Kitchen Worktop

A kitchen worktop should be durable and blend in with the design. Selecting your kitchen worktop is an important part of your kitchen design. A kitchen worktop in my honest opinion should be made of stone, either granite or a solid surface solution.
Avoid marble as I have mentioned in prior posts it will give you problems, even with all the care and maintenance you are willing to do. It's just chemically and physically impossible for a marble to survive in such an aggressive environment.
So the solutions I suggest are just two granite or engineered stone. These products are resistant and beautiful and will give your kitchen a unique look, however each one has some special details which you should not overlook.

Granite Worktop

Granite is a natural stone, it's durable and comes with certain characteristics which mother nature has put it's hand into, it's very difficult to find pure colour granites, the black is the only exception, you will always have grayish base with black and white spots, or pinkish base with dark gray and black spots, the texture is not perfect.

When you decide to buy granite you are basically buying a natural stone for your kitchen, this means it will need some basic care and maintenance. Other issues regarding your countertop may arise while buying of after installation of your granite worktop, so here are some issues you should look into:
  • Check with the installer/manufacturer specific care and maintenance issues regarding the granite which you just bought. Granite absorbs water, their are granites that are more porous than some marbles, so make sure you know what type of product you bought so you can prevent damage
  •  Granite is normally cheaper than engineered stone, although some granite colours especially the exotic ones can be a bit expensive

  • Granite is extracted from the quarries in blocks, the slabs are then cut out, the granite slab is normally a dimensional slab with dimensions above 3 m x 1,4 m. So make sure that your kitchen worktop is made from the least pieces as possible. You don't want a mosaic looking worktop if you paying top dollar for it.

  • Granite as other natural stone have shade issues, shade issues can be caused by several factors: the slabs used to do your worktops did not belong to the same block; the slab had polishing problems therefore the shade difference is due to that; the worktop has been wet and absorbed water, giving and idea of a darker colour. The first two problems are due to low quality slab selection, which the manufacturer/installer should solve, the last one is a care and maintenance issue which you should take into account. The last one could pose as a bigger problem if you tile a floor and humidity is coming in from underneath, so you'll have a shade difference, this can be easily resolved using wet effect chemical agents, you should speak to the installer or manufacturer.
  • Be careful with some cheap granite material which may appear to be a great deal. Some granites have iron ore in them and rust up, take a few minutes to look into the physical properties of the stone you just installed. I've come across some granite with this problem in the past.

 Engineered Stone Worktop
 I guess if you read my blog, engineered stone is one of my top issues, I really think it is a product you can use on kitchen worktops. It's durable and blends in nicely with design. The quantity of textures and colours available are a designers dream, you can easily just do something different and unique. However it's not a perfect product, like very other product it does need some care and maintenance.
 The colours make this product different and interesting to use, you will not find too many mono colour textures in natural granite. Engineered stone will give you a wide variety of unique looking colours that will surprise you with the design options you'll have.
When buying or after installation these are some issues you should look into:
  • Check your countertop to see if has quality, look at the polish make sure it's even, basically you'll notice shade differences if their is a polishing problem. Porous, check the surface make sure no micro porous exist. 
  • Underneath the counter most engineered stone manufactures mark the production details and the brand name you just bought. Take a few moments to look them up on the Internet, view their guarantee carefully. And don't forget to check their care and maintenance issues.
  • The engineered stone slab is commonly 3 m x 1,4 m, although you can find bigger ones from some producers, make sure you're kitchen worktop is made up with the minimum number of pieces, as I said before avoid mosaic looking worktops, remember you are paying top dollars for your worktop
  • Using engineered stone as kitchen worktops has some inconveniences, make sure you know what you are getting into. For example: avoid putting a hot pot or pan directly in contact with your engineered stone as it'll damage the surface.


Merry Christmas

I wish all my readers and everyone who has supported me on this project a Merry Christmas. This time of year is slow in the stone business, so lets take a few days to relax and gain strength for the upcoming year. I have new posts planned. Hope you enjoyed this blog so far.
Thank you.


Silestone Microban

Silestone microban as I mentioned in prior a post, rumours are not confirmed. Although Silestone microban publicity has disappeared from the market. The anti-bacteria was used heavily in marketing for the past few years, and if you check their current website .... you'll see that this was wiped out from existence.
Currently, the public doesn't know if they use it or not, truth is that the publicity did disappear. Why is a product called anti-bacteria?
Personally I was involved in a R&D project for anti-bacteria. And it was really simple to obtain, actually it's a chemical additive that is mixed in the proportion to the resin used in the material, so in truth the resin is anti-bacterial. I have put in a picture of a sample testing, basically you see the bacteria is avoiding the contact with the piece.
Now what they don't do in lab testing, is if the counter has dirt on it, therefore the bacteria will not be in direct contact with the material. I guess this is another discussion.
Anyway, the Italians have avoided using these types of additives, they continuously stated that quartz based material didn't contribute for bacterial action. The Spanish Silestone company used this for marketing, generalizing to all it's products, so everything produced by Silestone was anti-bacterial. I had clients discussing this as if it was a plus to buy Silestone, nevertheless today it's out ..

Engineered Granite, Engineered Marble and Engineered Quartz

Engineered granite, engineered marble and engineered quartz some readers have questioned about the differences. Engineered granite, engineered marble and engineered quartz are very similar in the bonding agent, however differ in the filling. So as I mentioned in previous posts, an engineered stone is made up of 5-10% resin (in this case polyester resin), 90-95% filler and coloring pigments.
An engineered quartz is basically made with quartz filler, this means that the product will have a behaviour similar to quartz, as it's basically more than 90% pure quartz. Engineered granite, may sometimes be confused in use, in theory it's a granite grain filler, so you'll have a product which is more than 90% pure granite. The marble is basically the same.
Now the truth is that these terms don't actually help much regarding to the product itself, as this type of solid surface can have other types of products, like glass. Until now no producer has launched a glass engineered stone, however I know that some of the manufacturers are working on it seriously, and the truth is that the main problem is polishing the final product. But I should say that in most cases, almost all engineered stone has other products in the filler, and glass can be found in many products.


