quartz, concrete, butcher block, laminate, tile, soapstone, stainless steel, and recycled glass) there now is another surface to add to the list: sintered stone worktops.
Considered the next generation of kitchen work surface, sintered stone worktops offer significant advantages over granite and quartz: these materials are non-porous, highly scratch resistant and come in a beautiful range of colours and finishes. There are several brands of sintered stone available, including the prominent brands Lapitec® and Neolith® (see more on these at the end of this feature).
But what is sintered stone? Sintering (also called “ultra-compact surfacing”) is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heat or pressure without melting it to the point of liquefaction. Sintering happens naturally in mineral deposits or as a manufacturing process used with metals, ceramics, plastics, and other materials. Sintered stone is a new and innovative material category where the finest natural minerals are exposed to extremely high pressure (5900 PSI) and temperature (over 2700o C) in a furnace — giving the product outstanding physical and mechanical properties in terms of compaction, resistance and durability.
Unlike quartz, however, which uses a small percentage of resin that may fade and yellow over time, sintered stone is colour-fast. Not only is sintered stone UV-stable and chemical resistant, it has the best compressive strength of any comparable products currently on the market. Sintered stone also has no warping and essentially no thermal expansion, regardless of temperature and moisture changes. Not to mention it is completely non-porous and will not stain.
Sintered stone manufacturers offer an array of textures and a multitude colours to add interest to any space, and whatever the finish, from a high polish to a very rough-cut-edge, it still has the UV-stable and chemical resistant properties which allow it to be easily cleaned and maintained (and no sealing required!).
The heat-resistance of sintered stone also allows it to be applied in some very cool possibilities for fire places and outdoor fire pits.
Sintered stone worktops can also be produced with anti-microbial properties and becomes a food-safe surface. In other words, you would be able to prepare your raw foods on the surface and put your hottest pots and pans directly onto the counter without worrying if the surface will hold up to stains, heat, and scratches.
Although it’s a relatively new product and solid colours are most common in sintered stones, several of the companies that manufacture the product have begun producing slabs that have a marbled and veined look. Depending on the manufacturer, this is either printed onto the slab or manufactured as a through-body design. The printed slabs have a larger variety of looks, but the through-body slabs will have the pattern showing through the edges and therefore provide a more “natural” look.
If you are considering a kitchen renovation, sintered stone worktops may very well be the surface for you: you can “treat it like quartz which does not stain, and it’s as strong as granite.” In other words, you get three things at once: the marble look, the strength of the granite, and the simplicity and ease of use of the quartz.
|Benefits of surfaces like stone and quartz without the drawbacks of porosity, staining, and other limitations of those materials||Requires skilled trades and proper equipment for fabrication. Availability of experienced installers familiar with these products may be limited|
|Very durable surfaces; non-porous, highly resistant to physical damage like scratching and cracking||Cost is generally in the mid to high-end range for countertop surfacing; can be expensive depending on the specific product|
|Very heat resistant; some products can integrate induction cooking features right into the material|
|Tolerant to all temperature extremes making these surfaces good for outdoor kitchens|
|Some products have “through-body” construction meaning their colour goes through the material|
|Product sizes large enough to cover kitchen islands and large areas similar to natural stone slabs|
A snapshot of Lapitec® — 5 facts the manufacturer would like you to know:
1 – Lapitec is a form of sintered stone. To create it, only the best ceramic materials are selected and then bonded together under extreme heat and pressure. The stone is 100% mineral and no resin or hydrocarbon-based binder components are used.
It’s also a completely green product, as no petroleum-based substances are used to create it. Moreover, it is totally inert and will therefore not release any substances into the air.
2 – Lapitec is available in different styles and colours, split into several collections which define the finishes offered to suit any taste or need.
For example, the stone in the Lux collection is highly polished, giving a mirrored effect, perfect for bringing light into a room, whereas the stone in the Vesuvio collection tends to come in natural colours and patterns which reflect its volcanic name.
3 – Lapitec is designed to stand the test of time. It is incredibly hard-wearing and near impossible to damage as it’s resistant to almost everything, including scratches, impact and acidic substances.
Lapitec is also resistant to sudden changes in temperature, so it shouldn’t be scarred after a hot pan is placed on its surface.
The manufacturer claims the stone does not change over time either and that UV light has no effect on it. So as long as you clean it on a regular basis, it should look exactly how it appeared when you first had it installed.
4 – Lapitec is also non-porous, meaning it doesn’t absorb whatever’s spilt on it (which is how those infuriating stains are formed). With most other stones, you need to wipe up your wine spillages straight away, but you won’t find yourself scrubbing away for hours with Lapitec.
The stone also uses Biotech technology, which is designed to tackle bacteria and create an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal surface. Essentially, micro-organisms decompose safely in the surface, so all you need to do is wash them away with some soap and water.
5 – Although, you’ll need a professional to install it, like any stone installation, Lapitec is incredibly easy to install. This is due to the fact it is so light, but at the same time it is very ‘workable’, which is handy since the slabs tend to be huge. The scale of the slabs (Lapitec is the sintered stone surface with the largest size available on the market) also means you can pretty much guarantee that your kitchen worktop will have a very uniform look, as you’ll probably be able to use one slab for the entire job.
A snapshot of Neolith® — 5 facts the manufacturer would like you to know:
“Neolith is the next generation of worktops,” with many colour options to choose from, and a large slab size which can be cut to fit into any kitchen.
1 – Neolith is eco-friendly. Neolith is made up of all-natural products including clays, feldspar, silica and mineral oxides, and its colours are made up of natural pigments. Neolith comes with an expected lifetime of durability, and a 15-year warrantee for peace of mind, making it a sustainable, buy-it-once choice.
2 – Neolith does not stain. Unlike marble, concrete, butcher block, laminate, and granite, Neolith isn’t porous, so it won’t stain and doesn’t need to be sealed. Even the white coloured neolith will wipe clean without staining. This saves time, headaches, and money — not to mention the worry over coffee and red wine stains on your beautiful new worktop!
3 – Neolith is versatile. Not only can Neolith be used for worktops (12mm thick), it is also available in a thinner format (5mm) to be used as cladding for walls, cupboards and floors. It is available in up to 35 different colours, in both the 12mm and 5mm thickness, which allows for perfect cohesion – especially appealing for a minimalist or contemporary look.
4 – Neolith is durable. Because the surface is so hard, it is very heat resistant and will not warp, buckle or stain from heat. The hard surface is also very resistant to scratches and abrasion.
5 – Neolith is competitively priced. Granite and marble countertops are beautiful, but their cost can be prohibitive.