Countertop Etch Drama - Can This Countertop Be Saved?

A reader asks:

"Hi there, I am house sitting for some friends whose kitchen counters are (I believe) a type of dark slate.I acidentally left a paper towel soaked in lemon juice (I was making lemonade) on the counter and now it seems as though it has etched into the counter...the stain is very noticeable and cleaning it just stripped the sealer!! What can I do? Does it need to be resurfaced?" Thanks for your help. (name withheld) 

Dearest Name Witheld, 

It's not your fault - who, really, would even be able to germinate the thought that lemon could possibly etch a hard countertop material? VERY few. Etching is different than staining, and you may want to tip off the homeowner that they should attempt to find solutions for the etching problem. 

Image from countertopnetwork.comTell them what substance caused the problem (was it only lemon juice?) How much lemon juice and how long was it sitting on the countertop? What did you do after you saw it/how did you attempt to clean it up? That will be helpful information. 

Beyond that, I am not a stone expert, and there are countless types of stone countertop materials which makes it impossible to understand the properties of all of them. 

Image by A Bluebonnet in BeantownBest piece of advice I can give is to recommend that they seek, probably several opinions of stone specialists but start with the stone fabricator or showroom which sold it to them. Me, I like concensus, so I would naturally seek out several opinions to find concensus.

I cannot say if the etch marks can disappear via a rejuvenation of the countertop or not, but that is one method that might be suggested to the homeowners. 

Countertop durability is no joke. A great looking countertop may just be waiting for the chance to turn on the homeowner...just because it can! 

A few tips:

  • Get large samples of the countertops you are considering
  • Put the sample through substance testing: add dabs of ketchup, wine, oil, lemon, wine vinegar, worsc sauce, mustard, more
  • Add those substances to one half of the sample, taping it off in half so that the original side may be compared to the side with substances on it
  • After 48 hours, remove the substances and view the good (or bad) behavior of the countertop sample

Purchase accordingly!

Sears are applied on to many types of countertop surfaces, and they work very well as a rule. One aspect of using a sealer makes me is often difficult to tell when the sealer has been worn away from use. The length of time that a sealer will last depends on:

the properties of the stone

the sealer

food products

other products having a home on the countertop or moving on/off/around the top

lifestyle use pattern (light/heavy use/in between.)

When should a sealer be reapplied? No one can advise a precise date based on the above variables, which partially defines the risk of installing porous countertop materials.

So, dear Namewithheld, it is not your had no idea of the properties of the countertop and unless you are a geologist or stone specialist, it's called an accident.


TPB Top Porzelanik Barcelona - A New Kitchen Countertop

It's my real pleasure to announce a brand new product for American kitchens! I've searched and searched and I cannot see where this product has been talked about in the US anywhere online up to now. 

It's a kitchen countertop that creates an entirely new category of countertop materials, starting now! It's beautiful, it's extremely durable and it will coordinate perfectly with any kitchen decor. I saw it at the kitchen show, SICI in Spain, and it's called TPB | Top Porzelanik Barcelona. It is a newly introduced product for this company. I attended the SICI show in Madrid as a speaker on American kitchen design, along with my colleague Roberta Kravette, courtesy of the top kitchen design software program, autokitchen which is based in Spain, but has software users around the globe.

NOTE: I have no ties of any kind to this company. I discovered it at the SICI show, love it and wish to share my find.

The TPB top is, essentially, a ceramic tile countertop, in slab form.  The top is light weight and possible to have 100 different finishes and textures. There are six different "bases" available, each of which will give a different look to this thinner-than-normal countertop. It's easy cleaning and highly durable. It is a natural product and completely recyclable. Take a look at the spec sheet. And here is a list of features and benefits of the countertop material. 

I have two samples that I was able to take back with me, and while some of my images below are very close up and the surface looks to have a textured relief, it is completely smooth with just a tiny textural feel. I encourage you to take a good look at the website to see all of the information about this very interesting and exciting countertop material!

Following are images that I took at the SICI show in Madrid a few weeks back. I predict that this material will receive a very enthusiastic greeting in the U.S. It is stunning.

Get the flash player here:



Granite Countertops - More Radon News

Following is a partial press release I just received from the NKBA: 

"HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (August 4, 2008) - There has been recent news concerning the possibility that granite countertops may contain dangerously high levels of radon. The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) has long recognized the carcinogenic effects of radon in the home and, as a result, recommends that consumers planning to remodel a kitchen or bath consult with an NKBA-certified designer.

Associate Kitchen & Bath Designers (AKBDs), Certified Kitchen Designers (CKDs), Certified Bathroom Designers (CBDs), and Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designers (CMKBDs) are experts in design who have been taught the proper methods for eliminating radon and other hazardous gases from the home, as discussed in the NKBA Professional Resource Library volume Kitchen and Bath Systems.