Corian Countertops

Corian countertops how do they differ from Silestone countertops or granite countertops? Well Corian countertops are made from a acrylic polymer, this means acrylic resin and alumina trihydrate, and of course the filling which gives it it's hardness and colouring. Corian is sometimes called thermo plastic, as it can be thermoformed at 150ºC, so it is able to make rounded configurations, it is also possible to weld together two seperate pieces of Corian. So Corian as a solid surface can be used in several applications where you join, bend, shape and finish, being a very versitile material.
Corian Countertops are a  Dupont brand (one of the biggest chemical companies in the world), Dupont also owns Zodiaq which is a silestone like material (made with polyester resin).
The main difference between Silestone type materials and Corian, is due to the chemical properties of one and another, so I will list them:
  • Corian can be welded together, the most common quartz based agglomerate stone can't, normally it's glued together with adhesive, the joint will always exist and is very difficult to hide from the professional eye
  • Corian can be bent, true, although I've seen quartz based products also slightly bent on a very open angle. However Corian is more flexible in this matter.
  • Corian is more expensive. Every kitchen is a project when dealing with Corian material, it's all measured and made to fit; When dealing with quartz agglomerate any manufacturer can give you an estimate by phone if you give them the dimensions of the countertops and the cut-outs needed.
  • Corian installation is more complex. While quartz agglomerate countertops can be installed by almost anyone, Corian will have their own technicians to install
  • Corian is a less compact stone and less resistant to scratches. Quartz agglomerate products have are more compact and scratch resistant than Corian materials.
  • Corian used more resin (acrylic) per cm3 than quartz agglomerate.
  • Corian although has similar applications to other solid surfaces, it requires special technical services to install, while quartz agglomerate is manufactured and installed as any common granite


Granite Edges: Ogee, Bullnose, Bevelled, Square are some Edge Profiles

Granite edges on your kitchen countertop can vary, their are some standard granite edges, but in reality normally only a few options are given to the final client. Ogee, bullnose, bevelled, square are some terms we encounter in the edge profiles available. Did you know that the diamond tool manufacturers have them labelled by letters? In truth you will call it bevelled square edge and they'll understand it as a CD type edge. The Ogee is a more complex situation because you can find several types, a perfect Ogee is 1/2 one cut the other half another cut, so I would say it would be an F type.

These are some of the most common edges you can find, basically they are standard edges, you can actually have your own type of edge made, it will cost a bit more than the standard ones, but it will be your own feature.


Silestone colors the World

Silestone colors the World of quartz. Truth is that Silestone colors are a well establish marketing machine. No doubt that in all the solid surface industry Silestone stands out from the rest, it has accomplished several marks that distinguish it from it's direct competitors.
Silestone is the biggest manufacturer when we take into account the quartz agglomerate sector by itself. It's main production facility is located in a small town called Macael, located in the South of Spain. Silestone is one of the most successful trademarks of the Cosentino Group. Cosentino is one of the biggest natural stone manufacturers in Spain, and one of the most important in the World.
Silestone since it's appearance on National Television with a commercial during a Superbowl, has leaped ahead as the most successful company in the agglomerate stone industry. They use several marketing strategies to their advantage and today they are seen as a milestone in the industry, in some countries silestone is more than just a brand, people refer to quartz agglomerate as silestone, that's how important of a reference it is to the industry.
They keep investing millions in advertisement, in the last few years they've used Fernando Alonso the Formula 1 driver as their flag. They even created a product to which Alonso is the public image.
They have about 12 production lines, some of which are designated to specific colours, this as you can imagine increases output and quality tremendously. Normally, when color change is needed, and when the factory has only one or two production lines, they have high set-up costs, so with 12 lines, it's actually pretty efficient, although they really need a lot of volume to keep the whole plant working at full capacity.
Silestone has also created parallel spin-off businesses, namely MURO, which is a mosaic type material, used for backsplashes and other applications, this product is a good use for wastage, it is thin due to the slicing of the common material. They have also created a quartz sink unit, which supplies sinks to the kitchen industry in Silestone colors.
Besides these spin-offs, they have a kitchen countertop manufacturing unit, very sophisticated, mainly uses 2nd choice slabs, which are photographed and stored, the order of the countertops are then optimizes to the slabs useful size ... they have a special automated warehouse to manage the whole system.
It wasn't always this way in the 1990s Silestone and the Cosentino Group went through a tough crisis. The Silestone brand and product was new to the market, the trust in Silestone products was very low ... difficult times, and they took difficult measures ... and survived with great success. Silestone was the first to offer a 10 year warranty on their products, many manufacturers today don't give you this type of warranty. Silestone is also known to solve quality problems ... no questions asked ... they have managed their image in a correct way, and they have their success founded on solid ground.


Chinese quartz

Chinese quartz plants are starting to bloom and we start seeing Chinese quartz in the market, Why is Chinese quartz appearing cheaper? Does Chinese quartz have the same quality as other International brands? I figure a lot of readers of my blog have this question in mind, and today I have made this post specifically to discuss this current market issue.
I have some experience in production of these products and have had the opportunity to visit several facilities, in several countries, including China.
What I have seen in China was a world where you find 2 parts in the same whole, one with some high tech, and the other old fashion, non appropriate working methods. In truth Chinese quartz comes out cheaper, due to  some important factors:
  • Breton charges too much money for know-how: a whole slab plant can cost as much 5-10€/sqm, the Chinese copy of Breton technology is called KEDA ... and it's costs less than 30% compared to Breton
  • Most Chinese plants use Chinese machinery (polishing, calibrating, cutting, bevelling and other equipment), which is greatly cheaper than Breton technology, who diplomatically forces their Breton plants to buy Breton equipment
  • Chinese plants use cheap local workforce in the factories
  • The Chinese local economy is a very strange thing to foreigners, they worship value not price.

Regarding the quality of the product, I have no doubt that Chinese quartz producers have lower quality standards. I've personally seen, block production plants with high quality production, but with a deficient industrial infra-structure. So basically some problems that can arise in quartz material are as follows:
  • dark smudge or spots on light materials
  • bad polish: in dark colours it may cause shade difference on the same slab
  • pin holes or porous surface: caused by vacuum and mixing problems, this is very difficult to see due to the superficial shine of the material, but if you drop some dark ink in the slab and clean it ... you'll see the black spots on the surface which are in reality small pin holes on the quartz slabs surface
  • bad mixture and bad compaction: the end of the slab may appear damaged or with missing filling
  • thickness problems due to non calibration: measure the slabs thickness in several points
  • tainted surface: some producers taint the surface to solve some difficult polishing problems
  • surface filling: some producers use mastic filling lines to hide the porous surface of the product, basically they apply a superficial coating of resin. Although the edges will not be corrected, you'll always face that problem with working the slab.
  • Chinese quartz has more resin in it's composition which helps solve most of the production problems, although creates a product which physically has a different behaviour than the ones made with Italian Technology
These are signs of bad production, and some mechanical malfunctions. I'm not saying it can't appear in European facilities, I just think that European facilities are more responsive in dealing with these problems, and most of them are either avoided or detected before loading in to the container.


