Natural Stone vs. Engineered Stone
What you need to know
Whether you are outfitting an existing home with new finishes or building from scratch, you may be presented with a decision that must be made when it comes to some of the home’s key products: natural materials or engineered. For years, natural materials had been a homeowner’s only option. Now, markets have been flooded with a variety of engineered options that rival their long-existent natural counterparts. What does this mean for you, the homeowner? You must make a selection between natural and engineered for a multitude of your home’s finishes from flooring, to sinks, to countertops. Here’s what you need to know.
Natural Stone Countertops
Let’s start with your countertops. For a long while, natural stone countertops were the cream of the crop. Granite, marble, and limestone, to name a few, are among the top contenders of offerings for natural stone. Quarried from locations around the world, natural stone slabs are seen as a genuine work of art. Because they are naturally occurring materials, these stones vary in veining, undertones, and porosity. However, this is precisely what has made them desirable.
When you go to a slab showroom, you are taken through to see a carefully curated exhibition of current lots, from which you can select your unique variation. Many people are driven to the concept that their home’s finishes will be entirely unmatched and thus, the idea of a countertop that is one of a kind is appealing. Natural stone countertops are incredibly durable and require minimal upkeep. These days, most natural stone countertops come pre-sealed since the materials themselves have some amount of porosity. Once installed, these countertops require intermittent resealing to prevent the possibility of staining or cracking.
Though some upkeep is required, natural stone countertop are incredibly durable and additionally, increase the real estate value on a home. Earth Elements boasts a selection of many natural stones from all over the world.
One of our long-time partners, Opustone, provides a great selection of high-quality countertops, of which, we are sure every homeowner can find something to suit their fancy.
In recent years, however, a competitor for natural stone has been brought to market. Engineered stone, though comprised of a large percentage of natural quartz, also contains other minerals. Essentially, engineered stone countertops are formed of stone byproducts that are ground up and formed into slabs.
The benefit of these countertops is the lack of upkeep required to keep them looking nice. The resins found in quartz countertops makes them considerably more resistant to staining than natural materials. Inherently, the surface of an engineered stone is far less porous than natural stone and thus, does not require sealant.
This material may also appeal to a different kind of homeowner. For the homeowner that prefers a more uniform and predictable space, engineered stone is the better option. Because the quartz and other materials are ground down, engineers have a better grip on the outcome of the final product. So, if you find that unpredictability is a stressor for you, engineered stone is the way to go. Our suppliers offer a wonderful selection of natural stone look-alikes as well as products that do not even slightly resemble their naturally occurring counterparts.
Caesarstone, one of our top engineered stone producers, has a beautiful collection of engineered stone options.
Concrete sinks and tubs have been rising in popularity over the years. A leader in concrete basins who is also thinking about sustainability, practicality, and style is Native Trails. Their NativeStone collection is something to admire, and it’s not just for the looks.
NativeStone fully upholds Native Trails’ commitment to only produce and sell products that have a positive impact on our world, both socially and environmentally. “We were looking for a material that could translate to both a kitchen and a bath sink. It needed to be artisan-made, with our philosophy and story behind it.” says Native Trails President, Tim Blair. “It also had to be sustainable to fit with our core beliefs and be viable for business. Not an easy thing in reality.”
By adding jute—a natural, renewable vegetable fiber—to the proprietary concrete blend, Native Trails has reinvented concrete. These sinks are 40 percent lighter, much stronger, and far more sustainable than traditional concrete sinks. They make use of natural resources, generate less waste, and require less energy than ordinary concrete production. Less heft also makes them easier to install and less expensive to ship than traditional concrete.
The process of forming a NativeStone product is an intensive, hands-on, undertaking that takes about 6 days per piece. At the end of the process a sealer is hand applied in a multi-step process, creating an impenetrable barrier that is scratch resistant and impervious to water, oils, acids and food. The final two coats enhance the natural beauty of the concrete blend, while adding even more strength and durability.
The final result is a purposeful work of art for your kitchen, bathroom or powder room inspired by nature, modern life, and by concrete’s industrial appeal.
Makes 6 servings
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (18g) grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons (10g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
6 tablespoons (84g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup (180ml) plus 1 tablespoon (15ml) cold heavy cream, divided
1 large egg (50g), room temperature
2 teaspoons (8ml) vanilla extract
1 cup (170g) blueberries, divided
2 tablespoons (24g) coarse sugar (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) with a rack set in the middle position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment, beat flour, granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt on low (1-2) speed until blended. Add butter and continue beating until coarse crumbs are formed.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup (180ml) cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and continue beating until the dough starts to come together.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle. Evenly top one half of the dough with 1/2 cup (85g) blueberries; fold the dough in half to cover the blueberries. Pat again into a 6-by-8-inch rectangle, top one half of the dough with remaining 1/2 cup (85g) blueberries, and fold in half to cover the blueberries. Seal the edges to enclose the berries and gently pat the dough into a 6-inch disk.
- Cut the dough into 6 wedges. Place the wedges on the prepared cookie sheet.
- Brush the top of the scones with remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar (if using).
- Bake until golden brown, 20-24 minutes.
Orange Cranberry Sconces
Follow step 1. In step 2, substitute 1-1/2 tablespoons (9g) grated orange zest for the lemon zest and add 1 cup (128g) dried cranberries after mixing in butter. Omit blueberries in step 4. Continue as directed.
Chocolate Chip Scones
Follow step 1. In step 2, omit lemon zest, reduce granulated sugar to 2 tablespoons (24g), and add 2 tablespoons (28g) packed brown sugar. Add 1 cup (170g) semisweet chocolate chips after mixing in butter. Omit blueberries in step 4. Continue as directed.
"Happiness is not a goal... it's a byproduct of a life well lived." - Eleanor Roosevelt
-Earth Elements Team-
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