Hello, readers! Welcome back to the Stonehouse Countertops blog! We’re pleased you’ve chosen Stonehouse Countertops for everything you need to know about custom countertop materials. We provide comprehensive deep dives into various aspects of the design and installation process, as well as helpful tips for choosing the best material for your home. Our goal is to equip you with the information you need to commission the perfect countertops! Stonehouse Countertops carries an array of granite, marble, quartz, quartzite, soapstone, silestone, limestone, travertine, onyx, glass, sodalite, slate, and porcelain slabs in its inventory. In addition to countertops, we offer fireplace surrounds, patios, floors, and walls. Whatever your design goals, we’re happy to help you achieve your unique vision!
Our last article, ‘All About Granite,’ was a continuation of a new series here on the Stonehouse Countertop blog. While granite is still the most popular countertop material on the market today, the reasons for its popularity may not be what you would expect. We took a trip down memory lane to see how granite has been used since ancient times for building and construction purposes. Then, we quoted various experts for their opinions on why granite is such a smart investment. We discussed granite’s versatility, durability, and grading system—all of which is need-to-know information for those looking to have granite countertops installed! We’ll be continuing our ‘All About’ series, tackling materials like limestone and quartz, in the near future. Be sure to check back in!
Today we’re discussing a topic which has been sorely underrepresented on the internet: outdoor countertops. Most people assume outdoor countertops are no different than indoor countertops and most people would be wrong. Outdoor countertops are a different breed of countertop altogether and require proper planning to ensure they last for many years to come. From choosing the right material to specialized installation techniques, there’s a host of choices involved in ensuring outdoor countertops are able to withstand the elements. As well, depending on your lifestyle, certain styles of countertop may suit your needs better than others. Fall is the perfect time to install and enjoy outdoor countertops, as well! If you’re unsure where to start or are in need of a few ideas, we have you covered. Look no further!
The first and perhaps most pivotal choice when installing custom countertops outdoors is the choice of material. Why? Well, certain materials simply won’t be able to handle constant sunlight and precipitation without tarnishing. For example, quartz is an excellent, engineered stone. Indoors, its heat and scratch-resistant nature make this stone the perfect choice for frequent bakers. One might assume quartz countertops would be a wonderful accompaniment to a grill station, but unfortunately many manufactured materials such as quartz are not UV-resistant. Eventually, with daily exposure to UV rays from the sun, the added color in the stone will change. This can lead to clashing design elements or a “tarnished look.” That’s why it’s important to speak with the manufacturer of the quartz and ask if its colorings are UV-resistant. If you want something in the quartz family which is UV-resistant, try quartz’s natural cousin: quartzite. Quartzite is as hard as granite and a great option for those who want the look of marble without the constant threat of staining. While quartzite will not tarnish in the sun, it’s not as heat-resistance as other options. You’ll need to invest in pot holders for outdoor cooking.
Similarly, intensely veined granite is often treated with epoxies and fillers, both of which can have an adverse reaction to sunlight. That said, granite is still an excellent choice for outdoor countertops. Granite will not fade over time, nor will it stain or absorb odor easily. Porous stones, such as limestone and marble, readily absorb liquids (such as grease and wine), leading to stubborn stains. Any stone material placed in an outdoor setting will benefit from sealing, but less porous materials are a much safer bet. Once sealed properly, granite will not mold or mildew. Granite is also quite hard and durable, which means these countertops can stand up to anything Mother Nature throws their way, without chipping or cracking.
Since these countertops will be exposed to wind, rain, snow, sleet, and animal excrement, materials which can be kept easily clean are preferable. Soapstone is a bacteria-resistant, chemically neutral option which will not stain easily. Its neutrality means it’ll hold up to exposure to acidic foods (i.e. tomatoes, lemons, vinegar) and acidic rains. Similar to soapstone installed indoors, the stone will require regular application of mineral oil to ensure even darkening. (Although, some homeowners prefer to allow soapstone to darken naturally and develop an uneven pattina for aesthetic purposes.) Soapstone is a relatively soft material, however. Knives and other sharp objects pose a risk of scratching its susceptible surface. These scratches can be easily buffed out with a piece of sandpaper. While darker soapstone distributes heat well, most darker stones will absorb heat from the sun and be hot to the touch. Keep this in mind when choosing your countertop material.
Once you’ve decided on a material which can withstand the elements and suit your lifestyle needs, you’ve taken care of the functionality aspect of design. Now, you can move on to the fun part: style. The style of your outdoor kitchen will certainly affect how much time you spend there and how likely you are to value your investment. Countertops alone do not make an entire kitchen—indoors or outdoors. What will you surround your countertops with to emphasize their unique beauty? How will you structure your outdoor space? Unlike most home kitchens, outdoor kitchens are often renovation projects. This means homeowners have near complete control over how they want their outdoor kitchen space to look.
Our first design tip is to continue the stone trend by surrounding your stone countertops with another type of stone. You might erect a stone-brick wall around the kitchen area or a stone fireplace as a focal point. It’s important to choose a different type of stone than the one you choose for the countertops, as this will provide much-needed contrast. You can also deck out the ground with stone patio flooring. Not only is a stone-based outdoor kitchen durable and practical, it’s also incredibly timeless. While stainless steel can scratch and glass can discolor over time, well-kept stone patios are likely to keep their appearance for decades.
Play around with shapes and patterns. A mixture of veined marble and herringbone patio tiles may be just the thing to elevate your outdoor lounge space from backyard to best yard. Hexagonal tile backsplash, horizontal wood retaining walls, and unconventional layouts are a few ways to make your outdoor space unique.
Always take into consideration the flora and fauna of your surroundings. While some outdoor kitchens will be surrounded by greenery, others will sit smack dab in the middle of the desert. Bringing in trees, plants, and flowers native to your area can make an outdoor kitchen feel less sterile and more in tune with nature. Landscaping is an art unto itself; certain principles utilized by landscape designers, such as feng shui and genius loci, can be used by you to add culture to your outdoor space.
Also take into account how much room you’ll need to cook, relax, and play with your family. Do you want the kitchen to take up the entire backyard? If not, will there be enough room for you to move around comfortably? How many guests do you plan on entertaining at one time? The last thing you want is to invest in an outdoor kitchen you never use. Ask yourself the necessary questions and plan accordingly.
Finally, similar to indoor countertops, height, depth, thickness, and edge profile are all important decisions to be made. While the edge profile and thickness can be the difference between sleek countertops and formidable ones, the height and depth play a large role in functionality. Multi-height countertops allow for more versatility and interaction with others while cooking, while depth dictates just how much food you’ll be able to keep on the countertop. Once again, plan accordingly.
There’s no better time than the present to begin planning your outdoor kitchen. Whether fully equipped with the amenities you would find inside or merely a place to dine al fresco, outdoor kitchens can increase your enjoyment of your outdoor space. We hope we’ve given you the information you need to get started! At Stonehouse Countertops, we are willing and able to work with you to your specifications. We offer a wide range of different materials and always have someone on hand to answer your questions! Don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation or for help forming a plan. We want to ensure your vision becomes a reality! Tune back in for further articles in our ‘All About’ series. Until next time—thanks for reading!