Solid Surfacing or Solid Surfaces

Solid Surfacing or solid surfaces can be a wide range of products. In the solid surfaces category we find many different types of man made stone, although solid surfaces implies a non-porous surface, which is on of the things that distinguish high quality products from no quality.
So what is the difference between solid surfaces and engineered stone?
None, in truth these products have appeared in the market about 30/40years ago, and basically they're are called by many names, here goes a list:
  1. Solid surfaces
  2. Engineered stone
  3. Man made stone
  4. Agglomerate Stone - used as the official definition in CE Markings
  5. Conglomerate Stone
  6. Cultured Stone
  7. Compact Stone
  8. Silestone - it's a brand but due to the strong marketing many people actually call the product silestone
  9. Fake stone
So basically, we may be speaking of different products, but they have more or less the same objective, they imitate to certain perfection the natural stone.
These products are normally constituted by 3 relevant parts: the natural or un-natural grain, the binding agent and artificial colouring pigments. Most common products in this category are quartz based agglomerates, which are composed of quartz grain, bonded together with polyester resin.



Worktops are a important part of our kitchen, selecting the proper material for our worktops requires some knowledge of the options available. Worktops can be made of wood, steel, plastic, stone, engineered stone, etc.etc. In this post we will be focusing on stone worktops and try to compare them regarding certain physical and technical aspects.

Marble or Marble based agglomerate stone
  • Advantages
    • Has a good colour selection
    • Easy to repair when dealing with shine or scratches
  • Disadvantages
    • Stains very easy
    • Kitchen cleaning detergents will damage polish and stone
Granite Worktops
  • Advantages
    • Resistant to heat, a hot pot may not damage the stone, however you should not put hot pots and pans on your granite worktop
    • Very common and easy to find, can be a cheap option to your kitchen, depending on the colour
    • When you have a big kitchen you may have one piece kitchens, your supplier just has to cut the slab from a granite block that has the right dimension
    • Resistant to most of kitchen detergents
    • Doesn't stain as easily as marble, although some granites do absorb just as much
  • Disadvantages
    • Colour availability, not many options and most may not go well with your kitchen design
    • Difficult to repair

Quartz Worktops
  • Advantages
    • Colours and textures available
    • Resistant to most of kitchen detergents
    • Doesn't stain as easily as marble or granite, very low water absorption
  • Disadvantages
    • Not resistant to heat, may damage the worktop permanently
    • Difficult to repair
    • May get scratched, glass can scratch your quartz worktop, although some friction would be necessary for that to happen, and on darker colours the effect will be more visible;
    • May need to divide you kitchen worktops in several pieces, most fabricators have a 300 cm long slab
    • Cost, the product itself is very expensive, and the shade variation from several productions will be different, therefore the worktop fabricator will include total price of slab consumed as leftovers may not be incorporated in other worktops. This is common in colours which the fabricator doesn't carry on a regular basis.


StoneItaliana : World Leader in Innovation

This post about StoneItaliana, is part of a series about manufacturers. StoneItaliana in my opinion is the world leader in innovation, and in this industry this is essential to guarantee a long term survival of the product. Stone Italiana has been ahead of it's time in the agglomerate stone industry, it's known to practice high pricing strategy, but it also supplies high quality and innovative products as well.

Stone Italiana has been around since 1979 when it started off with a composite marble plant, in 1988 it initiates a new plant for granite composite slabs. Nevertheless, from the beginning it has been awarded several prizes for innovation, and has always strived in that direction.
It was the first plant to present relief surfaces with the Breton system, it has been the leader in introducing new materials to the industry, for these and much more reasons it's currently the top leading company in innovation.
They have launched continuously incredible products that really bring out the true creativity that the engineered stone can do, they really take it to the limit.
I enjoy particularly looking at the best examples and admiring their capability to get to that point and to continuously feed the market with truly imaginative and innovative products.
 If after all of what I just exposed you still have doubts about StoneItaliana being the most innovative company in the engineered stone business today, if you visited the International Shanghai EXPO 2010, the product used on these exhibition halls was a joint venture between StoneItaliana and another Italian company, they created and patented a product called Cottostone. Which was used on the facade below.


CE Marking for agglomerate stone

As every other product, as of 2010 the agglomerate stone industry has to comply with CE Markings for agglomerate stones, I must add that it's taken too much time to actually see these new rules in the market, as natural stone and the ceramic industry have been complying with CE markings for a while now. It's been a difficult task to provide the agglomerate stone industry with final CE Marking statements due to a conflict of interests between the solid surface industry based on Breton technology and all the other producers. Leading the Committee has been the Italian interest in making tough tolerances for the product, their main effort is to slow down the oriental competition, using the CE Markings as a tough standard to comply with, most International producers would need to invest in equipment and technology to overcome some limitations that they currently have.
As of 2010 the Agglomerated stone - Modular tiles for flooring and stairs (internal and external) have to comply with the CE Marking standards.
The document itself focuses on the following:
  • Definition: What is a modular tile? 
  • Size and shape: definition of tolerances regarding size and shape
  • Surface finish 
  • Requirements for flooring and stairs modular tiles made of agglomerated stones: Technical requirements that are defined for the product namely:
    • Apparent density and water absorption
    • Flexural strength
    • Abrasion resistance
    • Chemical resistance
    • Visual appearance
    • Reference sample, visual inspection and acceptance criteria
    • Reaction to fire
    • Slipperiness
    • Thermal conductivity
    • Thermal shock resistance
    • Tactility/visibility
    • Linear thermal expansion coefficient
    • Electrical resistivity
    • Impact resistance
    • Frost resistance
    • Dimensional stability
  • Marking, labelling and packaging: defines what type of markings and documentation should follow the product
  • Evaluation of conformity: defines testing types and frequency and Factory Production Control for the agglomerate stones


