What Is Sintered Stone? A Complete Guide

Sintered stone is a man-made composite material that has the look and feel of natural stone. It is composed of natural materials that are compacted under heat and pressure to form a durable, non-porous surface. Sintered stone is an ideal material for kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, floor and wall tile, and other applications where the beauty and durability of natural stone is desired.

How Is Sintered Stone Made?

The production of sintered stone involves a multi-step process that mimics the natural metamorphic processes that create materials like slate and quartzite. Here is an overview of the sintered stone manufacturing process:

  • Quarrying of Raw Materials – The process begins with the quarrying of the raw natural materials needed to create sintered stone slabs. These typically include clays, feldspar, silica sand, and other natural mineral components.
  • Blending – The quarried materials are ground into powders and blended together in specific proportions to achieve the desired color, texture, and performance properties in the finished product. Pigments may be added in this stage to introduce color.
  • Compacting – The blended powder mixture is then compacted into molds under extremely high pressure. This compacting process removes air pockets and compresses the powder into a dense, non-porous slab.
  • Firing – The compacted slabs are then fired at high temperatures ranging from 1100°F to 2000°F. This bonds the materials and crystallizes the minerals, creating a strong sintered material.
  • Polishing and Finishing – After the firing process, the slabs are polished and finished using diamond abrasives. This brings out the color, luster, and smooth texture of the final sintered stone product. Additional treatments like staining or sealing may be applied.
  • Quality Control – Throughout the process, quality control steps are taken to ensure the material meets durability, safety, and aesthetic standards. Sintered stone slabs are tested for stain, scratch, and chemical resistance.
  • Slab Cutting – The finished sintered stone slabs are then cut into countertop, tile, or other product dimensions using specialized cutting tools. The material can be precision cut for a seamless installation.

So in summary, sintered stone starts as natural mineral components that are subjected to high heat and pressure to produce stone-like slabs that can replicate the look of slate, limestone, granite, and other stones. The sintering process sets the materials and allows shaping and polishing.

What Are the Benefits of Sintered Stone?

Sintered stone offers homeowners, builders, and designers a number of advantages and benefits compared to natural stone and other solid surface materials:

  • Durability – The compacting and heating process makes sintered stone extremely durable and resistant to chipping, scratches, and everyday wear and tear. The dense non-porous material is tougher than many natural stones.
  • Low Maintenance – Sintered stone’s non-porous surface makes it stain, scratch, heat, and chemical resistant. It is easy to clean and does not require regular sealing or polishing to maintain its appearance.
  • Color Consistency – The ability to use pigments and control the manufacturing process allows sintered stone to have uniform and consistent color tones from slab to slab. Natural stone can vary in veining, shading, and markings.
  • Customizable Aesthetic – Manufacturers can closely mimic the look of popular natural stones, like marble, slate, onyx, and sandstone. More unique visual styles can also be achieved.
  • Affordability – Sintered stone is more affordable than many natural stone options since it does not require specialized quarrying and limited material is not a factor. More elaborate designs can be created cost-effectively.
  • Sustainable – Because it utilizes abundant natural minerals and materials, sintered stone is an eco-friendly product. There is little waste in the manufacturing process also. It’s a green alternative to quarried stone.
  • Ease of Installation – Sintered stone’s lightweight yet sturdy slabs are easier to handle and install than heavy natural stone. There is less risk of cracking, chipping, or breaking during fabrication and handling.

How Does Sintered Stone Compare to Other Kitchen Countertop Materials?

Sintered stone stacks up well against natural stone, quartz, solid surface, laminate, and other top countertop materials on performance, aesthetics, and cost criteria. Here is how it compares:

Sintered Stone vs. Granite Countertops

  • Sintered stone is more scratch and stain resistant than natural granite. It does not require regular sealing.
  • The color and patterns are more consistent in sintered stone versus granite’s natural variations.
  • Sintered stone installation does not require heavy supports or bracing like some granite slabs.
  • Granite is still more heat resistant but sintered stone holds up well to moderate heat. Prone to cracking and chipping if dropped.
  • Sintered stone is typically more affordable than most granite. Exotic granite can be cost prohibitive.

Sintered Stone vs. Quartz Countertops

  • Sintered stone is comparable to quartz in durability and performance. Both are resistant to scratches, stains, and heat.
  • Quartz has a more modern, uniform look while sintered stone mimics natural stone aesthetics.
  • Sintered stone is generally a little more affordable than high-end quartz options.
  • Quartz requires less sealing and maintenance overall.

Sintered Stone vs. Marble Countertops

  • Sintered stone is much more scratch and stain resistant than natural marble. Marble requires diligent sealing.
  • The complex veining and color patterns of marble are hard to duplicate in sintered stone.
  • Sintered stone can closely mimic the look of popular white marbles.
  • Marble is prone to etching from acidic foods and liquids. Sintered stone is unaffected.
  • Sintered stone maintains its appearance without polishing unlike marble which needs refinishing.