In addition to radon, NKBA-certified designers are familiar with many other health concerns in kitchen and bath remodels that most consumers have never considered. 

For more details on the health effects of radon in granite countertops, the NKBA recommends the Marble Institute of America as a reliable source of information. An associate member of the NKBA, the Institute has prepared a thorough analysis of radon levels and granite in its 2008 Radon Study. This study, as well as a consumer radon brochure and additional documents concerning radon in granite countertops are available at"

While I'm a CKD, as mentioned in the press release, I'd have to say, no, I do not know the proper methods for "eliminating radon....from the home". Everything I read talks about "reducing" not "eliminating." "Eliminating" is a black and white concept. I'm not a scientist or a radon eliminating technician although there are many common sense tasks one can do to reduce. That said, I must put this issue in the hands of the consumer to make their own decision on what they believe in regard to granite and radon or to take other measures, such as hiring a professional radon technician for testing purposes, and so on. I do not have an opinion on either side of this issue as it is beyond my knowledge. Perhaps if I were a geophysicist I'd weigh in on this.

I love the phrase, "I know what I don't know." Perfect for this situation.

What do you think?

Slate Countertop Test!

There's always a good bit of conversation on the slate post that I did way back, and that's good, I'm glad people are digging through the archives. Lots of good stuff in the archives.

I thought it might be a good idea to redo my test, albeit in a very limited way, on the staining properties of slate, at least in regard to oil.

See for yourself what the result is. No staining! If you look closely at the first sample with the oil on it, you may see, on the unoiled part, a few white marks which are scratches. After I wiped off the oil on the sample with dishwashing soap and water on a sponge and brushed the slate using the opposite side of the sponge fairly roughly, "wah laaa" the white spots disappear! If they do not completely disappear, then it is my understanding (although I have not done it myself) that one can lightly sand any significant white scratches and they will disappear.

Yes, slate is strong, VERY strong (and very dense)! Take a look....the yellow text, which is too small, says "dark line" meaning to please try to find the dark line on the second image too so you can get it oriented. Sorry, when I tried to rotate one image or the other, it looked much more skewed and a bit more difficult to see, so you'll have to reorient yourself to find the similar graining of each sample so you can see where the oil was on the second sample. Still, do your own test, on any countertop surface.

Granite Kitchen Countertops 1+1 = ?

two%20granites.jpgHere's an interesting question about a countertop from Meg...

"I have a dark green granite table that I am moving into a  new house.  It matches my current kitchen counter.  The kitchen counter in the new house, although not yet chosen, will NOT match the uba tuba granite of the table.  Should I sell this table?  How can I incorporate a table with a different granite from my counter into my new decor?


My first reaction is that it appears to be assumed that you will be selecting another GRANITE countertop. It also assumes that you can't have enough granite, that you really love it. If that is the case, you are entering an advanced countertop selection process zone! Blending two granites is possible, but must be done with great care.  

The easy way, of course, is to pair Uba Tuba with a Black Impala, a solid black granite. Easy, done, perfect. But, what if you don't like black?

Then, you must begin to be aware of two things: color and grain pattern.

Color, that's easy. I'd recommend looking for a granite with a very different color. Too close to what you have, and the grain patterns can get confusing. At least the color is a start at differentiating your countertops...successfully. 

Pattern is a different issue. Granites have such a variety of patterns. Some granites have movement, some have large chips of pattern, some have tight grain. A very tightly grained granite can have a more contemporary look in many cases. That said, how far apart your granites are will also be a factor in what goes with what and why. In general, be aware that the overall effect will be more busy, than more calm and simple,due to the expanses of grain.

In the upper most image, the raised, light, countertop, has a more distinct grain pattern. The lower, darker, surface, has a somewhat tighter grain pattern, but not super tight. Beyond this image, across from the island the countertop is dark, surrounding the cooktop and it is light surrounding the main sink area.

That all said, above, forget everything I said. Sometimes, in a rare occasion, you can find two granites in a similar color which simply work together. I wish I had better images, but this project is a great example.  Although the island looks busy too, in real life, the island looks quite consistent and the perimeter granite looks substantially more strongly patterned, and they work well together. It was important to my client to have an interesting granite pattern on the island, not just something with very tight grain, and with lots of time spent looking, we found the right combination.

Of course, Meg, you may want to consider an alternative, more quiet, surface, other than granite, to "feature" your granite table in a more focused way, especially if you love your table. But, if it's granite you love, and want for your coutnertop, here's how to do it.






Granite Countertops & Samples

IMG_6682ab.jpgIn my neck of the woods, my whole region it seems, it's like the granite yards all got together and said "No more samples!" Previously, they'd have a system where we'd tell the guy with the hammer which slabs we'd like samples of, and with the knock of the hammer, we get a few samples. We would bring our cabinet samples to the granite yard, get the granite samples, and be easily able to select other materials for the renovation.