Quarella : Worlds Biggest Agglomerate Stone Producer

Quarella as I mentioned in a previous post is the biggest agglomerate stone producer. Yes Quarella is the biggest! This post about Quarella will be the first of a series, which I plan to focus on the worlds top producing companies.
Why is Quarella the biggest agglomerate producer?
Quarella has a yearly output of 4.000.000 sqm, they produce agglomerate marble and quartz, plus the group has two other companies which also produce agglomerate products which is Rover and Prestige.
 Quarella is located in Northern Italy close to a small city called Verona, basically near one of the mos important regions of marble quarries in Italy. For more than 40 years they've been supplying composite stones to the local and International market.
Important to say that Quarella has it's own resin plant producing it's own binding agent, which is the only factory in the world who actually got into the resin producing business. It also has one of the most advanced R&D labs in the world.
Their technology is based on Breton's vacuum vibro-compression system, although they've added a lot of their gained know-how. In their block producing units they have created a new product which they hope will recover the block production units. Due to the constant evolution in pricing and the markets in general, the marble based agglomerate has lost much of it's markets, creating big problems for companies like Quarella who invested millions in plan facilities and equipments. Marble having technical low parameters regarding wear and usage, has lost a lot of market quota to other products. Quarella has launched the Evo Series which is a product that has better technical tolerances than marble, as it uses a harder stone in it's composition.
In the quartz units, Quarella produces in Italy and in Spain at Prestige, they have as most other big factories specialized their production lines, although they've got a terrible logistics problem, as most of the production made in the Spanish plant, returns to Italy to be resent to the final destination with other Quarella products produced in Italy.
Rover is also part of Quarella group, although it has it's own sales channels and production units, so it's basically a stand alone unit specialized in marble based agglomerate and recently they have a limited range of quartz agglomerate products.


Quartz Tiles and Quartz Slabs : How to warehouse correctly.

Quartz tiles and quartz slabs should be warehoused as recommended by the manufacturer, which clearly means you should take approrpiate action or you might just damage them.
Quartz slabs if not warehoused properly may warp, especially if the temperatures are high and the slabs is warehoused in an irregular manner. To properly warehouse quartz slabs you should follow these tips:
  • use vertical warehousing racks
  • make sure the racks  have at least 2 supporting points
  • the distance between thethe two points are to 3/5 of the whole length of the slab, so in a 300 cm slab it will be 180 cm.
  • The suporting beams should be at least 90% of the slabs width
  • You should surround the support beam with plastic rubber (make sure this rubber doesn't stain the quartz) to avoid damages to your quartz
  • The base of the slab rack should have a protection like nylon or any other product, it'll avoid rusting of the rack;
  • Always keep quartz slabs warehoused indoor, it may damage with sunlight and stain with rain ... exposed to these factors during a long period of time
Some tips for tile warehousing, which are normally supplied in carton boxes:
  • Make sure to keep them indoor, avoid water and humidity;
  • Make sure all material is in an up right position;
  • Do not stack crates too high
  • Make sure you keep the tiles ID tag visible
  • Avoid hot temperatures at all times, warping can be a problem


Solid Surface: Diferent manufacturing systems

Solid surface can be manufactured in several ways, however the best and most efficient ways involve a vacuum vibrocompression technology, this guarantees that the solid surface is a perfect lookalike with natural stone. People easily can be deceived by solid surfaces when compared with some natural stones, as it weighs and it feels like natural stone.
So basically I'm going to focus on 2 systems the slab system and the block system.
  • Slab system
The slab system initiates with the raw materials loading into a mixer, these mixers are vertical, they can have more than one, especially to make special textures. The grain size is small, the Block system can use bigger stone, but when you do a slab by slab production it's technically impossible to use big stone.
The loading of the grain sized natural quartz, silica sand or other raw materials into the mixer is followed by quartz powder, polyester resin and colouring pigments.
The mixer is then transported in conveyor belts and spread on the slab mould, due to the low thickness of the slab (maximum 3 cm) it's not necessary to mix in vaccum like the block system. Next it goes into a vacuum and vibrocompression chamber,much less powerful than the one in the block system, as it only has to compress a slab at a time. After this stage the slab will follow a conveyor into a oven, this will accelerate the cure making it usable in a few hours ... I guess we can say that it's a continuous production line.
Next we have the calibrating and polishing lines. Note that these slabs will be calibrated on both sides before polishing to insure that it is correctly calibrated. The polishing is made with granite type machinery, and are also difficult to polish especially the darker colours.

  • Block system
So the block system begins in the same manner as the slabs with the loading of the  raw materials, with the block system being mainly used to work stones with lower hardness indexes, like marble, dolomite or calcites. The main reason is due to sawing, the gangsaws have problems cutting harder materials like quartz or silica sand. The other reason is that harder materials like quartz, granite and silica sand agglomerates use a different type of polishing heads than the marble agglomerate. It is technically possible to make a block out of harder material than marble, we have seen some producers present in recent fairs agglomerates made with materials with hardness above 4 Mohs.

So the raw natural materials are loaded to the mixer, where other products will be added like stone powder, polyester resin and colouring pigments. They have to be mixed thoroughly together and in vacuum to avoid air bubbles and bad mixture. Next the whole mixture is discharged into a big rectangle mould, this mould after being filled with the mixture will be compressed with a heavy duty compressing system. The whole floor of the factory will tremble during this process, just to have an idea of the power applied. After this phase the chemical reaction has attained a gel state, and in a few hours it will become solid. Although the slab production is continuous, the block needs a few days of curing. 
After these few days in resting, the block may be sawn like any ordinary marble block. It has one special characteristic, it can be sawn in thickness as low as 9 mm, which in some marbles is rather difficult not to say impossible without any resin reinforcements.
The polishing line has an initial calibrating system, all top quality agglomerate stones have small thickness tolerances, so calibrating is an important part of the production cycle. Next is polishing, polishing is rather difficult on these products due to the resin in its composition, but most manufacturers have overcome this problem with the use of the proper abrasive line.
At this point you'll have a slab ready to ship or cut to size.

Some Q&A
Can you make marble based agglomerate on slab system?
Yes you can, however the commercial value of quartz is much higher, it's economically better to make quartz. And you'll need specific polishing equipment to polish marble based material.
Can agglomerates appear with pin holes on the surface?
Yes, this means the equipment has a undetected defect, the vacuum system is not working properly.
How many block systems are producing?
It was the original technology that began around the 80s, however in the last few years almost all systems installed have been slab type. However in China their has been several block systems activated in the last few years. In Europe, you can only find them in 3/4 countries. It's more or less basic that most block systems have difficulty in giving a good return on investment.


Tips about cleaning marble.

