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Laboratory Countertops


paulraphael
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It seemed like there was no perfect option, until I heard about laboratory counters.... they're mostly rock dust (like quartz) bound with high tech epoxy resins.

Ah, the search for the perfect countertop. Of all the choices in a kitchen renovation, this one has to be the most maddening. If you learn anything, it's that choosing a countertop is all about compromise.

This "lab countertop" sounds like the description of most quartz countertops, such as Caesarstone, Zodiac, Cambria, etc. I seriously considered quartz during my recent kitchen renovation. A friend who has them regularly puts her hot pans straight from the oven onto her quartz countertops without any problem.

What about concrete?  When we were renovating our kitchen last year, I looked at concrete.  Its amazing what can be done to it to make it look like anything but concrete.

In the end, I decided on concrete, and I LOVE them. They are beautiful and so far have held up well to daily abuse as well as a round of serious holiday cooking, baking, and red wine spills--but I've only had them for a few months now so I can't tell you about long-term issues. The guy who fabricated them made sure I understood that they would eventually develop a patina, much like marble, from exposure to water and acidity. I can see that happening, though it's very slow and subtle, so far barely noticable, and with no effect on performance. Not 100% maintenance free. I wax them monthly (about a half-hour of my time). Ask me again in a year, and I'll tell you what I think, but right now, no regrets.

Edited by LindaK (log)


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It seemed like there was no perfect option, until I heard about laboratory counters.... they're mostly rock dust (like quartz) bound with high tech epoxy resins.

Ah, the search for the perfect countertop. Of all the choices in a kitchen renovation, this one has to be the most maddening. If you learn anything, it's that choosing a countertop is all about compromise.

This "lab countertop" sounds like the description of most quartz countertops, such as Caesarstone, Zodiac, Cambria, etc. I seriously considered quartz during my recent kitchen renovation. A friend who has them regularly puts her hot pans straight from the oven onto her quartz countertops without any problem.

What about concrete?  When we were renovating our kitchen last year, I looked at concrete.  Its amazing what can be done to it to make it look like anything but concrete.

In the end, I decided on concrete, and I LOVE them. They are beautiful and so far have held up well to daily abuse as well as a round of serious holiday cooking, baking, and red wine spills--but I've only had them for a few months now so I can't tell you about long-term issues. The guy who fabricated them made sure I understood that they would eventually develop a patina, much like marble, from exposure to water and acidity. I can see that happening, though it's very slow and subtle, so far barely noticable, and with no effect on performance. Not 100% maintenance free. I wax them monthly (about a half-hour of my time). Ask me again in a year, and I'll tell you what I think, but right now, no regrets.

Do you have any pics of your kitchen reno?

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Do you have any pics of your kitchen reno?

Not yet. I don't own a camera, but my contractor took tons, and is supposed to be giving me a disc with all of them. I'll be talking to him sometime this week and will remind him. I'll happily post some pics then--I'm still enjoying showing it off.


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I don't see mention of anything like Paperstone? The nice thing, other than the recycled green points you get, is that it is a bit soft - it doesn't "ring" like the quartz type counters or granite and is slightly warm to the touch. It does patina a bit. It doesn't have to be black either. They use this for skateboard ramps!

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I reacall my old chemistry days with the black slate countertops which had some dark stains-black rings from beakers and dark splashes. They were clean but never looked pristine. But the stainless counters near the sinks always looked good. The small minute scratches formed a dull uniform patina. I am so tempted to do all stainless counters in my (never will happen in my lifetime) kitchen redo but will definately do it around the stove and sink areas.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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I've been toying with the idea of large (say 14" square) tiles. There's no particular reason that you can't mix ceramic tiles with wood (or other material) tiles, and this would give you a variety of surfaces for different uses.

What about bamboo? It deals with water and bacteria better than wood does.

