If Not Engineered Stone, Then What?

October 20, 2023

Engineered stone has become increasingly popular in recent years as a beautiful and durable countertop option for kitchens and bathrooms. It is made of a mix of natural quartz, resin, and coloured pigments, which makes it durable and easy to maintain. It is also resistant to stains, scratches, and heat, and generally requires less upkeep than other materials. Sounds like the perfect material doesn’t it?

Unfortunately engineered stone has one incredibly large downfall. It contains a material called crystalline silica dust. This dust is extremely dangerous when inhaled and causes long term lung diseases which can lead to an early death.

How does this happen? Well, it happens throughout the cutting phase of the installation process. When stone masons are in their factory cutting the slab into project specific parts they are exposed to the harmful dust which over time becomes detrimental. To put it simply, it’s this generations asbestos.

Now, within our industry this isn’t a new topic, we’ve known of this for many many years and restrictions have been put in place to aid a reduction in the silica dust’s affect. However, it would appear this isn’t enough and the Australian government is now looking at banning the material together by the end of 2024.
This push has come from a warning by the construction union last November that they would be looking to ban the use, manufacturing and importation of engineered stone by July 1 2024.

The question you may be asking yourself, is what does this mean for you as a consumer?

Firstly, let us reassure you that once installed in your home, this product doesn’t affect you – the dust exposure comes from the cutting of the material itself. So, if you have engineered stone in your home currently, there’s no need to panic and run out to look at new benchtops.

If you are looking to renovate or build in the next 2 years, it would be advantages of you to look into other material options available to you.

This may be for 2 reasons:

  1. You don’t want to design your project only to find out a ban has been put in place and you need to scramble and find an alternate.
  2. You need to ask yourself the question whether or not you’re comfortable with the risk factors of engineered stone.

So, if not engineered stone, then what?

Well there are a range of options you can look at before you consider engineered stone as an option.

I’m going to outline 3 for you.

1. Corian
Corian is a type of solid surface material – It is a combination of natural minerals and acrylic polymer that can be used for countertops, sinks, shower surrounds, and other applications in kitchens and bathrooms. Corian is extremely durable and resistant to everyday wear and tear. It is also non-porous and is easy to clean and maintain.

Corian contains 0 silica which in return provides no risk

2. Natural Stone – specifically marble
Natural stone is a natural product created by the earth, formed over millions of years by intense heat and pressure. It can be used for a variety of applications including building materials, landscaping, and decorative features. Natural stone is available in a variety of colours, shapes, and textures, making it a popular choice for many projects. Natural stone is also durable and can last for many years with proper care and maintenance.

Now, natural stone can contain silica, however marble contains only 2% silica which is a huge contrast from engineered stone which is up to 97% silica as recorded by Safe Work Australia.

3. Porcelain benchtops
A porcelain benchtop is a type of kitchen benchtop made from a ceramic material called porcelain. It is a durable, non-porous surface that is easy to clean and maintain, and it can be sealed with a finish that provides a water-resistant barrier. Porcelain benchtops are available in a variety of colours, designs, and patterns, making them a great option for adding a unique, stylish look to your kitchen.
The easiest way to think about a porcelain benchtop is it’s a huge tile surface.

Porcelain sheets have been recorded to have less than 4% silica within.

This topic may or may not have a resolution soon, but it’s amazing that people are becoming more and more educated around the danger this material may cause.

They say knowledge is key, so I hope through this blog you’ve been able to understand a little more about the issue circulating in the media and why our government is looking at a ban whilst also understanding what alternate benchtops are out there for you to consider.

Stay tuned, I’m sure there will be much more to say on this topic over the coming year!