Many people when buying marble rarely think of the product itself, cleaning marble or maintaining it can be a very tough job. While posting about cleaning marble, we can also add agglomerate marble, as they are very similar regarding cleaning and maintenance. As I've said before in several posts, the engineered stone is made up of 90-95% natural stone, so great part of it's care and maintenance are similar to the rock from which it's made from, so in this particular post we are dealing with marble.
Things to remember:
  • Marble in general is very absorbent, so it may stain easily due to the absorption of the liquid used in the spill
  • Marble is a metamorphic recrystallized stone based on carbonate minerals, so it reacts to acid. So Orange Juice, Lemon Juice, Coke, and other products we use and consume in our daily life may effect our marble if in direct contact, and during a reasonable amount of time
  • Marble is physically a soft stone, it ranges from 3-4 in Mohs scale, which means it's not scratch resistant, so those small grains of sand and gravel that you bring into your home will ruin your lovely marble floor
So after these 3 comments you are worried about that lovely natural marble floor you just paid for. Don't worry, you just have to be careful and make sure your children understand some basic things about the product. And remember we have shopping malls with marble floors, and wood floors are less resistant than marble ones ...
Cleaning and Maintaining products and tips:
  • A floor mat at the several entrances of your home, will reduce the quantity of sand and gravel
  • Avoid applying marble in kitchen counters and floors, the kitchen is the most aggressive area in your home
  • Use neutral floor cleaning detergent, avoid acid and alkali, read the label carefully and make sure it's neutral and usable on marble
  • Use a marble wax to revive your floors shine, read carefully the instructions before applying it on your floor
  • When you floor starts to look dirty, some greyish areas will appear, it may be due to the several layers of wax applied, you should apply a marble stripper to extract all the superficial dirt, and then apply a layer of wax
  • To minimize the risk of staining, use a marble sealer, it doesn't work miracles, but it will help you. 


Engineered Stone: Shade

Engineered stone is technically known for a homogeneous shade, that is not entirely true. Engineered stone producers publicize that they guarantee same shade, however in big quantities I figure it's very unlikely, due to several factors that effect shade.
What factors may effect the shade of my engineered stone?
  • Slab Production factors: during the daily production several batches of raw materials are mixed together, and when dealing with white or beige type colours, little changes may occur that can affect the colouring, namely:
    • error in pigment quantity: I know this sounds awkward, but in reality to make a certain colour we normally mix several pigments together, and some are very concentrated and the quantity can be grams ... so being of by a few grams of concentrated blue, may turn your light grey into a light beige;
    • exchange on the discharge sequence into the mixer: for those of you familiarized with these production facilities, mixing is one of the most important parts of the process, you may think that every producer has the pigment sequence made by machines .... what if I told you that some producers do it manually .... human error may occur
    • raw material quality: in truth when you grind hundreds of tons of quartz, you'll surely have a few tons with a slightly different shade, when producing this factor may cause a slight shade difference between batch productions
    • Cleanliness: image a big mixer which just ended a production of a black quartz .... the next step is cleaning, but it's done manually, so the next batch will certainly have some impurities from the batch before. 
  • Polishing: people might not give it the importance it deserves, but in my opinion it's where most of the shade problems occur. It can be due to the following: 
    • Change in the abrasive sequence between 2 productions: in truth great part of the shade variations arise from the different gloss points the material may have, this can cause uneven slabs, making the tiles cut from the same slab different in shade.
    • Production variables: producing with different variables, namely water quantity or velocity of the production line
    • Chemical enhancement: some production lines have a chemical applicator, the objective is to enhance the products physical properties and consequently may also affect  the gloss
It's more likely to have a shade problem with you supply when dealing with tiles, especially if the project is big and has to be produced with several batches. When dealing with countertops, it can also occur, depends on the attention the fabricator has regarding these issues, he can easily avoid them by using the same batch material for the job.


Stone tools

Stone tools for quartz or in general for agglomerate stones have some special features. Using stone tools for cutting granite is similar to cutting quartz although these should have certain features which will extend the durability of the tool. Polishing is also known to be very difficult on the dark quartz materials, you can find  good solutions to this in the market, which I plan to explain in detail.
In general, we can say that the same tooling used on natural marble may be used on agglomerate marble. And for quartz agglomerate the tools are similar to the ones used on granite.
Marble based engineered stone:
Cutting: Basically any natural stone marble disc will work with agglomerate marble, and you'll notice a fine cut, as agglomerate marble is easier to work with in the shop;
Polishing edges: use the same abrasives you use on natural marble, however it may be a little more sensitive, so make sure you have good polishing abrasives, especially the yellow ones which make a great difference; In case you polish edges manually, you'll have better results with abrasives that use water, although I have seen good results with dry ones. Marble is really simple to polish, you can manually correct any defect, on the darker colours sometimes you may apply water effect chemical products to give it a nice looking final finishing.
Polishing the surface: Similar to natural marble, although you might have some difficulty in attaining the same shine, normally the shine for marble based materials is between 70-85. In some colours it may be difficult to get a perfect polish, the bigger the grain (refering to the texture of the material) used the easier it is to polish, of course darker colours are always difficult.
Quartz based engineered stone:

Cutting: quartz is much harder than granite, so expect it to consume a bit more diamond. A good diamond disc for cutting quartz should have a special diamond feature on the side of the disc as my picture below (marked in red).

Normal granite discs will consume the metal sides while manually cutting quartz, I've seen discs literally break before the diamond on the cutting edge is totally consumed. When you use it manually, you can never guarantee a 90º angle so the sides of the disc will make contact with the stone. Also use water while cutting quartz to refresh the disc, you'll expand your discs lifetime.
Polishing edges: Try the diamond flexible pads on you quartz edges, it has given me the best results, they are expensive but they'll give you a very good finish. Many salesmen will show you dozens of solutions, however they are trying to sell the products they carry, I have tested normal abrasives, cyclone type, moving heads on edge polishers, and the ones that work best as I mentioned are the flexible diamond pads. I won't talk about brands, because I have no intention on selling, but I think you should test what you may have available in your local market. You can also use the water efffect chemical products on these edges, it really improves the final finish.
Polishing the surface: Forget it, don't even try, you'll end up destroying your quartz piece.


Slabs : Why do slabs size vary from manufacturer?

Slabs, namely engineered stone slabs vary due to the fact that it's made in a mould. Although moulds do vary, we have slab by slab moulds for quartz slab production lines, and block mould for marble based production lines. In reality the equipment was made to get an even 300 cm x 120 cm in the marble based material, and a 300 x 140 in the quartz.
In the agglomerate marble production lines the most common measure is 300x120, although in truth the block has a few more centimeters, so you'll probably be invoice for 306x123.
In the quartz agglomerate production lines the moulds can vary in size, technically the same production line can make 300x120 and 300x140 slabs. Regarding the exact size of the slabs, some manufacturers invoice 300x140, others 307x124 ... their is not really any limitation to it at the moment. The CE markings on slabs may shed some light on this issue. Nevertheless, be careful if you buy 300x140 and try to re-sale it with an add-on of a few cm, some manufacturers trim the edges with defect ... so before you send the slabs to the final destination make sure you take correct measurements of the whole load.
In recent years some manufacturers have bought bigger production lines and now sell different sizes than the ones I mentioned, however more than 80% of sales are still in these traditional measurements.


