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Counter choice often a question of uniqueness vs. practicality

By Steamboat Homefinder
Some of the natural stone samples at Grasso Glass & Stone in Steamboat Springs. (Photo by Steamboat Homefinder).

When it comes to kitchen countertops, preference often comes down to the simple question of beauty vs. practicality. 

Greg Grasso has been working in the countertop space in Steamboat Springs for about two decades and has owned his own business, Grasso Glass & Stone, for about 15 years. 

He is passionate about his craft and gets excited when talking about the natural stones at his disposal. But even as he marvels at the qualities of natural stone, he recognizes their real-world limits when compared to “engineered” materials such as quartz. Unlike quartzite, which is a natural material, quartz is engineered using crystals from quartzite bound with resins and other materials in pursuit of strength and consistency. 

Grasso said natural stones like limestone, marble and quartzites provide “the opportunity to get a unique piece unavailable to anyone else. It comes from the earth and it’s a one-of-a-kind thing.”

“My bias is toward natural stone even though it is a little heavier and fickle to work with,” Grasso said. “But they offer a uniqueness that the engineered products can’t attain.” 

The challenge with natural stones, Grasso said, is their softer and more porous composition can be more susceptible to damage, whether it’s a moisture ring left by a glass or scratches from a sharp object. Engineered materials, however, tend to be more resilient and forgiving. 

“That’s where the engineered materials received their initial foothold within the countertop industry, as a replacement for materials there were susceptible to damage,” Grasso said. 

Engineered materials have grown in popularity recently because they tend to be cheaper and forgiving. But they don’t handle heat as well as natural stone. And Grasso is seeing a trend toward refinishing natural stone to repair blemishes or alter finishes, a process that allows homeowners to vary the looks of their countertops – something impossible with engineered materials. 

“Natural stones come in a lot of surface finishes,” Grasso said. “Some of the terms are like leathered, caressed, honed – these are all surface textures. But you can vary the surface sheen of natural stone in many different ways by applying different finishes. It’s a way to change the look compared to engineered material.”  


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