Sintered Stone vs. Laminate Countertops

  • Sintered stone has superior durability, stain resistance, and scratch resistance compared to laminate.
  • Laminate has a classic retro look that sintered stone cannot precisely duplicate.
  • High-pressure laminate is very affordable versus sintered stone being a mid-range option.
  • The variations and colors of sintered stone appear more natural than laminate’s uniform appearance.
  • Laminate requires gentle cleaning while sintered stone can handle heavy duty cleaners.

Sintered Stone vs. Solid Surface Countertops

  • Both sintered stone and solid surface are non-porous, seamless, and durable options.
  • Sintered stone has more color variations and a more natural appearance than solid surface.
  • Solid surface typically costs less than sintered stone on average.
  • Solid surface can be repaird and refinished while sintered stone chips and cracks usually need replacement.
  • Sintered stone excels in replicating the look of popular stones that solid surface cannot.

So in summary, sintered stone brings the luxe look of natural stone coupled with the durability and ease of maintenance of engineered composites. It provides an attractive middle ground option for homeowners. It most closely compares to quartz but with added customization and aesthetic possibilities.

What Are the Applications for Sintered Stone?

Thanks to its versatile performance properties and beautiful appearance, sintered stone is commonly used in the following applications:

  • Kitchen Countertops – The high durability and stain resistance along with customizable colors and textures make sintered stone an ideal countertop material for kitchens. It provides the look of stone with easier maintenance.
  • Bathroom Vanity Tops – For the same reasons as kitchen counters, sintered stone makes an excellent vanity top choice. The non-porous material won’t harbor bacteria and stands up to water.
  • Backsplashes – Sintered stone tiles make for gorgeous and practical kitchen or bathroom backsplashes. The material resists grease, water marks, and splattering. Easy to wipe down.
  • Fireplace Surrounds – Sintered stone slabs and tiles lend an elegant look to fireplace surrounds and hearths. Provides heat resistance and durability.
  • Floor Tiles – Sintered stone floor tiles replicate popular stones like marble, slate, travertine, and limestone but with more durability for high traffic areas. Provides a seamless look.
  • Shower Walls – Sintered stone brings the high-end look of natural stone to shower walls with improved water resistance and easier cleaning. Maintains its beauty.
  • Outdoor Kitchens – Excellent for low-maintenance outdoor kitchen countertops and surfaces. Does not fade or deteriorate in outdoor environments like natural stone.
  • Furniture and Decor – Sintered stone tabletops, shelving, urns, wall panels, and other decorative items capture the stone look with lighter weight.

So in summary, sintered stone can fulfill the aesthetic and functional needs of both residential and commercial applications calling for a durable, low-maintenance stone appearance.

What Are the Limitations of Sintered Stone?

While sintered stone provides an impressive combination of beauty, durability, and practicality, the material does have some limitations to consider:

  • Heat Resistance – While resistant to moderate heat, sintered stone can crack, scorch, or discolor under very high temperatures. Not suitable near stoves or for baking surfaces.
  • Outdoor Freeze-Thaw – Sintered stone tiles used outdoors in cold climates need proper installation to avoid cracking and failure from freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Whitewater Staining – Sintered stone with a high concentrations of silica sand filler can develop whitewater stains when exposed to acidic substances like lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Seams – Tile installations of sintered stone have more visible seams than solid slab sintered stone counters. The seams must be properly sealed.
  • Price – While generally more affordable than natural stone, sintered stone still comes at a higher price point than laminates or ceramic/porcelain tile.
  • Repairability – Damaged sintered stone is difficult to repair. Cracks and chips normally require replacement of the damaged section.
  • Custom Fabrication – Sintered stone requires professional digital templating and fabrication. It does not allow for simpler DIY cutting like some materials.

What Should I Look for in a Quality Sintered Stone?

To ensure optimal performance and beauty, check that any sintered stone product meets these quality standards:

  • Dense and Non-Porous – A quality sintered stone should be over 95% non-porous, without pits or air pockets, ensuring strength, stain resistance, and cleanability.
  • Water Absorption < 0.1% – High-quality sintered stone absorbs minimal moisture, keeping the material dimensionally stable in any environment.
  • Four Point Flexural Strength > 40 MPa – Look for a high flexural strength rating that indicates durability and ability of the stone to span unsupported.
  • Hardness of >6 Mohs Scale – Mohs scale quantifies scratch resistance. Quality sintered stone should rank at least 6 out of 10 to resist cuts and abrasions.
  • UV Stable Colors – A quality sintered stone manufacturer will use UV-stable pigments to prevent fading or discoloration over time.
  • Stain, Chemical, and Scratch Resistant – The material should provide high resistance to household stains, cleaners, bathroom chemicals, scratches, and scuffs.
  • NSF Certified – Certification by this public health organization indicates safety and sanitation for kitchen and bathroom uses.

