Wednesday, November 29, 2006

'Engineered Stone'

Or as we call it, Engineered Gravel, which is exactly what it is.
[We also call it 'Fat Formica']


Back in the 1950s, Mr. Breton of Italy began mining what he thought was going to be a quarry for quartz slabs. Much to his chagrin, they netted no slabs, only loose quartz gravel. Clever guy that he was, he formulated a way to make molds for the loose gravel and then pour a thin epoxy glue into the mold to hold the gravel together. Thus, engineered gravel became a reality. In Italy, one of the world capitals of stone working and processing, it began to get an increasing market share. Then suddenly, it's market share began to tumble as people began to realize it's inherent weaknesses. This pattern has repeated around the world.

The Bretons would allow only one manufacturer per country in the beginning. That way, they could control the competition. A clever idea. However, recently, there have been an explosion of EG providers, from all over the world. All with the same basic premise as Breton's. There have been 'innovations' put into the mix of materials used. Metal washers, mirrors, oyster shells, mother of pearl et all. But still, the key ingredient is the glue.

The Mantra

The EG people bleat that it is 92-97% quartz. In a jaded fashion, that is true. But, that is measured by weight, not surface area as they are inferring. Most quartz is sort of milky white in color. The color in EG is achieved via tinting the glue. If it was 92% quartz, all their products would be a milky white color.

'Never needs to be sealed, like Granite'... A double negative. There are some EGs that require sealing. There are some Granites that you CAN'T seal. You can try, but it won't go in. If you have been taken in by the Sealer Squealers, ask us for a granite that won't require sealing. We have plenty of them. Or, if you have mastered the use of a spray bottle, a watch and a rag, you can spend 10 minutes every 10 years and reseal your stone. Or, you can believe some of the Italian stone experts, who say most granites don't need a sealer.

Our last house had Kashmir White Granite, from India, in it. Kashmir White, in my trade, is known as a 'sponge' of a stone. For a granite, it is very soft. If any stone is going to stain, it would be this one. 7 years, no sealer, no stains. Coffee, red wine, cooking oils, Kool-Aid etc. all graced it's face. Looked brand new when we moved.

'Thermal Shock'. aka- Heat. Don't you dare take a hot pot or pan fresh from a heat source and put it on any EG. Within seconds, you'll have a lasting reminder of that moment. You can't hurt the quartz, but that glue is very soft. It will melt away leaving traces of VOC in the air. That's Haz-Mat stuff. Very nasty.
With Granite, no worries. I mean NONE.

Hardness, or rather Softness

Hardness of materials are measured on the moh scale. The hardest is diamond, a '10'. The softest is talc, a '1'. Granites run from '6'-'8'. Quartz is a '7'. Epoxy glue is a '3'. Very soft. On Granite, you can use every knive in your drawer to cut on it. They'll all end up dull, but the Granite will be fine. Don't do it on EG. If you hit the glue, there will be a 'memory' forever.

UV Light

UV light has no effect on Granite. It has a seriously negative effect on EG. The reason? The most expensive component of EG is the glue, therefore, they use the least expensive glue possible. [You can check with Tenax USA- they supply most of the glue in the industry] The least expensive glue, as you might imagine, has no UV inhibitors in it. Therefore, you can't use EG outside or in front of any window that does not inhibit UV light, or any product DuPont or their competitors makes, either. Same deal.
How many 'engineered' products do you see in graveyards? Zero. It's all natural stone. Now, you know why.

Dr. Hansel

Dr. Hans Dieter Hansel, a renowned geologist from Australia, has studied and written numerous articles on this subject. One of his articles is here:
Copy and paste.
His basic analogy is that EG is the particle board of the lumber industry. As you probably know, most people don't use particle board for much of anything anymore.

Follow the Money

Now, there are people who have millions of dollars invested in the production and marketing of this product. They are not stupid.
They will pay newsreaders to tell you how great it is. It is not.
They will pay designers on television to tell you how pretty it is. It is not.
They will spend tons on Home Improvement magazines to show you that it is THE choice for kitchen countertops. It is not.
They will affiliate with Box Stores and have pimple-faced clerks tell you it is WAY better than Granite. It is not.

We are in the business of improving your home and your investment. We are not about to put a product into your home that won't perform. EG would be fine for a bathroom, where there is nothing sharp or hot, but certainly not in a kitchen.


Burns, Scratches and Fades. So, if your kitchen has no windows, and you don't use an oven or cooktop, and don't use knives in food prepartion, you'll be just fine....No worries.

Real Estate Advertising

Next time you think of it, pick up a newspaper or magazine advertising homes. Take a look for a phrase you won't find: 'Synthetic Stone countertops' or 'Engineered Stone countertops'. Why not? You'll certainly see the words Granite or Marble or Natural Stone. I wonder Why?
Oh, that's right. They add value to your most expensive investment.
Take a look at the facts. They don't lie. Marketers, on the other hand,....

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