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The rise of porcelain: why so popular?

By | Kitchens, porcelain, Trends | No Comments

Why is ultra-compact porcelain so special?

Porcelain has of course been around for centuries, but only recently has it emerged as a surface material used in homes and commercial buildings. Following great success in Europe, porcelain slabs and large format tiles are now captivating architects and home owners in Australia too. But why?

Firstly, what is a porcelain or sintered compact surface?

To better understand why porcelain kitchen benchtops, floors, wall tiles and bathrooms are so popoular it’s best to first understand what they actually are.

Also known as a sintered compact surface or technical pressed porcelain, large format porcelain is a high-density material that has undergone extreme temperatures and pressures to result in a permanently hardened, virtually non-porous surface material.

A sophisticated blend of raw materials, powdered clay and coloured pigments are fused together to make pressed porcelain, mimicking the processes that natural stone undergoes in the ground over thousands of years. These porcelain slabs and tiles have immense durability and can come in a range of designs that look like wood, concrete, marble and limestone.

The thickness of the final ultra-compact porcelain varies from 5mm to 20mm. The intended final use is likely to dictate what thickness of porcelain is chosen for a fit-out.

Did you know? Raw materials found in glass, ceramic and quartz are used to make ultra-compact porcelain slabs, and during the manufacturing process no harmful chemicals or resins are used.

What are the pros of using porcelain?

Designers and home owners are loving the many benefits of using porcelain within a home or commercial space. Here are some of the pros of using porcelain for kitchen benchtops, floor tiles and so much more:

  • Porcelain is extremely tough and hard-wearing
  • Porcelain is heat resistant and UV light resistant
  • Porcelain is largely unaffected by wear and tear
  • Porcelain is less porous than other stone surfaces therefore doesn’t stain
  • Porcelain can withstand harsh chemicals
  • Porcelain is an environmentally friendly and completely recyclable product
  • Porcelain can be used for many different applications, both indoors and outdoors, with no special sealing or treatment needed

Did you know? An induction cook top can go below a porcelain benchtop resulting in there being no need for a breaks in the kitchen benchtop surface.

Are there any cons to using pressed porcelain?

In comparison to the list of pros, the cons of using porcelain are certainly few. Here they are:

  • Porcelain is difficult to repair perfectly. If a chip occurs it is fixed using an epoxy acrylate resin of matching colour. Though this won’t result in a seamless repair, the skill of your chosen stonemason will certainly affect the finish.
  • A cut or groove on patterned porcelain will reveal the non-patterned porcelain beneath. This is because designs on porcelain are printed using an inkjet printer.
  • Joins and mitred edges between pieces of porcelain will not be seamless. This may be avoided by using a slab that is of uniform colour and grain patterning. Alternatively, embrace the visible seam and make it a design feature!

What can I use a porcelain surface for?

Kitchen Benchtops

Kitchen Splashbacks

Bathroom Wet Areas

Vanities

Furniture & Cabinet Facades

Indoor Floor Tiles

Outdoor Floor Tiles

Stair Treads

Wall Tiles

Exterior Cladding

Balconies, Patios and Decks

What finishes are available for porcelain?

Because natural pigments are used in the manufacturing process of pressed porcelain each supplier will have their own range of colours. It is possible to have a smooth or textured finish, matt or high gloss – it’s up to you!

Porcelain can also be patterned in designs such as rust, marble, woodgrain, metallics and cement. These options open up a gateway of creativity and are sure to expand in range as porcelain’s popularity continues to grow.

Who can install porcelain for kitchen benchtops and other applications?

Porcelain must be treated extremely carefully during manufacturing and installation. Therefore it is highly recommended that you use a fully trained installer for your project.

At Distinctive Stone Noosa, our stonemasons have been comprehensively trained in handling porcelain slabs and use the correct equipment to avoid any damages to your precious purchase.

To view the range of porcelain we stock please take a look at our dedicated Porcelain Page.

Stone Kitchen Countertops: How to Clean Them Part 2

By | Cleaning Stone, Kitchens | No Comments

Welcome to Part 2 of our How To Clean Stone Kitchen Countertops blog series!

In Part 1 we explained how to care for concrete, granite and quartz kitchen counters, in addition to giving you some important general stone cleaning and care tips. Here in Part 2, we will give you top tips on how to clean marble, limestone and soapstone kitchen counters.

Read How to Clean Stone Kitchen Countertops Part 1

General Stone Cleaning & Care Tips RECAP:

  • If exposed to extreme heat, stone countertops may crack due to thermal shock
  • Don’t stand or sit on stone countertops, ever
  • Wipe up spills immediately
  • Always use a cutting board
  • Sealants don’t last forever
Cleaning Marble Kitchen Countertop

How to Clean Marble Countertops:

If you’re into your pastry making, then this is the stone countertop for you. Not only is marble a classic and elegant choice, it’s cool surface temperature makes it one to be treasured by professional pastry chefs the world over. However, marble is also quite porous, staining and scratching easily. Therefore it is highly recommended that it be sealed, keeping in mind that acidic foods can still etch the marble quite quickly.

