Counter Vision

Today’s solid surface and quartz countertops are offered in an incredible array of colors and textures for aesthetic appeal, and are designed to meet end-user requirements for durability, renewability and impenetrability. Manufacturers have broadened their lines to ensure the choices are virtually endless, and countertops can be designed to fit nearly any specification, style or whim.

According to a recent reader survey by Residential Design & Build magazine, 51 percent of respondents install different countertop materials in the bathroom versus the kitchen. And, the future of countertops looks positive as 54 percent of respondents said that more home-owners will realize the importance of countertops in 2007.

Countertops are available in multiple materials for versatility. Solid surface is a blend of acrylic and polyester resins and aluminum trihydroxide. It allows flexibility in design and application with benefits including reparability, hygienics, and an enormous range of color and texture options because it is a plastic material.

Quartz is a hard and durable material that is stain-resistant, nonporous, virtually maintenance-free and does not require sealing. It can emulate the look of granite, but is available in an assortment of colors and surfaces not found in natural stone.

“Applications for solid surface are far reaching,” says Dale Mandell, national sales manager for Staron Surfaces by Samsung. “Traditionally, a significant market for solid surface is kitchen countertops. The design flexibility, color and texture options, and performance attributes of solid surface are prompting more and more builders, architects, designers and homeowners to choose solid surface.”

Solid Choices

“Solid surfacing is simply the only countertop choice that allows kitchen and bath designers to create with a blank slate — it provides ultimate design flexibility,” says Jeff Argus, market development manager for DuPont Surfaces. “It can be thermoformed into custom shapes, routed, carved, sandblasted or laser etched to fulfill any size or shape requirement. It also is smooth, nonporous and virtually seamless, leaving no unsightly grout lines that can be harder to keep clean, as they trap dirt and bacteria.”

Available in more than 120 colors, DuPont Corian can be used for numerous applications throughout the home, including countertops, backsplashes, vanity tops, wall cladding, tub and shower surrounds, desktops and windowsills. DuPont recently updated its Corian Private Collection to include three new colors in the Artisan Series: earth, sagebrush and tumbleweed.

Gemstone Solid Surfaces offers its cost-efficient product in solid and patterned surfaces to satisfy nearly any need. Gemstone’s homogeneous, impenetrable solid surface resists staining, scratching, and will not support the growth of mold or bacteria. The color and pattern run throughout the surface so any nicks and scratches can be easily repaired by the use of a common abrasive cleanser. The company’s Montana Series of colors promises a nearly infinite number of patterns, colors, tones, shading and depth options.

LG Hi-Macs Acrylic Solid Surface is a solid homogeneous sheet or slab with color and design that are consistent throughout. The product also is resistant to stains, moisture and heavy wear. LG Hi-Macs is thermoformable, it can be molded or shaped to fit any design, and the company’s enormous color collection allows the surfacing to blend with any décor or design. The nonporous surface is resistant to bacteria growth, offers the appearance of stone and features a 15-year fully transferable warranty.

Swanstone now offers two more three-dimensional patterns to its collection of solid surface decorative panels. The new Tangier panel features row upon row of vertical rectangles, while the Barcelona has raised and recessed circles set in a variegated pattern of alternating raised or smooth-surfaced squares. The color and texture of Swanstone run all the way through and cannot wear away. Panels clean easily using everyday household cleaners, and the solid surface resists the growth of mold and mildew. The panels are available in a 36-in. by 96-in. size and in 33 colors.

Eos Surfaces created a countertop product available in 3cm-thick solid surface slabs. Eos is a full 11/4 in. solid surface, but is comparable in price to conventional ½-in. solid surface. Eos is 3cm thick and requires no special glue-up or wooden supports. Available in 17 colors, Eos solid surface is popular with stone and solid surface fabricators because slabs can be machined wet or dry with existing Computer Numerical Control fabrication equipment.

“We’ve reduced the cost so we can rival laminate,” says Evan Kruger, chief operating officer for Eos Surfaces. “Laminate still makes up 68 percent of the market. The cost difference is huge between solid surface and laminate. Eos is close to laminate so it’s broadening the scope of solid surface.”

The Quartz Invasion

Quartz surfaces have been used in upscale homes around the world for more than 15 years but have more recently entered the American market. Thanks to increased manufacturer product development, quartz surfaces are in demand as a must-have in new and remodeled homes throughout the country. Quartz surfaces are experiencing incredible growth which is driven by the style, luxury and durability quartz delivers.

Argus adds, “Quartz surfaces are growing in popularity because although they have the appearance of natural stone, unlike granite, these surfaces never need to be sealed. Quartz is a nonporous material, which means it will not promote the growth of mold, mildew or bacteria.”
Staron Quartz countertops by Samsung contain more than 90 percent natural quartz crystals — a higher percentage of quartz than natural granite. The crystals are combined with technologically advanced polymers, resulting in a smooth, high-gloss surface.

“Quartz countertops have an aesthetic that can emulate the look of granite, but is also available in unique colors and surface effects not found in natural stone,” Mandell says. “The benefit of quartz is that it doesn’t have any of the drawbacks associated with materials such as granite.”

Samsung Staron’s new Tempest line is a solid surface alternative specifically designed to mirror natural stone and quartz. “Tempest is a unique and versatile surfacing product,” explains Mandell. “There’s a new visual dimension with Tempest that is like nothing else we’ve offered. While it has the look of natural quartz, it still offers the practicality of solid surface, making it ideal for any possible residential or commercial application.”

“More and more consumers and builders are demanding green products in new construction and remodeling projects,” says Peter Martin, director of marketing operations for Cambria. “Cambria is very proud of its certification by GreenGuard and its reputation as being environmentally conscious in the methods we use to produce our product.

“Cambria’s certification by GreenGuard will assist projects in qualifying for points under the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program. In addition, because Cambria is the only producer of natural quartz surfaces in the United States, additional LEED points are available for any project within the 500-mile radius of its Minnesota manufacturing facility,” Martin says.

Silestone recently introduced the Mountain Series and the River Series to its collection of colors. Silestone natural quartz countertops are infused with Microban antimicrobial protection. Silestone is also the only countertop surface certified by both the National Sanitation Foundation and GreenGuard promising a cleaner, safer countertop.

HanStone begins with the natural elegance of quartz, and then uses advanced technology to create its product with dramatic colors, vibrant patterns and a luxurious sheen. The product promises greater strength and resilience and minimal maintenance. HanStone gives design flexibility by offering 20 colors and patterns.

Colorful Options

In color trends, the demand for subtle, neutral tones continues. Toned-down browns and greens and a continuation of the classic earth tones will populate the landscape. Ginguei Ebnesajjad, director of product styling and development for DuPont, conducts worldwide research to determine the colors and aesthetics that will be seen in the marketplace. Argus explains her forecast: “This year she believes we will be seeing consumers continuing to be drawn to materials that lend warmth and character and reflect even more natural movement and colorations.”

Color trends in countertop materials haven’t changed radically in recent years, Mandell adds. “We find that warm neutrals continue to be the first choice for the majority of homeowners, but there are colors in both solid surface and quartz that do appeal to those looking for something more extreme or unique,” he says.

After selecting the countertop option that works best for you, Kruger suggests doing your research for the best fabricator. “Throughout the country there are plenty of fabricators who do solid surface, quartz and granite,” he says. “The key is to find the right provider. It’s service that counts.”