Just a few years ago, we probably would have kicked off our current blog series on kitchen countertop options by exploring what’s often referred to as the “gold standard” choice: granite.
Until recently, granite was the most sought-after material for kitchen countertops in the United States. While it still ranks as the most popular natural countertop option, ongoing innovations in engineered stone have cast quartz as today’s top kitchen countertop selection.
Interior design trends aside, granite absolutely holds its own as one of the highest-quality — and most attractive — countertop materials available. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this timeless choice:
Granite Countertop Basics
As an igneous rock, granite is formed from liquid volcanic magma that emerges from the earth, cools, and hardens. This quality both informs its composition and makes it categorically different than marble, which is a metamorphic rock that forms under pressure and heat over millions of years.
Granite countertops are typically fabricated from a large slab, or a solid piece of quarried stone that’s finished as desired and installed without any seams. Modular granite pieces, or so-called “mini slabs,” are a less costly option that involves laying segments of finished granite side by side and seaming them together to form a single surface.
Unlike marble, granite doesn’t typically have any subtle veining (although it’s possible to find granite slabs that do have marble-like veining). What truly distinguishes granite from marble is that it has a constellation of tiny, black amphibole crystal grains scattered across its surface.
Uneven in size and randomly scattered, these natural crystals are also one of the only telling qualities that distinguishes top-quality engineered stone from granite — the crystals in engineered stone are uniformly arranged throughout the material.
Singular natural beauty
Granite slabs are mainly composed of quartz and feldspar, but they also contain smaller amounts of mica and other minerals. It’s the unique combination of minerals in a specific slab that helps determine its color and pattern.
Granite comes in hundreds of bold and muted natural hues, ranging from pure black and pure white to grey, cream, yellow, tan, pink, and red. It also comes in a wide variety of patterns, including speckled, flecked, dotted, streaked, marbled, and swirled cosmos.
Granite slabs can be polished to a smooth, reflective surface or honed to a more matte veneer; they can also be refined with a diamond-tipped brush to create a color-highlighting “leather” surface that artfully combines the best elements of polished and honed techniques into one distinctive finish.
Pros and Cons of Granite
As a countertop material, “gold-standard” granite offers the perfect blend of form and function. But that’s not the only reason homeowners continue to choose it for their kitchens time and time again — granite also possesses a rare duality that makes it feel just as elegant and luxurious as it is natural and earthy.
Even so, every countertop material comes with its own set of pros and cons, including granite:
Advantages of granite
- Remarkably durable: Because granite mainly consists of two of the hardest materials on earth (quartz and feldspar), granite countertops are very strong and incredibly durable. It’s virtually impervious to scratches, chips, and cracks, and highly resistant to heat and scorching. Granite countertops are also very resistant to moisture, acid, oils, and stains, too, as long as they’re properly maintained (see below).
- Naturally unique: Let’s face it — granite is nothing less than nature’s art in its purest form, and granite slabs carry an element of character and individuality that can redefine the look and feel of your entire space. Every granite slab tells a story, too; the proportion of different colored minerals in a piece of granite is a product of the original source of molten rock that cooled to form it.
- Offers a good ROI: Granite is a more expensive countertop option, but its price tag is offset, at least to some degree, by the added value it brings to your home. To put it another way, granite countertops offer a very good return on investment (ROI), meaning they’re a sought-after feature that prospective buyers are willing to pay more for when it’s time to sell your home.
Downsides of granite
- Relatively pricey: Granite may offer a good ROI, but that’s not helpful if it’s not in your budget to begin with — as one of the most expensive countertop materials, granite is often (but not always) more costly than other natural stone surfaces like marble or soapstone; it can also be pricier than the engineered quartz surfaces that are designed to mimic granite.
On the plus side, the price of granite has come down somewhat as engineered quartz countertops have become more popular.
- Requires sealing: Granite is a variably porous surface that requires sealing prior to installation and every year thereafter. Polished granite is the least porous, while leather-finished granite is minimally porous and honed granite is moderately porous. Regardless of porosity, all granite finishes should be sealed annually to keep them impervious to stains.
- Difficult to repair: Granite countertops are very difficult to repair properly if they chip or crack, and typically only professional fabricators can achieve seamless results. This isn’t a pivotal downside for most homeowners, however, simply because strong, durable granite doesn’t damage easily.
The Bottom Line on Granite
Granite surfaces impart a timeless look and luxury appeal to modern as well as traditional kitchen spaces. And with endless color, pattern, and finishing options available, there’s a granite countertop that can complement virtually any design aesthetic.
Given that it’s also just as functional as it is beautiful, granite is an excellent all-around choice that makes cooking, entertaining, and everyday life in the kitchen that much easier.
Granite may not be the best option for you, however, if a costlier material isn’t really in your renovation or construction budget; it’s also not the best choice if you don’t want to re-seal your countertops every year.