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Countertop Choices in 2016

A brief history of countertop materials:

In the 1970’s if someone was building or renovating a kitchen or bathroom in Canada, they had very limited countertop materials to choose from. Formica and Arborite both had Canadian manufacturing facilities in Eastern Canada and as a result became the obvious choice of the builders and homeowners. Both companies manufactured durable high pressure laminates, European laminate choices were almost non-existent in the Canadian market. Cultured marble tops were often used as an upgrade for bathroom countertops. Real marble was available but colour choices were limited and the costs were prohibitive for most homeowners.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s the world was introduced to a new countertop material called Corian, produced by DuPont.

Corian was called a ‘solid-surface’ material, meaning the colour goes all the way through the thickness of the product. Eventually competitors started to produce similar products and the market was introduced to other brands such as Avonite, Hi-Max and Staron. The various brands of solid-surface countertop materials quickly became viable options for consumers instead of typical laminate countertops. Seams (or joints) in solid-surface countertops are almost invisible and minor surface scratches can be easily removed.

By the mid 80’s, the alternatives for countertops grew again! Edmonton had 3 companies who were fabricating granite and marble countertops. At this point in history, these companies imported their own slabs of stone and colour selections were limited. Since the 80’s, interest in natural stone has grown immensely and today Edmonton supports 40-50 fabrication companies who cut and polish granite, marble, soapstone, and engineered quartz countertops. Part of the reason for the dramatic increase in the number of fabricators is the popularity and beauty of natural stone and the availability offered by distributors. Edmonton now has 3 distributors (wholesalers) who purchase natural stones from various quarries throughout the world (local fabricators purchase slabs of stone from these distributors). The other reason Edmonton can now support 40-50 fabricators is correlated to the success of engineered quartz, which dramatically increased the demand for stone (or stone-like) countertops in the Edmonton market. Some examples of engineered quartz are: Silestone, Caeserstone, Cambria, Zodiac, Viatera, Cimstone, Hanstone, and Irah.

The Edmonton countertop market – 2016:

In 2016, the countertop materials available in the Edmonton marketplace reflect the global marketplace that we now live and work in:

  • Laminates are still available, but in crazy colours and amazing finishes; many are imported from Europe.
  • Solid surface materials, such as Corian still has an appeal to many clients, because of invisible seams and hygienic nature of the product. It is very common to see this type of material specified in restaurants, airports, and retail stores.
  • The beauty of natural stone will allow granite and marble countertops to appeal to consumers for many generations. Nothing will ever match their beauty!
  • In the custom or luxury home market, engineered quartz sales have rocketed to the #1 position for desired countertops. If you are planning a dream home and are working with an architect or designer good chance they’ll be specifying Cambria, Silestone, Caeserstone, Cimstone, Diresco, Hanstone or Zodiac for kitchen and bath countertops. Quartz products are fairly resistant to scratches and staining, and in some cases look pretty close to natural granite or marble. Engineered quartz also offers colours that do not occur in nature such as lime green, vibrant blues and brilliant reds; these novel finishes can be used to add a ‘pop’ of colour as an accent to an unique design.
  • In recent years, large sheets of ceramic/porcelain have been the new buzz in our industry. Scratch proof, heat resistant, and stain proof; these sheets can be 6 mm in thickness, ideal for cladding showers or fireplaces. They’re also available in 12 mm and 16 mm thickness by various suppliers (suitable thickness for countertops) Manufacturers include: Fiandre, Laminam, and Neolith.
    • Be aware these products typically ship with a fibreglass mesh backing, and if you are specifying these products as an eating counter, support brackets will be required.
    • Heart has a Neolith countertop and a Neolith-clad fireplace on display.
  • Ultra-compact surfaces – sometimes called ‘sintered stone’ – represent the next generation of materials to be introduced for countertops. They have similar properties to ceramic sheets with respect to stain, scratch and heat resistance. This next generation technology also boasts ultraviolet light resistance, resilience to extreme temperature variation (making the material suitable for outdoor applications), and complete resistance to the acids and bases that you would come across in a kitchen setting. Currently, there are only 2 companies that have the equipment and technology to produce this advanced product: Lapitec (Italian based) and Dekton (Spanish owner is Cosentino). These products are currently available in various thicknesses including: 8 mm, 20 mm, and 30 mm.

Heart Kitchen and Bath leading the way:

  • In December 2015 Heart installed the first Dekton countertop in the Edmonton market.
  • In February 2016, Heart installed the first Lapitec countertop in the Edmonton market.

Moving forward we anticipate many clients will be intrigued with these new generation materials.