"Understanding Your Home" by Building Inspector Mark Visser
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Colour and patterns shown below are just an example of what is available. Every fabricator or manufacturer has its own line of colours to choose from






Cultured Granite

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Vanity Tops & Kitchen Countertops - Overview
Granite - Marble - Preformed laminate - Quartz - Slate - Soapstone
Cultured Granite,
Marble and Onyx
Solid Surface

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Kitchen countertops. Vanity tops

- Short overview of most common materials used for counters.
- Click on links for more detailed information.

You can change the look of your bathroom or kitchen almost instantly by replacing the vanity top or kitchen countertop. Gaining in popularity are natural or man-made stone vanity tops. However, the familiar preformed laminated top is still the preferred choice for the average DIY person. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.
Before I briefly describe some of more popular materials used for bathroom vanities and kitchen countertops lets have a look and find out if the bathroom vanity is strong enough to support a heavy stone top.

If it is an older vanity, check if there are any water damaged areas caused by a slow plumbing leak. If so, replace the bad parts. Next, check if the vanity is still securely fastened to the wall. Last thing to check for are loose joints and the easiest way to do this is to lean on the vanity and try to rock it left to right and/or front to back. If there is any sway, glue and screw wooden triangle shaped brackets to the corners.

Preformed laminated countertops are made of a thin layer of plastic laminate glued on and supported by a particle board base. Preformed laminated tops are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. The fasted way to get a new top is to have it custom made to the required length and installed by a professional. A person with more experience, and the right tools, can save a bundle by doing the cutting and installation himself. Preformed tops have a raised front edge and backslash. The choice of colours and patterns for tops is almost unlimited.
* Softer than other materials and is easier to scratch or get burned.
* Even a small leak around the sink or taps will do irreparable damage to the supporting particle board in a short period of time.

Granite bathroom vanity and kitchen countertops have gained in popularity in the last few years. Granite usually has a medium to course grained texture. Polished granite is hard and tough, durable, heat resistant, scratch resistant and is available in various shades of black, beige and grey. Granite kitchen countertops are heavy and installation should be left to a professional. The tops are expensive but some companies offer a thinner and more affordable, granite top (1/2 inch or 12.7 mm. thick). These "lightweight" tops are supported by a plywood or MDS board base.
* Possible heath concerns related to radioactive emmissions. For more information about this click here. (CountGranite.htm)
* Granite is porous and requires regular sealing. This is to prevent the bathroom vanity top or kitchen countertop from absorbing liquids which could develop into stains.
* If, because of any reason, you have to replace a granite top it is next to impossible to find another top with the same colour and pattern.
* Granite tops are brittle and if hit by a heavy or sharp object the top can chip or crack easily.

Marble has been used since Roman times and for centuries marble tops provided class and elegance to bathrooms and kitchens in upscale homes. Marble tops are still available but lost some of its popularity when other natural stone and engineered (man-made) stone tops became available.
Some marble can be very hard and vitreous, like granite or ceramic tile, while others can be easily scratched and stained.
Marble tops are very strong, require proper installation and are available in many styles and colours. Because of marble's past popularity some manufacturers are producing cultured marble vanity tops and kitchen countertops, see next section.
* Marble has a tendency to stain and scratch but with proper sealing can be used in bathrooms and kitchens.
* Marble, without regular sealing, is so porous and absorbent that it will soak up stains that are almost impossible to clean.

Quartz is one of natures hardest minerals. This engineered stone is made of quartz (make link), resins and pigments pressed into a dense non-porous slab. Because of the added pigments quartz vanity tops and kitchen countertops are available in a wide range of colours. Compared to some natural stones, quartz tops are easier to cut. The surface is non-porous and does not have to be sealed like natural stone.
* Some sources claim that the resin used may be heat responsive and leave burn marks.
* Quartz vanity tops are also significantly heavier than granite.

Soapstone has a silky smooth texture. The name " soapstone" is usually associated with Inuit art carvings. This type of stone has a large talc content which makes it easy to carve. There is also a much harder variety of soapstone which is used for vanity and countertops. Unlike other natural stone products, soapstone countertops do not need to be sealed because the stone is non-porous. Soapstone is available in shades of grey but will darken over time.
*Soapstone scratches easy. Light scratches can be removed with mineral oil. Deeper scratches need sanding.

