03 Jul 2023

A Home Inspector’s Guide to Kitchen Countertops: Weighing the Pros and Cons

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As home inspectors, we’ve had the opportunity to assess countless kitchens, each showcasing a unique personality and design. One vital aspect of any kitchen is the countertop, serving as both a functional work surface and a focal point of aesthetic appeal. In this blog post, we will be your guide to the different types of natural stone countertops, highlighting their pros and cons. So let’s dive in and explore the world of natural stone kitchen countertops!


In the world of kitchen countertops, there’s a material that exudes a unique blend of elegance, durability, and natural appeal. Say hello to soapstone countertops! Soapstone is unlike any other countertop material, in a variety of ways. Like marble, it is a softer stone, and it shows signs of age and use. Unlike marble though, it is nonporous and inert. That means it doesn’t need a sealer, is very sanitary, and won’t react to water, food, chemicals, or heat.

Those unique properties are why soapstone has been the preferred countertop for chemical labs for decades! Soapstone also has a variety of unique looks, from jet black with white marbling to silvery grays with iridescent veins as well as dark-green varieties.

Soapstone can be expensive, but there’s a caveat-the material can also be cut and shaped with woodworking tools, which is just one more thing that it makes it unique. DIYers can cut the installed price in half by buying raw slabs, cutting them to size with carbide blades, shaping their edges with router bits, and polishing and oiling them like wood.

That workability means that drain grooves can be cut next to a sink, and the sink itself can be fabricated from soapstone. It also makes soapstone easy to refresh and repair by its owner, with no need to call in a pro.

While soapstone does not require a sealer, it is always saturated with oil after installation to make the look darker and more unified, and to make the stone’s veins more translucent. When it does pick up nicks, scratches, and dents from use, another coat of oil blends those in- or the whole slab can be sanded and polished to look like new.


Marble is the Greek god of countertop materials. Instantly recognizable, it’s the stuff of ancient temples and statues. In today’s modern and transitional-style kitchens, white varieties are the most popular.

In addition to high cost, marble comes with a number of caveats for countertop use. One of the softer stones, it’s vulnerable to scratches, chips, and bruising. The latter happens when something is dropped on the surface, leaving a dime-size white spot around the nick or dent. The softness also means that marble shows signs of wear.

Composed of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, marble is also reactive to acids such as lemon juice and vinegar, which will etch the stone, leaving a whitish mark. Leave it longer and you’ll get an orange-peel texture.

Frequent sealing is helpful but won’t prevent the problems. This is why marble is generally sold with a honed finish, which hides the patina of age and use. Light, whitish colors also do a better job at hiding bruises and etching. And edges softened with a curved profile will be less prone to chipping.

The right customer for marble is one who will embrace the inevitable signs of wear as character. As with soapstone, the patina of age and use is beautiful to some and a deal breaker for others.


In most regions, granite is still the leader for high-end stone countertops- but only just, with superhard quartzite snapping at its heels! Granite is time-tested, is widely available in a range of unique colors and patterns, is extremely durable, and is one of the easiest types of countertops to repair.

Because granite is so well-established, slabs are available for picking and purchasing in every area of the country, with skilled fabricators and installers nearby to collaborate with local cabinetmakers and remodelers.


Drawn in by lower price ranges and a warm, rustic feel, some customers choose softer sedimentary stones such as limestone and travertine (which is a type of limestone) for their countertops. Limestone is generally harder and lighter, and travertine is softer and has a darker, earthier color, making it popular for outdoor kitchens.

Performance-wise, both stones have a similar list of caveats. They are very porous-travertine so much that their voids and hollows are often filled with resin and grout. Made of calcium carbonate, both are also very reactive to acids, meaning that regular sealing is critical, as well as vigilance around food preparation.

While these soft stones are poorly suited for heavily used kitchens and homes with children, they will remain beautifull with proper care.


Threatening to overtake granite as the leader in natural stone, quartzite is sedimentary quartz sandstone that has been transformed by pressure and heat into a superhard, metamorphic rock. The quartz makes it not only extremely dense and durable but also uniquely beautiful, with a range of translucent, crystalline colors and patterns, including variations that look like marble and soapstone. Give quartzite a glossy polish, and you can look into its surface like glass.

Its density and hardness also make quartzite less prone to staining and scratches than other stones, rivaling the low maintenance of manufactured materials. Harder than knives and glass, and resistant to etching from acids such as lemon juice or vinegar, true quartzite has relatively consistent properties. Unfortunately, quartzite labeling is anything but consistent.

Partially due to its sharply rising popularity, you’ll find the “quartzite” label on everything from marble to sandstone. So it’s critical to ask your fabricator or stone yard for true quartzite. The hardness and etching are easy to test on a sample of stone. One sign you have the real thing is by the price. True quartzite costs significantly more than most.

Experts warn that some of the lightest colors of quartzite many contain veins of more porous minerals. Those areas will be more prone to etching from food acids, so a honed finish is preferred over a polished gloss. Like all stones, however, quartzite can be repaired by a skilled stone fabricator.

Natural stone countertops add a touch of elegance and natural beauty to kitchens, but it’s crucial to consider the pros and cons associated with each material. Granite provides durability and a vast range of colors, while marble exudes timeless elegance with its unique veining patterns. Quartzite offers strength and low maintenance requirements. Understanding these characteristics will help homeowners make informed decisions about the best natural stone countertop material for their kitchen. Whichever natural stone you choose, regular maintenance and proper care are vital to ensure the longevity and beauty of your investment.


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