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I'm also looking for new counter material and have yet to find the ideal material which would be (in no particular order):

durable

forgiving (glass will not break when tipped over)

smooth

easy to maintain

sanitary

attractive (subjective assessment)

from a sustainable resource

affordable

Quartz and granite fail the sustainability test as well as the forgiving test.

Tile fails both the smooth test (the grout ridges would drive me crazy) as well as the easy to maintain and sanitary (grout again) test

Wood fails sanitary and easy to maintain test

I'm intrigued by concrete. How hard is it? Would it pass the forgiving test?

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I'm also looking for new counter material and have yet to find the ideal material which would be (in no particular order):

durable

forgiving (glass will not break when tipped over)

smooth

easy to maintain

sanitary

attractive (subjective assessment)

from a sustainable resource

affordable

Quartz and granite fail the sustainability test as well as the forgiving test.

Tile fails both the smooth test (the grout ridges would drive me crazy) as well as the easy to maintain and sanitary (grout again) test

Wood fails sanitary and easy to maintain test

I'm intrigued by concrete.  How hard is it?  Would it pass the forgiving test?

Since you don't mention it, have you considered Paperstone? website I mentioned it up-thread. It prices out similar to manmade solid surfacing, but really should be less expensive to install as t is easily worked. That said, if you can't find an installer familiar with it, they may charge more. The attractive factor - that's subjective. They have lots of dealers listed now, not just West Coast. No, I have no financial interest in the business.

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Quartz and granite fail the sustainability test as well as the forgiving test.

Does quartz fail these tests? I don't know where they get the quartz, but I'm guessing it's from sand. Which doesn't have the same kinds of ecological impacts as quarried stone.

I'm also curious about how forgiving it is ... is it closer to rock, or to other solid surfaces like corian?

On paper I'm sure it flexes much more than granite, but the issue is what it's like in use.

Notes from the underbelly

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I'm also looking for new counter material and have yet to find the ideal material which would be (in no particular order):

durable

forgiving (glass will not break when tipped over)

smooth

easy to maintain

sanitary

attractive (subjective assessment)

from a sustainable resource

affordable

Quartz and granite fail the sustainability test as well as the forgiving test.

Tile fails both the smooth test (the grout ridges would drive me crazy) as well as the easy to maintain and sanitary (grout again) test

Wood fails sanitary and easy to maintain test

I'm intrigued by concrete.  How hard is it?  Would it pass the forgiving test?

Concrete is pretty hard. So far I haven't broken anything but it will happen someday, I imagine.

What about soapstone? It's relatively "soft" compared to granite, quartz, etc. All dark colors, though.

Nothing is perfect. I had your same list, it almost made me crazy. Especially considering the price point of most countertop materials. Once you decide against laminate, "affordable" becomes as relative as "attractive."

edited to add that concrete can be very sustainable, depending on your fabricator. For example, the aggregate (stone) in my concrete countertop is a mix of recycled marble and recycled glass chips. Many stages of the production process can also be done with sustainable processes. Definitely worth inquiring about if you go that route.

Edited by LindaK (log)


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. . . .

On paper I'm sure it flexes much more than granite, but the issue is what it's like in use.

This is the same stuff that's used to make Epicurean cutting boards, as well as the handles for Shun (and some other) knives. I've used these boards while teaching; while I prefer wood, the impregnated paper has a number of advantages. It's tough, colorable within a limited range, and dishwasher-safe. I think it's a good choice for countertops.

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Eat more chicken skin.

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. . . .

On paper I'm sure it flexes much more than granite, but the issue is what it's like in use.

This is the same stuff that's used to make Epicurean cutting boards, as well as the handles for Shun (and some other) knives. I've used these boards while teaching; while I prefer wood, the impregnated paper has a number of advantages. It's tough, colorable within a limited range, and dishwasher-safe. I think it's a good choice for countertops.

Thank you Dave. I thought I was whistling into the wind.

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. . . .

On paper I'm sure it flexes much more than granite, but the issue is what it's like in use.

