I've been admonished recently for not updating this blog very frequently. Probably true.
I'm going to talk about some stuff we've been doing for the past year and a half that, while not new, is certainly new in our market.
When the people who make engineered stone [aka gravel] started squawking about radon and radiation, it really re-infuriated me since this is an old scam that first surfaced about the time gravel hit the market. Marketing against something instead of for something. So, I began researching exactly what their product was and how it is made. A staggering array of chemicals involved. From what the chemists tell me, the vast number of individual components are present to counteract some of the nasty tendencies of the other ingredients.
But, when you boil it down, it is quartz [for the most part- there are other types of natural additives in offshoot products] and colored plastic glue. The colored plastic glue is where the color comes from. Frankly, that is the only advantage the product has. You can get some cool, radical color schemes from their offerings. So, you can have blue oatmeal or green oatmeal or teal oatmeal....
IDEA. I won't go into boring details, but the plastic glue is resin, of which there are a number of types. Resin is present in most natural stone slabs. I've discussed this before, but suffice to say it increases the yield of the slab suppliers.
Certain types of resins are designed to embrace color. An example of this is the glue used for seaming countertops together. Most people color the seam glue to match the base color of the countertop. Makes it less visible.
The Italians, Brazilians, Indians and Chinese routinely dye stone. They won't tell you they do it, but any fabricator who has been around for awhile knows they do it. When the surface of the stone is a deep yellow, then you cut and process it and the edge remains white, that is a fairly clear indication of a dyed stone. There is nothing innately wrong with combining the resin and color aside from the fact that it is a total misrepresentation to both the US supplier and the US fabricator. There are solutions to it, but it is basically dishonest.
This is the background on how the idea came to life. We now inject color into the resin of the slabs and can come up with some very unique offerings that no one else can duplicate. There
are all kinds of nuances and natural characteristics that come into play that influence your results, but we can do some fairly amazing transformations.
We've got some really unique looking stuff that has just landed from Brazil. If you don't understand the potential, you'd be freaked looking at the natural material. As we see it here within the next week or so, I'll chronicle a transformation.
Is it permanent? Yes, for indoor use only.
Will it fade? It can't when used inside. UV light is the enemy, not so much for the dyes [as they are all natural], but for the resin. All resins eventually surrender in UV light. There are some inroads being made in this regard, but I'll wait for long term tests before I get on that bandwagon.
Is it food safe? Absolutely. Along this avenue, we are pursuing an anti-microbial ingredient to add to the mixture for those that are concerned about such things.
Can this process be done to countertop's that are in someone's home? The process is done to whole slabs over a series of days in our shop. We have tinted stone in the field with an offshoot of the overall process. But, 'tint' is the key word. Subtle shading would be another apt phrase. It does not compare to what we can do in a controlled environment.
Do the edges match the surface color? That is the key to it. Since we know what the infused color was, we use the same color to treat the edges. Everything matches. Then, we put a couple of specially designed sealers on the edges. [The color won't move no matter what you do to it, but the 2 sealers are the very best offered on the market. The final sealer is actually said to prohibit UV instability, but I'm not willing to go there just yet.]
We've got some tests going on right now for marble. Since it's getting more and more popular here in the States, we're trying some new techniques to guard against it's natural tendency to etch. Too early for details.
[BTW, some of that pink and blue and green marble you see from Italy began it's life as a gray or white. Been happening for years.]