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.