Porcelain Countertops – A New Granite Rival?
For years granite countertops have been the material to which all other countertop materials are compared. It seems like everywhere you look on the internet someone is comparing a material to granite. In fact, we have been seen comparing granite to quartz. It is safe to say that granite has a number of rival materials. And now it seems to have another one. Porcelain surfaces have been around for years, but now this man made material is beginning to work its way into the countertop segment of the industry. Let’s look at some things that seem to portray porcelain countertops a new granite rival.
Granite is a natural material that many choose because of its color, pattern and durability. The color range in which granite naturally appears is wide and diverse. It also offers a variety of visual textures and patterns. Finally, it is a durable material. Hard stone that can resist chipping and scratching.
Even though granite is durable and resistant to scratching and chipping, it does need to be sealed periodically to help protect it from staining. Liquids that can penetrate the pores of the material have the potential for discoloring the pores of the stone and marring its natural beauty.
Although some view this as a bit of extra work, there are different grades of granite. Some grades are less porous than others and thus are more resistant to staining. Nonetheless, many prefer this natural material over all others.
Porcelain – A New Rival for Granite
For years, even decades, porcelain tiles have been used as a floor covering. In more recent times however, porcelain has been used for other surfaces. For example, wall cladding has been available in porcelain for some time. This is because of some very attractive features of this fascinating material.
Characteristics of Porcelain
Porcelain is a material that is produced by a process called sintering. This process involves high temperatures that change the properties of the raw materials used to produce it. This results in a material that is extremely strong. Notice what one porcelain manufacturer, Crossville has to say about the strength of porcelain on its website:
If the word “porcelain” evokes images of dishes and dolls, think again when it comes to porcelain tile. Porcelain tile by Crossville is fired at extremely high temperatures of 2000° F and above until it becomes vitrified, making it an impeccably tough and long lasting surface material. The firing process makes porcelain tile 30 percent harder than stones such as granite and marble.
As that quote shows, porcelain is harder than granite. This characteristic of porcelain is what has made it an appealing choice for use on a number of surfaces like floors and walls. But how about countertops? Can porcelain compete with a stone countertop?
Porcelain Is Hard & Non-porous
We already talked a bit about granite’s vulnerability to staining in cases where the stone is porous. We also touched on the fact that there are various grades of granite and that these grades affect the stain resistance of the stone.
However, porcelain is non-porous, It has no pores for liquids to penetrate. So any liquids that get on the surface simply stay on the surface of the material. That is not to say that porcelain does not stain. It simply means that the staining agent stays on the surface. Yet, a stain on the surface is easier to treat than one inside the pores of a material.
Fabricating Granite & Working With Porcelain
On the surface it might seem that working with porcelain would not be that much different from working with granite. After all, both have to be cut, drilled, transported, handled, installed, etc.
Yet, the materials are fundamentally different from one another. As a result, each phase of the process must be performed a bit differently. Even if the task is the same, the tool needed may have to be different. Let’s look at some examples.
Different Tools for Granite and Porcelain
One example has to do with how hard each material is. Since porcelain is harder, it needs to be cut using a different bridge saw blade than one might use to cut granite. That’s why you will see a blade for each kind of material when you browse for diamond blades for countertops.
You will find even find blades designed for particular machines and materials. The CNC sawjet granite blade is one example of a blade specifically designed for a particular purpose.
You will find the same thing if you look around a bit for a bridge saw blade to cut porcelain.
The same is true for other tools and equipment. Because of the difference in the materials, different tooling is necessary to work with it.
Is Porcelain A Granite Rival?
The answer to that question might depend on who you are. For example, if you are a designer or homeowner that is concerned about stain and scratch resistance, you might say yes. But if you are a fabricator, you may answer differently. Why?
As we have seen, the process of working with porcelain is different from that of granite. Additionally, there is specific tooling that is needed too. So that means a fabricator will probably need to make an investment to work with porcelain. Investing time and money can eat into the budget. Choosing the material that is right for the task requires much thought and many factors affect the decision.
In summary, porcelain and granite have quite a bit in common. They also have some differences. Knowing what you want from your material and finding a professional that knows how to work the material will give you the answer if you are the purchaser. For the fabricator, knowing the market and how cost effective the materials are, will lead you to your destination.