When my client recently told me that she selected her granite one day, when she had gone without me (gasp!) she said that she loved it, she wanted it, and she wanted me involved in the purchase, templating, details, and logistics. Today, I went to the granite yard to give the fabricator a deposit and to see the granite my client chose.

IMG_0085a.jpgHaving forgotten my camera at the office, I decided to take a bunch of pictures with my cell phone for her (she wasn't with me.) I came back to the office, uploaded the photos to her nearest CVS to make prints from, and left her a message that she should go pick them up and "waa laa" she now has a reminder of her granite. I was happy to have thought of that solution!

Lesson: Take your camera everywhere!!!


Kitchen Countertops - Slate, Yes, Slate!

Slate-2.jpgSlate is the quiet, little known, but serious, player in countertops for kitchens! Of course, slate is traditionally seen as a building material for flooring, roofing, cladding on buildings, wherever there is a need for a very strong, solidly performing material. So, why not kitchen countertops? I'll warn you in advance...mention slate to people in the biz, including countertop fabricators, and most likely you'll get, "No way, slate will stain and is too porous!" It could be followed by "You're nuts!" While I've been accused of being nuts on numerous occasions, it doesn't apply to this situation. Trust me...

Rarely marketed to kitchen and bath designers for some reason, slate is, perhaps, one of the strongest, if not the strongest, materials one can use as a kitchen countertop, even exceeding the properties of granite. Slate, as a countertop material, has numerous properties that we need in a hard working countertop surface. And, by the by, I'm VERY conservative in terms of recommending countertop surfaces to my clients. Countertops are expensive, permanent, materials, not to be taken lightly by a specifier. I don't. Slate works!


Slate is available in a variety of colors. Mostly understated, in middle to dark tones, the colors of slate are generally seen as:

  •     Red
  •     Deep Purple
  •     Deep Purple/Turquoise Combination
  •     Turquoise
  •     Gray
  •     Black

The look is quiet, elegant, strong, simplistic, nature-like, minimalist, dependent on its application within the room. Slate is almost always honed, although it can be oiled for a slightly more glossy look.


Slate-4.jpgDepending on the variety of the slate, the grain type and pattern can vary. Some slates, as Black Lace, has a distinctive highly textural, high-style look. Other slates exhibit very little graining whatsoever. Others are mottled. Some are quiet, with little graining, except for one strong, localized grain pattern, running through the slate, for a look of pure, natural beauty! Graining pattern/direction/type cannot be predicted.  Unless you want to schlep to the factory in New England, pick out your own slabs and tell them where to cut and where not to cut. Short of that, pictures of existing installations should prove to be a good guide.


Typically, slate edges are simple square edges with a very small radius top and bottom. Variations could be any edge one would see in granite. Due to the understated look, slate is not often seen with an ogee (OG) edge. Slate is perfect for a rough cut, exposed, edge. Perfect for today's uber-rustic-eco aesthetics.


Austin-Patterson-Disston.jpgOne of the best properties of slate is its extremely low absorption rate, lower than granite. Designers can consider most slates as being stain-free. I have performed testing on the turquoise/green colors and have found these slate colors to be stain-free. Slate in the gray/black family may need a sealer. As a result of slate's low absorption, the material can be considered anti bacterial in nature and totally eco friendly.

Some slates (and partially-metamorphosed “mudstones” which are incorrectly called slates) are significantly weaker, than the slates I am talking about and are more absorptive, softer and prone to delamination and “self-splitting”.  The slates that are good for countertops are found in the New England region.

Slab material generally is available in smaller sizes than granite, resulting in an additional seam or two. You should pay attention to seaming issues. Have your designer take a close look at how best to put the pieces together according to your cabinet plan.


slate-5-copy.jpgSoap and water, or even a tough cleaning product such as Fantastic can be used. If a sheen is desired, use a diluted solution of Murphy's Oil Soap and water. Apply, and buff off before it dries.

Scratches are easily removed, simply, with a sponge, during normal cleaning of the countertop. Deeper scratches are easily rubbed out with wet steel wool. Small white scratches are fairly typical to see during use over time, but are easily wiped clean during the day, if you see them at all.

Really only the gray and black stones need to be sealed as they are more absorptive in nature than other colored slates. Thus, mild soaps only should be used on these colors, so as not to strip the sealer. I usually get samples and then do a whole "food stuffs" test over a 24 hour period, beat it up in other ways and then evaluate.

I really love slate. It's eco friendly, it feels like butter to the touch, it's understated and fits many design aesthetics. I can't wait till I use it again for a project. Never had a client complain once installed, and I've installed quite a few slate countertops, only raves. And, THAT'S the test!