This is the same stuff that's used to make Epicurean cutting boards, as well as the handles for Shun (and some other) knives. I've used these boards while teaching; while I prefer wood, the impregnated paper has a number of advantages. It's tough, colorable within a limited range, and dishwasher-safe. I think it's a good choice for countertops.

wait ... when I said "on paper" I was talking about the technical specs for the quartz/epoxy composite counters, like durcon. Not about actual paper composite counters. Those paper counters look like an ok idea, but they don't have the heat resistance that I'd like. All of them would get scorched by a very hot pan.

I'm still curious about the subjective hardness of the quartz/epoxy materials ... if they feel more like rock or more like plastic when you set down a glass. Or knock one over.

Notes from the underbelly

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. . . .

On paper I'm sure it flexes much more than granite, but the issue is what it's like in use.

This is the same stuff that's used to make Epicurean cutting boards, as well as the handles for Shun (and some other) knives. I've used these boards while teaching; while I prefer wood, the impregnated paper has a number of advantages. It's tough, colorable within a limited range, and dishwasher-safe. I think it's a good choice for countertops.

wait ... when I said "on paper" I was talking about the technical specs for the quartz/epoxy composite counters, like durcon. Not about actual paper composite counters. Those paper counters look like an ok idea, but they don't have the heat resistance that I'd like. All of them would get scorched by a very hot pan.

I'm still curious about the subjective hardness of the quartz/epoxy materials ... if they feel more like rock or more like plastic when you set down a glass. Or knock one over.

Icestone and Silestone are hard and cold, don't know about durcon. The only composite I've encountered that was more soft and warm is Durat. Very limited distribution. It's a slightly different look - especially in 1/2" thickness.

Jut to add another material to your choices.

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  • 2 weeks later...
These counters often come with a marine edge -- a raised edge to prevent spills from pouring onto the floor. I wouldn't like this feature in my own kitchen.

So that's what it's called! You know, I think maybe I would like this feature. We have these in the chemistry lab where my husband teaches (and I volunteer). That raised edge has come in handy many times there (ninth graders!) and it would have come in handy a few times at home (clumsy me!).

It does get marked up a bit, but for me that would be OK - it's so obviously lab countertop material that it doesn't need to be perfectly beautiful. I have granite at home, and I do love it for all the reasons I think I'd love lab counters, plus it is beautiful - but I have managed to chip a chunk out of the area in front of the sink (see above - clumsy me! I don't break glasses on the granite - I break the granite itself!). In my next kitchen (I think I have one more house in me) I will think long and hard about switching to lab counters.

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The lab where I work has white/ivory epoxy resin benchtops. Gives the lab a clean, bright look compared with the usual black. I expect newer materials have improved but ours are about 15 years old and there's significant yellowing, apparently due to exposure to bright light. In areas under the skylights, there are clear outlines where equipment sat in the same place and protected the surface from the light. Benches farther away from the windows still look quite white.

Aside from that, and a few scratches from dragging/pushing heavy equipment across the surface, they look pretty good. No burn or scorch marks, dye stains, etc.

The matching epoxy resin sinks have all been replaced with stainless steel after they developed cracks. Most likely caused by people (who should know better) dumping dry ice or liquid nitrogen. Not an average household hazard.

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  • 7 years later...

I'm reviving this thread after a lot of years, this time because we're actually shopping for new counters. We're not trying to spend huge money, so some of the more interesting options (like Dekton and other sintered surfaces) are off the table. So to speak. 

 

It looks like I was wrong about the lab countertops—they're pure epoxy resin. Not quartz bound by epoxy. I'm still interested, though. I saw a picture of a kitchen on Garden Web with all lab epoxy and it looked great. I'm just concerned about scratching. Most of what I read suggests you can't sand deep scratches out of the stuff. It's not a functional issue, but considering we're doing this in part to make the place more sellable, it's not a problem we're looking for. 

 

We're open to the various quartz/resin materials also, but don't want to spend $100/square foot. If there's anything good for half that price we'd love to know.

Notes from the underbelly

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