What are porcelain countertops?
Porcelain is a vitrified pottery material that can be opaque or somewhat translucent. Even though the first porcelain is claimed to have been produced during China’s Eastern Han Dynasty, the earliest versions, known as “primitive porcelain,” came into existence during the Shang Dynasty, over a millennium earlier. However, it’s only during the Tang dynasty, between the sixth and ninth centuries, that methods of porcelain making truly matured.
Porcelain is made from heating a mix of powdered China stone and white China clay, also known as kaolin, at about 1450°C. The high temperature causes the China stone to vitrify into a dense, highly durable material, while the object retains its shape thanks to the kaolin. Impurities such as silica, mineral oxides, and feldspars exist in the clay, but rather than detracting from the porcelain’s quality, they add to its strength and color.
When porcelain slabs are manufactured for use in countertops, they’re coated with a pigmented glaze. This is to give them an aesthetic appeal similar to that of natural stone or even marble.
- Heat Endurance – After enduring such high fabrication temperatures, it makes sense that one advantage is its heat resistance. You should have no problem handling hot pots and pans even when you place them directly on a porcelain countertop.
- Durability and Hardness – As mentioned earlier, porcelain is stronger than the hardiest granite – almost 30% stronger in fact. Porcelain’s tough structure also makes it scratch resistant. You can even slice and dice food right on it without worrying about your knives damaging the surface. However, you may want to stay away from cleaving meat.
- Low Water Absorption – Porcelain is virtually impervious to water. According to the Tile Council of North America, its absorption rate is less than 0.5%. So, don’t stress too much about wiping spills off the counter the moment they occur.
- Easy Maintenance – Besides being easy to keep clean, porcelain is also non-porous and stain resistant. That’s music to a countertop owner’s ears because it means no sealing is required. Quality porcelain used to make countertops is scratchproof, along with being heatproof and highly durable.
- UV Light Resistance – One major advantage porcelain has over quartz is that direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight won’t discolor it. What a relief when you can design your kitchen countertop layout free from worrying about where the windows are located.
- Colors and Patterns – Depending on the manufacturer, you may have numerous color choices thanks to the help of natural pigments. As porcelain is an engineered stone, patterns and colors can be added during the fabrication process. You can get a porcelain countertop with a solid color or, if you want, one whose surface mimic’s marble. That way you get the look of marble at many times its durability.
You can make your porcelain countertop look like the material of your choice, including marble, wood grain, concrete finishes, or rusted steel, and it will still appear quite natural.
- Size and Thickness – You may wonder whether a material as durable as porcelain must also be extremely thick, but that’s not the case.
Porcelain is a very lightweight material with several installation options. What’s more, you can get extra-large porcelain slabs manufactured so fewer seams are required. This makes the material a good choice when you want to create a single slab cover look for the entire kitchen island.
- Environmentally Friendly – Finally, one of porcelain’s biggest plusses is its greenness. It’s a 100% natural product made of raw and clay-based materials, so it’s nice to know you’ll be able to recycle it one day.
- Easy to Crack – Porcelain countertops have few cons. One is that it will crack under blunt force. It’s strong but not that strong. As long as you don’t take a hammer or a meat cleaver to it, it’ll be fine.
- Edge Styles – Porcelain also has limited but unique countertop edge profile options compared with other materials. The usual edges, such as round, beveled, straight, cover or waterfall, are available. You can also get the edges mitered to create a consistent pattern, the most common choice being a square edge. Since porcelain countertops are thinner than others, a mitered edge is a good choice to give the illusion of a thicker slab.
- The Cost – Price is a major consideration as it can be more expensive than Granite or Quartz. The countertop fabrication process is always a lot trickier when you’re working with high-density materials. Even finding the right fabricator for the full-sized slabs is difficult since the material is so thin. And the good news is that once installed, your maintenance cost is very low. A high-quality porcelain countertop is a versatile and durable product that gives you high performance and isn’t difficult to install. Since it’s stylish, resistant to daily wear and tear, and comes in various colors and patterns, it can be the perfect addition to your decor. Though it has some disadvantages, in the long run, the pros outweigh the cons. And with proper planning and care, they can be the most fashionable and practical decision you can make when it comes to your kitchen.