How to install quartz tiles?

Quartz tiles give you unique designed rooms, they require professional installation. Quartz tiles should follow recommended installation procedures, due to it's special behaviour and physical characteristics, namely low water absorption, contraction and dialation when exposed to different temperatures. Nevertheless, you should always ask for the tile installation manual, and look out for all the special recommendations that may regard this product in specific.
We have several producers world wide, and although most of them give you unique properties for all their product range, the truth is that each specific colour/item has specific technical information that can cause problems during the installation of you tiles.
The composition of a engineered stone is 90-95% natural stone, using polyester resin as a binding agent. As natural stone has a more or less stable behaviour, the polyester resin is what makes this product so complicated when applied in a tile format. You may have finished products which include 5% resin, and others with 10% .... Yeah well, the producer often says 5% or 7%, this is a figure of speech.... In reality the quantity of resin is defined by the type of quartz grain used in producing it. The bigger the grain, let's say 0,7-1,2 mm will use less resin, than a 0-0,7mm grain, we call these latter products fine grain.
I've circled the big grain in the picture so it'll be easier for you to identify, these types of products. The next picture is a fine grain, you'll easily see the difference, and the next time you come across these products you'll identify it quite quickly.

So you can have almost 10% resin in an engineered stone which may alter significantly its physical behaviour when exposed to day-to-day usage. I'm covering this product in respect to tiles, regarding countertops this information is less relevant, when dealing with countertops, they counter has open space to compensate all this we have spoken of.
One important thing just before we follow the 6 step installation method for quartz tiles. When applying fine grain quartz on floors, the manufacturers won't tell you this, but these types of materials react badly to traffic, after some traffic they'll show micro-scratches on the surface .... when the dirt accumulates, the floor becomes ugly and dirty, you can clean it, but quickly it'll return. While manufacturers claim that they their products are all alike, the truth is as I said before, their products vary ... so be careful. This doesn't apply to counters, as floors normally have more wear due to traffic, and other solid objects that come with it, like sand and gravel.
Install Quartz Tiles using these recommended 6 steps:
  1. Clean the area before applying the adhesive, make sure their are no cracks or unlevelled area; Also the area must be dry, water is not recommended during the application of this type of adhesive.
  2. Spread a thin layer (2-5mm) of the bi-component adhesive (this adhesive should use liquid latex, not water type adhesive), you should mix thoroughly before applying and make sure it doesn't harden before you finish steps 5.
  3. Use the notched side of the trowel to comb the thin layer of spread on the floor (Step 2)
  4. Apply a thin layer of adhesive on the backside of the tile
  5. Use a rubber mallet to fit and level the tile
  6. Use masking tape along side of the joints and then grout with polyurethane mastic


Quartz Countertops : Basic Fabrication Guidelines

Quartz countertops should be fabricated following special guidelines. Unlike granite countertops, the quartz countertops have to be handled according to the quartz manufacturers fabrication guidelines. As quartz is a man made stone, or better engineered stone, it does have a different behavior when doing specific features with diamond tools.
Here are some basic fabrication guidelines that will insure high quality to your quartz countertop:
  • Use water cooled diamond tools appropriate for quartz
  • Use water cooled tools for polishing, make sure they're appropriate for quartz
  • When doing the cut-outs for stove or sink, do not do square corners. The probability of cracking at that point is huge, officially it's considered a stress point, as engineered stone tend to release tensions. To overcome this problem you should drill with a bigger than 5mm core drill, 4 holes, on on each corner, before cutting with a diamond disk.

  • When L shape counters are required, avoid making L piece in one part, the same situation as the cut-out may occur, be careful
  • Seam positioning: quartz manufacturers advise not to locate them over a dishwasher, if no other option is available re-enforce it underneath
  • Adhesives: select the correct polyester paste for your job, don't forget that quartz has very low porosity and therefore requires a special adhesive ... normal paste may unglue with time, especially if the area is humid/wet at times


Size matters

Slab size is part of the cost of granite countertops. Basically granite counters or just any other stone counters have different prices regarding the colour and texture of the material. However the end client doesn't seem to notice but the size of the slab has a lot of importance when dealing with the manufacturers profit.
In Europe most commercial kitchens have a countertop width of 60-65 cm, so a multiple of 70 cm in size for a slab is a guarantee of profit. Obviously most engineered stone or better quartz producers have a 140 cm slab, if you check closely, most of them actually produce several size slabs depending on the end use of the slab.
Size matters, as a warehouse or a manufacturer, if I'm in the kitchen countertop business, I need slabs to guarantee a better profit for myself, and it certainly is an important part of the business. When engineered stone is involved, and with pricing normally close or above 80€/sqm, every cm of unused material is important to account for.
I'm certain that most manufacturers when buying raw material at the local warehouse or even blocks, they tend to take the size matter into account.

Trade Fairs 2011

Trade Show 2010 are just ending, Trade Show 2011 may have more to offer, marble and granite, marble flooring, slate flooring, quartz countertops, granite counters, and much more can be seen in the most important International Stone Fairs in the world. In Europe, Marmomacc has the best selection of exhibitors, with a great attendance.
Personally I've been visiting International Stone fairs in Europe and have my favorites pointed out, I figure most of us in the industry have a similar opinion. Without a doubt in Europe the most important stone fair is Marmomacc, held in the Italian city Verona, in the Northern part of Italy. You can find country representations from the 4 corners of the planet, from Argentina to China. This year 2010, was Marmomaccs 45th edition, just to have an idea of how big it is, in 2009 ( a year of crisis in the industry) there was 1507 exhibitors being almost 50% International delegations representing 54 countries.

