Kitchen Confidential 

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))Mohs Hardness Scale

The Mohs Hardness Scale is a way to identify the hardness of a mineral and it’s resistance to scratching.

Types of countertop material

  • Natural Stone
  • Engineered Stone
  • Wood Butcher Block
  • Concrete

What is natural stone?

Natural stone is derived from products that have been quarried from the earth. 

Examples: Granite, Marble, Quartzite

What is engineered stone?

Engineered stone is a material made of crushed stone bound together by an adhesive to create a solid surface.

I personally love engineered stone and have it in my own home.  It is very easy to clean, costs less than other materials, and is ideal for heavy use.  

Examples: Quartz, Porcelain, Ultra Compact Stone

Qualities & Features

The list below are the qualities and features I use to determine what type of countertop material to us:

  • Porous/Non Porous
  • Scratchable/Non Scratchable
  • Heat Proof/Not Heat Proof
  • Natural/Man Made
  • Pattern/Color
  • Widely Available/Hard To Find
  • Expensive/Inexpensive

Now let’s break down the most popular countertop materials based on the list above.  First we will start with natural stone:


  • Mostly made of melted down quartz crystals
  • 4-6 on Mohs scale depending on the density (some quartz components are softer than others
  • Durable, but porous (will need to seal often)
  • Heat resistant
  • Hard to scratch
  • Large range of colors
  • Not all granites are the same, some are harder than others


  • Made from recrystalized carbonite minerals
  • 2-3 Mohs Scale
  • Large range of marbles
  • Affordable options
  • Very soft
  • Very porous
  • Not heat resistant
  • Scratchable
  • Not good for a main kitchen area
  • Almost never recommend it


  • Harder than granite
  • Sometimes has look of marble but much harder and denser
  • 6-7 Mohs scale but only if you get HARD quartzite (soft quartzite is basically like marble)
  • Available in a range of finishes (honed, leathered, polished)
  • Looks different than traditional quartz engineered stone


Next we will talk about engineered stone:


  • Man made
  • Crushed quartz mineral mixed with high tech epoxy and cured
  • 7 on Moez Scale – incredibly hard
  • Engineered so very consistent in thickness and color
  • Alot easier to work with
  • Can be less expensive because its so widely available, can find a range of selection and brands to choose from

  • Non porous – spill a glass of red wine on it, it wont absorb into the surface

  • Heat resistant (I still use a trivet) but if you have a pot of boiling water and you set it on there for a few minutes its not going to do anything

  • So many brands, can find a less expensive but still high quality brand that works well for clients – not as price sensitive

  • Can still chip, if you take a cast iron pot and hit it directly on the edge it can chip but it is easier to repair

  • The color and the pattern goes all the way through so its easier to repair

I personally prefer quartz.  Quartz is my favorite type to work with because there is a wide range of patterns and colors, widely available and easily repairable from a fabricators standpoint.


  • Man made
  • Sold as a hard, dense material
  • 6-7 on Mohs Scale
  • Non porous
  • Scratch Proof
  • Heat Resistant
  • 100% Man Made
  • Large range of pattern/color
  • Widely available
  • Not repairable

Porcelain is basically a resin that is poured over the top of the core material so the pattern and color does not go all the way through.  This means if you get a chip on the edge it is very difficult to match the color.

Personally, I do not recommend porcelain unless I know the client is very aware of its limitations and is careful with hard, heavy objects.

Ultra Compact Stone

  • Man Made
  • Newer material
  • New way of producing stone – centered stone – take the stone and its crushed up and pressurized and makes them incredibly strong 
  • 7-8 Mohs Scale
  • 2 main brands (Decton and Neolith)
  • Heat proof
  • Scratch Proof
  • Non Porous
  • Expensive
  • Range of colors and patterns
  • Color goes all the way through (makes it easier to repair)
  • Large sizes

The downside of ultra compact stone is that it’s not widely available.  It is also hard to find a fabricator that knows how to work with it.

Other Countertop Options

Butcher Block/Wood Top

  • Extremely porous
  • Scratchable
  • Not heat proof

I don’t believe butcher block belongs in a kitchen environment.  If you see them in photos, most are staged.  If you decide to use butcher block you will need to take extreme care of it.  If you want to use it, integrate it in area that is not heavy traffic, no cutting or contact with water.


Concrete can look beautiful but is very difficult to put in correctly.  With constant use, water will get through the seal and start to break down the concrete.


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