Polished concrete vs natural stone worktops

by Sam Shaw

Natural stone such as granite and Marble have been used for years to create that luxurious finishing touch to our homes in the form of solid and robust kitchen worktops. With a growing awareness of the environmental problems resulting from opencast mineral and stone mining in recent years people have looked to home grown and man made alternatives to provide that same deluxe finish and top of the list in our opinion is our old building companion; concrete. So we wanted to make your decision a little easier by wading through the facts. We are leaving the aesthetics to one side today whilst we drill into the practicalities.

The first and most confusing question for comparison; which material is the most environmentally friendly? Both concrete and natural stone can mildly pollute water and air through their manufacture although it should be said that we can manage and monitor the pollution caused by concrete production here in the UK better than we can granite mining in somewhere like Brazil.

What about CO2? Concrete requires a lot of heat and therefore produces a lot of CO2 during its manufacture whilst granites carbon footprint is largely due to its transportation. For every 1 ton of concrete produced, 100KG of CO2 is released into the atmosphere and during its lifetime it re-absorbs up to 50%, so taking the long view; 1 ton of concrete produces 50kg of CO2. Emissions through transporting freight are much more difficult to calculate but according to a study carried out by the Logistics Research Centre, Heriot-Watt University; transporting 1 ton of waterborne freight 1 mile emits 56g of CO2, so transporting your 1 ton of stone 890 miles would produce the same CO2 as manufacturing 1 ton of concrete.

When compared to stone imported from outside the British Isles then it is fair to say that Concrete is the most environmentally friendly material. This difference becomes more pronounced when you consider that concrete worktops can be cast around a foam or similar core therefore reducing the amount of concrete used as well making them easier and cheaper to transport.

The next major consideration when deciding between these two materials is that of durability and maintenance. Concrete is a naturally porous material and needs to be sealed during the polishing process, this protective layer is susceptible to corrosion from mild acid such as lemon juice and also staining, so care needs to be taken to mop up any spillages after they happen. The same can be said for sedimentary and Carboniferous stones such as sandstones and marbles all of which have to be sealed due to their porous qualities and in the case of Marble; can very easily stain. The clear winner here are the igneous rocks; granites. Granite is non porous, incredibly hard and resilient to marking. Whilst you still need to be wary with hot pans and red wine, if durability is top of your priority list then Granite must be a consideration.

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