My List of the most important International Stone fairs in the World:

  • INDIA STONEMART - Jaipur, India (20th-23rd January 2011)
  • VITÓRIA STONE FAIR- Vitória, Brazil (15th-18th of  February 2011): 31 st Edition
  • TECHNO STONE - Kiev, Ukraine (23rd-26th February 2011)
  • STONE XIAMEN - Xiamen, China (6th-9th of  March2011)
  • THE NATURAL STONE 2011 - London -Great Britain (15th-17th of  March 2011)
  • MARBLE 2011 - Izmir, Turkey (23rd -26th of March 2011)
  • STONETECH - Shangai, China (20th-23rd of April 2011)
  • COVERINGS- Las Vegas, USA (27th-30th of April 2011)
  • CARRARAMARMOTEC- Carrara, Italy (apparently not announced for 2011)
  • INTERBUILD EGYPT  - Cairo, Egypt (   23rd -27th of June 2011)
  • EXPOSTONE - Moscow, Russia (21st - 25th of June 2011)
  • STONE + TECH- Nurenberg, Germany (22nd-25th of June 2011)
  • BUILD ASIA 2011 - Karachi, Pakistan (16th-18th of July 2011)
  • MARMOMACC - Verona, Italy (21st-24th of September 2011) : 46th Edition
  • KAMIEN- Wroclaw, Poland (9th-12th of November 2011)
  • THE BIG FIVE - Dubai, U.A.E. (21st-24th of November 2011)
The last few years and due to the International crisis, visiting or exhibiting at International fairs has not been profitable. However, International stone fairs are still the place to meet up with the stone business, most of the International elite attend these exhibitions, and many manufacturers, and other business professionals are always present. I usually enjoy visiting and/or exhibiting at International fairs, it a great opportunity to meet people and check out the trends of the business.


    Granite vs Quartz

    Granite vs Quartz is currently a dilema which everyone is facing when picking a kitchen counter. More and more people are asking this question: Which is the best option for my kitchen countertop Granite vs Quartz?

    Well to simplify, as there is not a straight answer to it, I’ll do a quick comparison:

    1. Water absorption

    Quartz is near zero water absorption, while some granite have high water absorption indexes. It’ll be easier to stain a granite countertop than a quartz one.

    2. Resistance to heat

    Granite is more resistant to direct heat, I’ve seen superficial damages on quartz due to direct heat from pots and pans … on many granites this is not a problem.

    3. Coloring and texture

    Granites are limited to it’s natural coloring, although the black granite is very pure color, you can’t get whites or other fashionable colors with natural stone. With quartz you have no limits to your decoration and design. Although a natural pure black and a quartz black a normal household user can barely tell them apart.

    4. Breakage

    In theory quartz is 4 times less breakable than granite. However I’ve seen strange things happen to quartz, small cracks appear normally next to the cut outs … they say it’s due to tensions the material has … and to
    improper cut out technique

    5. Resistance to chemicals

    The way they publicize quartz it seams it’s indestructable, I believe that there are some chemical agents that can ruin your fine quartz countertop, however the normal kitchen use it’s safe to use. Granite also is ok, the absorption is one of the main problems, although salesmen will tell you the sealer or the impregnator story, personally, it’s best to be on the safe side, you spill it you clean it asap.

    6. Scratch

    As I said before, quartz has a hardness superior to granite, however when dealing with scratching the surface, remember to scratch any surface you’ll need an object that’s harder than it. However I have had some complaints regarding dark quartz … if you rub the bottom of a glass bottle with some intensity you may be able to scratch you quartz countertop, on the lite colours you may not notice this, but dark colours it’ll look really bad.

    7. Cost

    Granite countertops in general are cheaper than the quartz, excluding the special colours in granite. The reason are: Raw material costs and managing left overs. The most common granite is relatively cheap in slab format compared to the quartz, in my country the difference is 20-25€/sqm for granite and 60€/sqm for quartz. Managing the left overs, producing more granite countertops, the odd ends of the slabs are normally used to make other countertops … while quartz is more expensive per sqm and no manufacturer will accept to support the odd end cost…. And their next shipment of quartz may have a slightly different shade.


    8 Things you should read before buying machinery

    Second hand machine, new machines, cnc, cutting machine, milling machine, how to set up your machine shop to make countertops and vanitytops in granite, marble, limestone, engineered stone, or just any stone.
    I want to share some of my experience with you regarding your manufacturing plant, things I think are important while buying machinery and installing them on the shop floor. I've had the privilege to see several stone shops in several countries, and have always used this learning experience to my advantage.
    Regarding your plant I figure you should carefully evaluate what you tend to do and buy your equipment accordingly. So if you plan to work with marble or granite, their might be some differences ... or if you plan to do stairs and risers, or fireplaces ... you'll probably need a different layout and other equipment.
    Things to take in mind when buying equipment and planning layout:
    1. Select the features and the correct machine for the job
    Try to select the correct machine to make the products you intend ... if you buy a more complex machine than you need, you'll be spending unnecessary cash ... don't forget corrosion is very big on stone machinery, as treated water will gradually destroy your perfectly working equipment. And if you buy a feature on a machine that you will not use, maybe you'll have an unpleasant surprise one day.
    2. When buying new or used machinery make certain that the manufacturer has local maintenance teams to help you
    In the stone business I have in the past bought new machinery, I must confess that my experience is in the engineered stone sector, and to get a good polish it's sometimes very difficult with prime stable machines. When buying a used machine, be sure you have the right maintenance and support from the machine manufacturer, this means be sure you have a local office that can satisfy your technical needs or you may be in for a nightmare. A new machine, in theory, will give you a peaceful time in the first 3/4 years, then corrosion will settle in.
    3. A new machine will not be a turn key solution to your problem
    Installing a new machine doesn't necessary mean that you solved a problem, normally you just created a new one. As perfecting the ability to work with the machine may take a few weeks and sometimes hiring trained personnel.
    4. Prepare the installation of the machine to the utmost detail, make sure they follow instructions during installation
    Due to the constant usage of water to lubricate cutting and avoid dust in the floor shop, when installing the machine, prepare a sub-level water sewage system, with a grid on top. A clean and dry workspace is possible, you just have to think ahead.
    5. Space and Simplicity should be taken into account when designing your layout
    When cutting stone or finishing it, lots of useless scrap stone will suddenly appear all over the place ... so study this carefully, you can install conveyor belts to transport the scrap stone out of you shop floor, be careful things might get a little to crowded and with intense traffic. Avoid using forklifts on the shop floor, you can live without them, you just have to figure it out.
    6. Make sure you infra structure is enough to add your new machine, don't want to add some last minute expenses
    Water treatment plant: make sure that your installed capacity is enough to supply your new machinery, or you'll have to increase capacity of your water treatment plant.
    7. Outsource before buying an expensive equipment, make sure your payback is guaranteed
    Before going out and buying new machinery, try to outsource certain features of your final product. Believe me not all features are widely accepted by the market, this way when you go out and buy tooling you'll be getting return immediately.
    8. Design your machine layout following a logic flow of materials
    When installing equipment on the shop floor make sure you define the flow of materials, and buy the machine with the correct production direction, most may be ordered with right or left hand material entrances. I've seen people buying the machine without even looking at this detail, and when the machine arrives ... you're installing it against the flow ...


    Is Silestone the biggest quartz producer?