Always check the manufacturer’s technical specifications for sintered stone to ensure it suitable for the intended application. Inspect stone slabs or tiles carefully prior to purchase and installation.

What Are the Top Sintered Stone Brands?

Some of the leading and most reputable brands for sintered stone countertops, tiles, and other applications include:

  • LG Viatera – Offers a beautiful collection of sintered stone slabs that mimic natural marble, quartzite, onyx, and other stones. Known for innovation and quality.
  • Dekton – This brand by Cosentino provides industrial strength sintered stone in a range of colors and patterns for indoor and outdoor uses.
  • Lapitec – Specializes in large format sintered stone slabs for seamless applications like kitchen islands, floors, walls, facades and more.
  • Neolith – Produces unique sintered stone with striking visual textures, patterns, and colors for architectural and design projects.
  • Cimstone – Leading company for precision machined and polished sintered stone surfaces. Carries an extensive color collection.
  • Lithos – Offers design-forward sintered stone for fashionable residential and commercial spaces with a focus on sustainability.

Be sure to research sintered stone brands thoroughly to find the right colors, style, and quality for your specific needs. Many brands offer extensive galleries and resources to view options.

How Much Does Sintered Stone Cost?

Like most home design materials, sintered stone has a range of price points based on factors like:

  • Brand – The product quality, name recognition, and reputation of the brand impacts cost. Premium designer brands charge more.
  • Color and Style – Unique colors and stone styles like marble or granite patterns cost more than uniform tones and textures.
  • Thickness – Thicker sintered stone slabs (2cm+) are more robust and cost more than thinner versions.
  • Fabrication – Intricate cutouts, edge details, cooking surfaces, and other fabrication increase costs.
  • Installer – Hiring an experienced fabricator and installer usually costs more than a basic contractor.

On average, expect to pay $50 – $100 per square foot for sintered stone countertops installed. Similar to quartz, but less than exotic natural stones. Custom designs can reach $200+ per square foot.

Sintered stone tiles typically range from $8 – $30 per square foot depending on size, thickness, and style. Similar or lower cost than high-end porcelain or ceramic.

Always get quotes from several sintered stone vendors to compare pricing. Consider value, not just cost.

Does Sintered Stone Add Resale Value?

Like granite, marble, and other high-end building materials, sintered stone can potentially boost the value of a home and attract buyers. Features that add value include:

  • Durable, low-maintenance countertops and surfaces
  • Luxurious natural stone aesthetics and textures
  • Consistent colors and minimal visible seams
  • Higher-end styles like marble looks in kitchens
  • Coordination of surfaces throughout the home
  • Sintered stone flooring and walls in bathrooms

Since sintered stone is still an emerging category, exact resale value will depend on homebuyer tastes and trends in your local market.

For the biggest return on investment, use sintered stone surfaces in key areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Avoid loud colors or bold patterns that may polarize buyers. Maintain and care for the stone properly.

Sintered stone adds more resale value compared to laminate or ceramic tile surfaces. But likely less than exotic natural stones like granite and marble in premium markets.

What’s the Best Way to Clean and Care for Sintered Stone?

To keep sintered stone counters, tiles, and surfaces looking like new:

  • Routine Cleaning – Use a mild soap and water for day-to-day cleaning. Wipe down with a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid abrasive cleaning pads.
  • Grease and Grime – Degrease with an all-purpose, non-bleach cleaner and soft scrub brush or Magic Eraser. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Disinfecting – Use a dilute bleach solution if desired to kill bacteria. Rinse afterward to avoid residue buildup.
  • Sealing – Resealing is not required but can provide added stain protection on heavily used surfaces. Use a food-safe stone sealer.
  • Hard Water Marks – Remove any lime or calcium deposits using a 50/50 vinegar and water solution. Wipe with a soft cloth.
  • Heat Protection – Always use trivets, hot pads, or cutting boards to protect sintered stone surfaces from extreme direct high heat.
  • Refinishing – Refinishing or re-polishing is not required for sintered stone. Replace damaged sections as needed.

Avoid using harsh chemicals like oven cleaners, acidic toilet bowl cleaners, or rough abrasive pads/scrubbers on sintered stone. This can dull the finish.

Are There Any Potential Health Risks with Sintered Stone?

Sintered stone meets stringent health and safety standards for use in kitchens, bathrooms, and other applications. When properly formulated and manufactured, sintered stone poses minimal health risks:

  • NSF Certification – Most major brands meet NSF 51 food safety standards for counter material. This indicates very low risk.
  • Non-Toxic Materials – Sintered stone contains only natural components like clays, minerals, and pigments that are inert and non-toxic when cured.
  • No VOCs – Unlike some materials, sintered stone does not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can impact indoor air quality.
  • No Radon Gas – Sintered stone does not contain natural stone elements that could emit radon gas into home environments.
  • No Molds or Bacteria – The non-porous density of sintered stone