Daily Cleaning of Matble Kitchen Benches

  • Prevention, prevention, prevention. Wipe up spillages as soon as possible. Daily cleaning with a soft cloth using mild detergent and warm water will help greatly too. Never use harsh, abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads, and most definitely avoid white vinegar or anything that contains ammonia as a cleaner.
  • Reseal regularly. Resealing your marble every 3 to 6 months will help prevent staining.

Stain Removal from Marble Kitchen Benches

  • Stains made from rust or food can be treated by creating a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. This should be applied and then left to dry before wiping clean. Repeat as needed until the stain has faded away.
  • Use a marble polishing powder to remove scratches and etchings. Make sure that you follow the packet instructions and only lightly scrub so that you don’t cause any further damage. Resealing after polishing is recommended.

How to Clean Limestone Countertops:

Limestone is a popular stone kitchen choice due to its expensive look (often white or off-white with random, naturally occurring patterns) at a more affordable price point than marble. There is a downside to this though: limestone countertops require more care than most other types of stone.

Being porous and easily scratched or discoloured, limestone requires a good sealant and proper care. But if this is followed, limestone can last for a very long time!

Daily Cleaning of Limestone Kitchen Benches

  • Harsh or acidic cleaners should be avoided. A mild detergent with warm water or a commercial limestone cleaner will do the trick. Use a soft cloth or sponge and never a scrubber.
  • Cleaning daily after food preparation is essential.

Stain Removal from Limestone Kitchen Benches

  • Limestone’s soft and porous nature means it’s more susceptible to stains from dark coloured, acidic foods. Stain culprits include red wine, coffee and black tea.
  • Excessive heat can scorch or burn the stone surface. Always use a protective board or trivets when handling hot items.
  • A mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a thick paste can help remove stains. Generously apply over the stain, cover in plastic wrap and leave for 24 hours. Wipe away the paste and reseal the area.
  • If you do get a scratch on your limestone and it isn’t very deep, you may be able to lightly buff it out. Use 0000 grade fine steel wool or a bit of car polishing compound. Always reseal the area after cleaning.

How to Clean Soapstone Countertops:

Soapstone is a natural rock that contains the mineral talc which gives it a soft, smooth feel. The finished surface of soapstone feels like a dry bar of soap (and that’s where it gets its name!). This stone is quarried in two basic types: high talc (artistic) and low talc (architectural). For your kitchen countertop always use low talc, architectural grade soapstone.

Soapstone is an easy-to-care-for stone countertop as it is naturally antibacterial, nonporous, heat resistant and repels most stains. A downside to this stone is that there is a higher risk of scratches and chips if hit with a heavy object as it is not as hard as some other stones.

Daily Cleaning of Soapstone Kitchen Counters

  • When soapstone is freshly quarried it is light grey in colour, and naturally darkens as it’s exposed to water and oils. Mineral oil is often rubbed into soapstone countertops to enrich its colour.
  • Although it’s best to avoid scouring pads and powders, daily cleaning can be done with any type of household cleaner and water.

Stain Removal from Soapstone Kitchen Benches

  • Due to its nonporous nature, food and acids don’t stain the surface of soapstone. Rub mineral oil into a scratch to help hide the mark. You can also use mineral oil to cover discolouration from hard water spotting.

AND THAT’S A WRAP!

We hope that you’ve found Parts 1 and 2 of our How to Clean Stone Kitchen Countertops super useful.

Watch this space for more informative blog posts on natural and reconstituted stones and their uses throughout the home!

Stone Kitchen Countertops: How to Clean Them Part 1

By | Cleaning Stone, Kitchens | No Comments

The variety of natural stone options for your kitchen countertops these days is huge: concrete, granite, marble, limestone, quartz and soapstone to name just a few. But, just as we are all individuals sporting our own unique personalities, so do the different types of stone.

So when it comes to cleaning stone countertops in your kitchen, the material you chose to use will also sport it’s own distinct personality when it comes to durability and care.

Not to worry though, it’s easy enough to know how to clean what – especially when we’re around! In this two part blog series we’re going to show you how to clean six different types of stone. But first, here are some general guidelines that apply to all types of stone countertops…

General Stone Cleaning & Care Tips:

  • If exposed to extreme heat, stone countertops may crack due to thermal shock. Always protect your stone benches from direct contact with hot pots, pans, and dishes of food. The best solution is to use trivets that allow airflow under the hot item. This is especially important when using a slow cooker, which exposes the kitchen countertop to heat for several hours. 
  • Don’t stand or sit on stone countertops, ever. Even the smallest of fissures in the stone can cause cracks if it is subjected to excessive weight. If you need to get up high, use a stepping stool.
  • Wipe up spills immediately. You will find that most stone is sensitive to acidic foods (think wine, citrus juices, vinegars, and salad dressings). Yes, your stone countertop may be sealed, but it can still be etched by strong acids or harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach or ammonia.
  • Always use a cutting board. Your stone counter is at risk of permanent scratches if you chop or slice directly on it.
  • Sealants don’t last forever. Normal wear and tear gradually removes the finish. The frequency of resealing depends on the type, quality and colour of the stone. It’s important to refer to your manufacturers instructions. As a general rule: light colored stone may need to be resealed every one to three years, darker colored stone every three to five years.
Stone Kitchen Countertop aaron-huber-401200-unsplash

How to Clean Concrete Countertops:

Concrete is a mixture of finely crushed stone, sand, cement, and water. For ease of care with this kitchen bench option it is important to ensure it is correctly sealed. The sealant needs to be acid, heat and scratch resistant. Make sure you’re aware of how often the sealant needs to be reapplied.