Slate is not only used for flooring, roofing around fireplaces but also increasingly for vanity tops and kitchen countertops and rightly so. Slate is an extremely dense stone that comes in a variety of subtle colours of green, red, gray, purple and black. Slate holds up very well under heavy kitchen use demands. It is unaffected by hot pots and pans, and is naturally stain resistant; minor damage can easily be polished out.
Slate is very low maintenance and requires only periodic application of mineral oil as a sealer.
*Slate is relatively soft, but scratches can be buffed out with wet steel wool.
*You can also use slate tiles instead of sheet slate. The only drawback is that the grout between the slate will be porous and less sanitary than a sheet of slate.

Cultured granite kitchen countertops. Cultured granite bathroom vanity tops
Cultured granite is becoming more and more popular and it is not unusual for a granite shop to sell more cultured marble products than natural granite. Because of the technique used by different manufacturers no two pieces are of the same colour and pattern.
Cultured Granite is a mixture of resins, fillers and pigments that is poured into a mold. The shape of the finished products depends on the molds used. Before the pour, the mold is coated with a gel-coat. This tough, durable, non-porous and transparent surface will protect the product from staining, heat, burns and normal daily wear and tear.
One of the reasons why cultured granite kitchen countertops and bathroom vanity tops are very popular is the price of these products compared to those made of real granite.
Cultured granite kitchen countertops are easily maintained. Most countertops, including bathroom vanity tops, can be wiped with a soft cloth or sponge. Harsh abrasive cleaners are neither required nor recommended as they will dull the surface.

Cultured marble is lighter than natural marble. It is gaining in popularity as an alternative to the real McCoy. Cultured marble kitchen countertops are available in several colours.
This engineered stone product is a made by combining marble stone dust and resins. Cultured marble is composed of two layers. The top layer provides a non-porous glossy layer. The surface is non-porous and does not have to be sealed like natural stone.
* Cultured marble does not look as good as natural marble. The glossy finish may be the reason why some people think that vanity top looks like a plastic product.
* Some sources claim that the resin used may be heat responsive and leave burn marks.

Natural onyx is a semi-precious form of chalcedony which belongs to the quartz group. Onyx is milky, translucent to transparent and often with layers or bands of color. The color of onyx is created through impurities which seep into the rock as it forms.
Cultured onyx is a semi-transparent product which shows a lot of depth in the stone. This translucence allows you to see some of the veining down inside the product, rather than simply seeing veining on the surface.
Cultured onyx is a man-made or engineered stone. Ground onyx, resins, aluminum tri-hydrate and colouring, for the "veining" effect, are poured into a mold and left to cure. The finished product has a gel-coat finish which is hard and non-porous. Cultured onyx kitchen countertops and cultured onyx bathroom vanity tops resist water, heat, stains, burns and normal everyday wear and tear.
For regular cleaning use liquid a detergent to remove mineral deposits and soap scum. Dull surfaces can be restored by using a liquid cleaning compound followed by a light application of liquid wax or paste.


Solid surface kitchen countertops and solid surface bathroom vanity tops are relatively new on the market but they are becoming increasingly popular in new home construction and remodeling.
Solid surface is a non-porous low-maintenance countertop surface. It can mimic the appearance of stone or wood.
Kitchen countertops and vanity tops are available in many colours and in a variety of finishes, ranging from matte to high-gloss.
Cleaning. Use a damp cloth or mild dish soap and water to wipe down the counter. Most manufacturers recommend a matte or satin finish for ease of maintenance.
Scratches. Scratches in a solid surface kitchen countertop or solid surface bathroom vanity top can, in most cases, be repaired quickly by a trained technician. Because the surface is solid throughout, a countertop that has undergone years of wear and tear can be refinished.
Sold under various brand names including Corian, Avonite, and Silestone
- If you want a natural looking surface then solid surface kitchen counter tops may not be the right option for you.
- Chance of cracking if items hotter than 400 degrees are placed on the counter .
- Scratches show up white. Dark coloured solid surface countertops are not recommended for areas of heavy use, such as in kitchens unless cutting boards are used.

Vanity tops and kitchen countertops can also be made of other engineered stone or solid surfaces, ceramic tile, glass, acrylic and stainless steel.
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