Consumer Alert: Testing tough countertops

(National-Consumer Reports) August 23, 2006 - In high-end kitchen renovations, granite remains the countertop of choice. But sales of man-made, engineered stone are also on the rise. Consumer Reports tested both, as well as several other types of countertops, to find the best.

In granite warehouses, great slabs of stone are lifted into position. Then customers hand pick the piece they want for their own unique countertop.

Some of the granite is highly polished, other is called honed and has a matte finish.

Consumer Reports tested both types, along with engineered stone and several other kinds of countertops, to see how well they resist all sorts of common stains.

Celia Lehrman says the honed and polished granite performed the same, "They both did a good job of resisting stains, but they also both need to be resealed periodically to maintain that stain resistance."

Engineered stone with brand names like Cambria, Silestone, and Zodiaq is even better than granite at resisting stains and it doesn't need to be sealed.

But one test shows a problem with engineered stone: if you drop something on the edge, it can chip.

Another test checks whether countertops will scratch. Testers run a weighted knife across the surface.

Stainless steel scratches, as do most other types of countertops. Only granite doesn't show any cut marks.

Lehrman says, "Well you know, none of the countertops are excellent across the board. They all have some weaknesses, but we found that engineered stone and granite did the best."

But they're expensive. Installed, they run somewhere around $40 to $100 a square foot.

Far less expensive than granite and engineered stone are laminate countertops.

They're sold under brand names like Formica, Wilsonart, and Nevamar. They cost far less, $10 to $30 a square foot installed.

Consumer Reports' tests show laminate is pretty good at resisting stains, but it can easily be cut with a knife, so you have to be sure to use a cutting board.

Posted 4:35pm by Bryce Mursch

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