Black makes a statement. I don’t need to convince you that you like it. But you think polished is just too much. Ok so how about doing a honed finish? Well, the problem is a honed black surface is probably the worst from a maintenance standpoint. Every fingerprint, dust, food, etc will show. Additionally a honed black counter top can look great from one angle, but appear less than ideal from another angle (due to lighting, quality of finish, etc). Luckily there is a solution, the leather finish. From our experience, the leather finish it is easier to obtain a more uniform consistent finish on black granites. Also the leather finish on black granites does not show fingerprints and dirt as much as either a polished or honed finish, making for easier maintenance.
Our recommendation for black granites is the leather finish. However, if you really want it honed, we can do that too. We have been working on techniques to provide as consistent a finish as possible for honing black granites. Regardless of which finish you choose we are confident you will enjoy your granite counters for years to come.
A lot of people in the US have stayed away from marble in the kitchen due to various misconceptions. However in Europe, marble is used in kitchens quite extensively. Marble counters may require a little bit more care than granite counters. One of the advantages of marble though is its softer and warmer appearance than granite. The main thing to note is that when marble is used in the kitchen it should be leathered or honed rather than polished (the reason for this is discussed near the end of this post).
One misconception is that marble will stain easier than granite. This is not entirely true across the board. The two main factors that affect the likely hood of staining a particular stone are 1) the surface finish (i.e. polished, leathered, honed, etc.), and 2) the underlying porosity of the stone, sometimes expressed as density.
First lets talk about the underlying porosity of stones in general. As a general rule lighter colored stones tend to be more porous than darker colored stones. Most igneous stones (true granites, basalts and gabbro stones) will have a low porosity, however lava rock (or volcanic rock) found on the surface is quite porous. Sedimentary stones (limestones, sandstones, and travertines) on the other hand are likely to have the high porosity. Metamorphic stones (gneisses, marbles, schists, slates) are somewhere in between and vary according to the degree (or stage) of metamorphism. Most stones know commercially as granites are really gneisses. To wrap up a dark colored marble (like Hulien Jade) is likely less porous than a light colored gneiss (say a Madura Gold or Shivakash). On the other hand a light colored marble (Colorado Yule or White Carrara) is more prone to staining than say Absolute Black.
Surface finishes also play an important role in the ability of stone to repel stains. A polished surface acts as barrier (although not an impenetrable one). This is largely due to the “closing” of pores in the surface layer of the stone during the polishing process (with the use of successively finer grits). A honed surface while being more “closed” than a rough sawn surface is not as “closed” as a polished surface. A leathered surface is somewhere in between a hone and a polished in how “closed” the pores are.
The biggest issue with using marble is that the surface can be etched by acids (orange juice, vinegar, etc). This is very obvious on polished surfaces and requires a specialist to come in and re-finish the tops on-site. On a honed or leathered surface etching is less noticeable and can be refinished by the homeowner with the use of the appropriate scotch-brite pad. Also etching is more noticeable on a darker colored stone than on a lighter colored stone. Due to the issue of etching it is recommended that all marbles be either leathered or honed for use in a kitchen.
As granite and marble counter tops have become more common, people are looking for something different. For a while a honed finish (instead of a polished finish) was enough different. However, there are some draw backs to a honed finish.
First a honed finish washes out the color. This is more noticeable on darker materials rather than lighter materials. Also a honed finish is more susceptible to staining than a polished surface. With the use of a sealer and proper care and cleaning though this a honed surface can still be practical. Also the use of a color enhancing sealer can bring back some of the color on a darker stone.
Still with only a polished or honed surface finishes for options it didn’t take long for a honed surface to be almost as common as a polished surface. You may be asking, “Now what?” Well, the process of “antiquing” has been around in other mediums for a while now, say a “distressed” piece of wood work or flooring. Or in the case of stone, tumbled marble tiles. But tumbling a whole slab is not practical (if even possible). That is where leathering comes in.
Leathering is a second generation process developed as a replacement for the river washed finish. A leathered finish has some of the positives of both a honed and river washed surface without some of the negatives. First, a leathered finish retains the natural color of the stone and does not wash out like either a honed or river washed surface while at the same time not having the high gloss of a polished surface. A good comparison is that of a glossy photo (polished) to a matte photo (leathered). Second, the degree (or depth) of texture will vary based on the stone it is being applied on. This makes each piece that much more unique. Also the leather finish is less prone to staining than a honed or river washed finish (though not as resistant as a polished surface).
More information about surface finishes and their uses can be found on our Surface Finishes page.