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Composite Materials, Lava, and Fiber Cement Countertops

Besides the numerous natural countertop materials, a variety of newer man-made materials are available. 

Silestone:  A composite of 93% quartz, resin binders and pigments.  It is made in Spain and sold in the USA through a network of distributors.  A similar material is made by DuPont under the Zodiaq brand name.  Silestone is available in 35 colors and three thicknesses - 7/16 inch, 13/16 inch, and 1-1/18 inch.

Trespa:  A Netherlands-based company makes three types of composite architectural panels  Two of them - TopLab and Athlon - are potential kitchen countertops.  Athlon is essentially super-thick high-pressure laminate.  It's made from phenolic resins reinforced with cellulose fiber and manufactured under high pressure and temperature.  Its top decorative layer is melamine-impregnated paper, and it is available with either a smooth or slightly textured finish.  One thing that makes Athlon attractive is its price:  in a 1/2-inch thickness, Athlon is less than $7 per square foot.  It can be worked with standard carbide tools, and it doesn't need sealing.  TopLab is usually used in laboratory setting because of its resistance to chemicals, scratches, and stains.  Prices are slightly higher.  Pionite makes a similar material called thick phenolic-core laminate.

Fiber Cement:  Sold under the following brand names:  Fireslate2 and Colorlith.  They are manufactured in Germany, imported to the US and sold through authorized fabricators.  Fiber cement has the bulk of quarried stone, but it can be less expensive:  $30 to $40 per square foot in 1-1/4 inch thickness.  Fiber cement is currently available in four colors and five thicknesses.  It has good resistance to heat and has high compressive strength.  Like other cement-based product, this material stains easily unless it is sealed properly and that takes regular maintenance.

Lava:  If you want something unusual in you kitchen, try French lava with a kiln-fired enamel coating that the manufacturer says is impervious to stains and heat.  Pyrolave comes in sheets up to four feet by eight feet, in two thicknesses - 1-1/4 inch and 1-1/2 inch.  Custom colors are available in addition to the 30 stock colors the company offers. 

Quartz Composites
PROS:  Nonporous and non-staining, scratch and heat resistant, durable.
CONS:  High cost.
COST:  $45-75 plus per sq. ft. installed.

Resin Composites
PROS:  Scratch and heat resistant, low cost.
CONS:  Limited color choice, damaged by heat.
COST:  $7-10 plus per sq. ft. installed.

Fiber Cement
PROS:  Relatively low cost, heat resistant, durable, high strength.
CONS:  Can stain (requires periodic resealing), limited color selection.
COST:  $30-70 per sq. ft. uninstalled.

PROS:  Hard, stain resistant, heatproof.
CONS:  Extremely high cost, limited availability.
COST:  $220-350 plus per sq. ft. installed.

Resin Composite
Trespa North America Ltd.
(800) 487-3772

Fiber Cement
American Fiber Cement Corp.
(800) 688-8677

Quartz Composite
(281) 494-7277

DuPont Zodiaq
(800) 426-7426

Kiln-Fired Lava
(919) 788-8953


Check out all of the possibilities, get a full description, and read about the pros and cons:

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