Daily Cleaning of Concrete Kitchen Benches

  • Acid is concrete’s enemy. Never use harsh, abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads, and most definitely avoid white vinegar as a cleaner. A simple mix of one teaspoon dish detergent in four cups of water, kept in a spray bottle, is ideal for daily cleaning. Always wipe the counters after cooking or food preparation. 
  • Mineral deposits can cause problems for concrete over time. If you have hard water at home it is worth considering adding a water softening system or a water conditioner to your cleaning water.

Stain Removal from Concrete Kitchen Benches

  • Strong acids like lemon juice can leave stains that are actually spots where the concrete has become etched as the acid dissolved the cement and left carbonate deposits. Removal of acid stains on concrete can only happen through buffing or grinding away the damage and resealing the concrete. It’s best to hire a professional if this is required, which is something that we at Distinctive Stone can do.
  • Chlorine bleach is usually able to remove discoloration stains from foods like coffee or mustard. Simply dip a cotton ball or white paper towel in the bleach and apply directly to the stain. Weigh this down with a heavy item and allow the bleach to work for five to ten minutes. Rinse the concrete well with plain, cool water. Never leave the bleach on the stain for more than ten minutes as you may cause damage to the sealant.
  • If oil stained your concrete – usually by penetrating the sealant – you will need to use both a solvent and something to absorb the oil. Follow this tip from The Spruce to clean the oil stains: A good homemade cleaner for concrete oil stains is to mix baking soda and acetone (fingernail polish remover) to form a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter. Spread the mixture about one-fourth inch thick over the stain and cover with plastic wrap. Tape down the edges of the plastic wrap to hold it in place. Allow the mixture to remain on the stain for 24 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and allow the mixture to dry completely, then wipe away. Repeat as needed to draw out all of the oil. Once this is done the concrete will need to be resealed to prevent further staining.

How to Clean Granite Countertops:

Granite’s variety in colour and patterning means that many people choose to use it for their kitchen countertops. Granite is naturally antibacterial, and with the right sealant on it it can be very easy to care for.

Daily Cleaning of Granite Kitchen Benches

  • Daily cleaning of granite using a mix of dishwashing liquid and water at a ratio of 1:4, kept in a spray bottle for everyday use, will keep granite countertops shiny. Give your granite benches a quick spray and wipe with a soft cloth after food preparation and allow to air dry.
  • Harsh cleaners such as vinegar, lemon juice of foaming bathroom cleaners can dull the finish of granite. Do not use them.
  • Prevent scratches from sharp or gritty objects by always using a cutting board and trivets. Reseal granite countertops as recommended by your installer’s guidelines.

Stain Removal from Granite Kitchen Benches

  • It is possible to clean tough stains such as red wine or beetroot juice. You can use a commercial stone poultice or create your own by mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to form a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter. Then follow this method from The Spruce: Spread the mixture about one-fourth inch thick over the stain and cover with plastic wrap. Tape down the edges of the plastic wrap to hold it in place. Allow the mixture to remain on the stain for 24 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and allow the mixture to dry completely, then wipe away. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone. Keep in mind that after cleaning, resealing of the stained area will still be needed to prevent further staining.

How to Clean Quartz Countertops:

Quartz countertops are actually an engineered stone that is formed by combining randomly sized quartz crystals with resins and colored pigment to form a slab. The resulting slab is 93% quartz and 7% resin. A benefit of this is that the surface is nonporous and doesn’t require sealing or resealing. However the quartz is highly susceptible to fading when exposed to harsh, direct sunlight over long periods of time.

Daily Cleaning of Quartz Kitchen Benches

  • Quartz is not affected by acidic food and does not scratch easily. Glass cleaner or any non-abrasive household cleaner can be used on a daily basis, however it is good to stay away from using abrasive, scouring pads.
  • Avoid placing hot items directly onto your quartz countertop as it can mar the resin. Use wooden boards and trivets to prevent potential damage.

Stain Removal from Quartz Kitchen Benches

  • Luckily very little stains quartz. It you do find that something such as dried paint or nail polish ends up on your countertop, simply use a plastic putty knife to remove it. Permanent ink is the only exception to the rule: it’s difficult to remove, so protect your quartz surface when using Sharpies.

COMING SOON:

Stone Kitchen Countertops: How to Clean Them Part 2
Look out for Part 2 when we will give you tips on cleaning and stain removal for Limestone, Soapstone and Marble.