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Porcelain slabs

The newest countertop category is new enough that there still isn’t a good name for it.  I’ve heard sintered surfaces, ultra-compact slabs, large format porcelain, and a few others.  The main brands available today are Dekton, Neolith and Lapitec.  All come from Europe.  There are a few others, Crossville, Laminam, Fiandre, etc, still most of them coming from Europe, but a few manufacturers are popping up in the USA.

The range of colors and textures that can be achieved with this porcelain is incredible. We have already seen polished, matte, and a bunch of different textured finishes. There are solid colors, woods, limestones in greys and beiges, worn metals, and a bunch of natural stone looks, not least among them the coveted Calacatta and Estatuario marbles.  Some of the marble slabs have different patterns and can be had in book-matched slabs in both the polished and honed finishes.

The main characteristics of these materials are its extreme resistance to scratching, staining, high and low temperatures, chemicals, UV rays, acid, fire, and pretty much everything else. It can be used for anything from countertops to exterior building cladding.  Between that we use it for shower walls, backsplashes, fireplaces, and outdoor kitchens.  We have heard reports on the internet of it chipping easily, but if you come down hard enough with something heavy enough on any sharp corner, it will chip.

The biggest restriction of the material is that you are limited to a square edge or a mitered edge (except on Lapitec). It is also not through-body (except Lapitec), which means you lose the color and texture on the edges. Luckily square edges seem to be the preferred edge these days, so its not so bad.

The other risk with this material is that it is difficult to work with.  Proper equipment and a knowledge of the material is a must for the fabricator/installer. If edges are not eased enough, it will definitely chip, and the material is difficult to repair. Mitering and seams cannot be done by hand consistently.  The saw bed needs to be flat and level, blades need to be tested and replaced often, and installation needs to be well planned.  The slabs need to be trimmed on all sides or it can crack during fabrication, installation, or worse yet, after it is installed. On all specialty surfaces, we highly recommend visiting the fabrication shop you are using to ensure they are capable of working with the material. It is also worthwhile to speak to the fabricator to make sure it is the right product for you. Almost every issue involving this material is a result of bad work being done or the end user not understanding the properties of the material.