By Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R.
Now that nuclear proliferation has once again crept into our lives it brings to mind the 1950’s, when we were taught in elementary school, in case of a nuclear attack, to duck under our desks and cover our heads. This we were assured, by Bert the turtle, would certainly protect us from Armageddon and in case of a nuclear blast we would live to tell about it. Hard to believe, but that was the syllabus back then. Just click here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqXu-5jw60 (or if your reading the paper, type the link in your browser) to watch the riveting 1951 production of Duck and Cover.
Obviously, we now know that the only real protection against radiation (and Kryptonite too, I think) is lead. So I’ve decided to use a crowdfunding source like Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/ to create a lead countertop business. When the bombs start to fall, just empty your cupboards and climb in. You’ll be safe and sound when all your neighbors are fried to a crisp.
It’s not so outrageous. Back in the 1880’s and 90’s, zinc was all the rage for counters. I visited the mansions in Newport last fall (and by examining the kitchens was able to write off the whole trip). Each palatial home had a zinc counter in the kitchen. But in time zinc lost out to stainless steel; stainless to granite; and now quartz composite is the latest fad. Concrete rears its ugly head every once in a while, but who wants to prepare food on a sidewalk?
Each material has its own benefits but quartz is the zinc of the 21st century. Sold under the trade names of Cambria, Viatera, Caesarstone, etc., quartz is the second most abundant mineral on earth, and is a basic component of granite. In a typical quartz countertop, the raw quartz is crushed and combined with pigments, to give it color, and resins (sticky stuff), to hold it together. The resulting process creates one of the most durable countertop surfaces on the market today. It is harder than granite, more scratch resistant and non-porous. For the geologists who follow the K&B Insider, quartz ranks #7 on the Mohs hardness scale (whatever that is) and only diamonds, sapphires and topaz are harder. But it still doesn’t block radiation as well as lead.
The fact that quartz counters are non-porous makes them considerably more stain resistant than granite and safer in terms of bacteria growth.
But don’t rule granite out yet. Considered by many as the most beautiful surface available, granite has movement! Movement is the suggestion of motion in the elements making up the finished surface. The swirls and patterns created by nature cannot be completely duplicated in engineered stone, however some of the new quartz composites are approximating this attribute. If you exercise a little care with granite, you can avoid staining and scratches. Granite should be sealed when it is installed and at least once a year afterwards.
The cost of the average granite slab is pretty stable; however, granite prices are dependent on the rarity of the color and the hardness of the stone and as quartz becomes more popular, its price is going up.
Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck, New York. A Master of Design (Pratt Institute), and E.P.A. Certified Remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc., he is also a contributor to eZine and Do It Yourself magazine. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com