    The question is Silestone the biggest quartz producer? is a relevant one. In fact many people discuss this topic. In truth to actually achieve the title of the biggest, we really need to breakdown all the information. Many engineered stone plants have several production lines, and some even have different engineered stone plant systems, so I've made a list based on my personal knowledge and all the available information.
    I'm only going to evaluate the companies in the world that use Italian technology, as the Chinese brand has several plants in China which is difficult to give actual data about them.
    Quartz Based Producer that use Italian technology:
    • Silestone: they publicize that their the biggest in the world, I figure they should have 11 or 12 production lines installed
    • Santa Margherita produces about 8.000 sqm every day, I assume it includes marble and quartz based material, as they have both plants operating in the same location.
    • Compac, The Surface Company has a marble based plant in Spain and a Quartz plant in Portugal assumes it has a capacity of 2.5 million sqm per year;
    • Quarella-Verona Italy, says it's the biggest agglomerate producer in the world with a yearly output of 4 million sqm, basically they have marble based plant and quartz based plant. Adding up the marble and the quartz capacity it's probably the biggest in the world, so they say. I have not mentioned Rover or Prestige, as I figure their productions are included in the numbers above.
    • Caeserstone - Israel - Says to have a 2 million sqm yearly capacity, they are the oldest company in Quartz based agglomerate, they started their plant in 1987.
    • Çimstone-Izmir Turkey, 2 lines, no quantity specified.

      • Stone Italiana: no available information about production capacity, but one thing I can tell you, their the most expensive in the market, but also the ones who have cutting-edge products.
      • Okite-Italy: no available information on production capacity
      • Diresco-Belgium: capacity to produce 4.000 sqm per day
      • Sidera - Romania: 100.000 sqm per year
      • Technistone - Czech Republic: 2 production lines and are negotiating to double their production capacity
      • Nexus-Germany: just re-started production ... 1 production line
      • Plaza Stone -Russia
      • TotemQuartz -Iran: 1.000 sqm per shift, needless to say that normal production lines work 3 shifts.
      • Gulf Stone- Oman: no available information regarding production capacity;
      • Zodiaq-USA: no available information
      • Vicostone-Vietnam: They currently have 2 production lines, no available information regarding production capacity
      • HanStone - South Korea: no online information available
      • RomaStone - Taiwan: 98.000 sqm per month although they have a block producing plant and mainly deal in marble based material;
      • RMC-Portugal: have a marble block plant and no available information on production capacity;
      • Yunfu Breton Stone Building Materials - China: 1 block plant to produce marble based material output not available
      • Pokarna - India: no available information regarding production output
      So this is about it, hope I didn't miss any Breton Plant for engineered quartz or engineered marble (which use polyester resin as a bonding agent). The answer to the question of this post is: if you just take the engineered quartz part of the business then Silestone is the biggest in the world, but if you add the engineered marble and look at engineered stone or composite stone as some usually call it, then we have Quarella in the top position.


      How is Silestone made?

      Silestone is a brand of a Spanish Group called Cosentino. The Silestone brand has somehow been associated to the product, and what some call Silestone is in fact an engineered stone. The technology is Italian, from Breton, they have currently about 12 production lines, and have lines specialized per colour. One of the main problems with these plants are the possible contamination that may occur when changing from a dark colour to a light colour, although cleaning is a normal task it's almost impossible to get it 100% clean.
      The mixture uses polyester resin, in different proportions it can vary from 7% to 10% (or even more). What establishes the quantity of resin? ... one variable is the grain size of the filler, the bigger the less resin is necessary for a good mix. Besides, resin, they'll use all types of material ... but mainly quartz. Some companies also use silica sand, the advantages are pricing, but it's not as good as quartz. Other components normally used, crushed glass, colouring pigments, other special stones or minerals to give special effects and chemicals to control the cure and the bonding.
      The secret of the business is how do they do it, as the technology is wide spread, and basically every Breton plant has more or less the same technical capacity ... now not everyone has a whiter white ...


      Compac Quartz & Innovation

      Paying attention to the market is one of my main hobbies, and I figure Compac Quartz and all it's secrecy in the factory in Portugal ... has some innovation regarding the whole industry ...
      In MHO I think that in the next year or so, their will be an apocalypse in the Quartz based agglomerate business ... with strong price reduction ... Why? Well the Chinese are selling material relatively cheap, and the Euro is getting strong ... so I expect to see more and more Chinese material coming into the market ... even though the European producers don't like it, and try to create barriers ...
      Back to the industrial secret, I figure they are exchanging quartz granulates for transparent glass chips ... transparent glass chips has a good behaviour when mixed with other components and it's cheap ... you can get it for less than 0,20€ per kilo ... one sqm of 2 cm slabs weighs about 50kgs (less a bit) ... if 10% is resin ... then you get 5kg x 1,6€/kg=8€ cost for resin ... then you get 45kg of glass x 0,20€= 9€ ... so you get a product costing in theory 17 € raw materials ... now it normally sells in the market to the vanity manufacturer for 50-60€...


      Chinese Quartz Plants vs Breton plants

      What is the difference between Chinese technology and Breton technology?
      Looking at both production lines they are very similar, however MHO Breton still has a great lead, their vacuum compressing system is far more efficient than the one used by the competition.
      Regarding the final product this means less resin used, more natural components per sqm, even though every Chinese producer is complying with CE markings, their quality is not as stable as they make you think ...
      I had the opportunity a few years ago to visit a Bretonstone Block system in China, just to give you an idea of the quality problems that may persist beyond technology ... they had the last generation in Breton Block System ... a system so advanced that maybe only a few European companies had installed at the time ... Although in the finishing line they were about a decade behind ... no calibration, the calibration was measured and assured by sawing, which is not enough ... and the tile cutting equipment was basically done on bridge saws ... So I saw something really spectacular on one end of the factory ... and something really old and useless on the other end ...


      Quarella and the Evo Series

      As I figure, Quarella is doing very hard material with the marble machinery, how? Well I can make an educated guess, feldspar, hard enough to be sawn in the traditional gangsaws ... Although to polish they'll need to use the granite lines to do the job...
      Also, they are supplying 3000x780 mm material, so I guess they have done some restyling of their old gangsaws, so the block can be sawm in several ways, giving you different size slabs ...


      Silestone & Microban

      I heard a rumour during the fair that Silestone is having serious problems with their product. Basically what I understood, was that testing has proven in the US that Microban is not fit. I figure soon more information will be getting around, someone also told me that they have excluded this from their products ... so I'll keep this issue alive and looking out for any related news.