how to choose the best finish for my granite countertop

August 31, 2021

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Granite countertops, since they are natural stone, are all unique. In fact, homeowners are advised to select the exact granite slab they want for their countertop because of natural variation. However, there are many more ways to customize a granite countertop.

When you order a new stone countertop, you’ll be faced with options such as custom cutouts vs. prefabricated countertops, thickness, and edge treatment. But one of the most dramatic ways you can customize your bathroom or kitchen countertop is by choosing its finish. Along with aesthetics, there are practical reasons for choosing one over the others for your home improvement project. Here are a few tips on how to choose!

Polished Finish

A polished finish on your granite countertops is the look most people are familiar with. It’s the most popular finish, no matter what type of countertop you choose, whether it’s quartz vs. granite or other natural stone. Polished finishes are reflective and shiny, and depending on the granite colors, the result may be almost like looking into a mirror — particularly impressive with black granite.

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One big benefit to having a polished finish is its resistance to stains. The process of polishing granite to a high shine helps seal its pores, making it more resistant to moisture. Applying a good-quality natural stone countertop sealant further enhances its water-repellant properties, and it’s a lot easier to keep clean than other finishes. Besides this, polished granite’s reflective qualities can brighten a room.

There are drawbacks to a polished finish to consider as well. For one thing, although it’s more resistant to stains than other types of finishes, it’s more vulnerable to etching from acidic liquids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Although all granite countertops may be damaged in this way, a polished surface will show the damage more clearly. It’s also likely to show other flaws in the stone, as well as water spots, fingerprints, and smudges.

Honed Finish

A honed finish results in a smooth, matte look with a soft, satiny feel. This non-reflective finish is more popular for flooring or other types of natural stone countertops, such as marble. However, honed-finish granite countertops are gaining popularity, especially in kitchens with a more rustic decorating scheme. It provides an excellent contrast next to shiny, classic subway tiles.

Another benefit to choosing a honed finish for your countertop is that it can conceal some of the flaws that a polished finish practically showcases, such as imperfections in the granite slab, smudges, and fingerprints.

However, a honed finish may not show off the beauty of your granite countertop as well as other types of finish. If you’ve chosen a subtle pattern, the variations may be hard to see, and more exotic, bolder granite patterns won’t be as eye-catching. Also, a matte finish is more porous, so it will need sealing much more often than a polished finish to maintain its resistance to liquids, stains, and scratches.

Leathered Finish

A leathered finish is one compromise between the matte and the polished finish. It is achieved by first creating a matte finish, then using a diamond-tipped tool to create subtle, tiny divots on the surface. The result is an interesting texture that is gaining popularity, especially in outdoor kitchen countertops and bar areas.

If you’re looking for a granite finish that is more stain-resistant and nonporous than plain, matte-finished granite, a leathered finish may achieve that. It is also better at showcasing the variations and movement of your granite slab than a honed finish. Like a honed finish, a leathered finish will help conceal minor flaws and smudges.

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The major drawback to a leathered finish is that it’s more difficult to keep clean, thanks to the tiny divots in the surface that catch dirt. Also, like a matte finish, its non-reflective surface can make a room feel darker and smaller.

Caressed Finish

If you like the textured look of a leathered finish but not its non-reflective matte quality, a caressed finish may be a good choice for your granite countertop. It is produced in the same way as a leathered finish, but the raised areas are polished to a shine. The resulting look is considered rugged but refined.

Because it is partially polished, a caressed finish will be more stain-resistant than leathered or honed finishes. It can also accentuate the natural beauty of your slab and reflects light to make the room seem brighter.

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Unfortunately, a caressed finish will also need more frequent sealing than a slab with a polished finish, especially with lighter shades. It will also be more difficult to clean.

Flamed Finish

Most countertop surfaces are unsuitable for a flamed finish due to the extreme heat necessary to achieve it. For granite, however, it is an interesting option. A propane torch is applied to the stone’s surface, causing the tiny grains to burst and splinter, exposing the crystals beneath. It also alters the granite’s color, creating shades that are more muted.

The flamed finish is popular because of its rough-textured, natural, rustic look. It’s more popular for use outdoors than indoors, but if you want a truly unique countertop, this might be worthy of consideration.

This is, however, the most difficult of all granite finishes to clean due to its rough texture. Further, it is even more porous than a honed finish, so it is essential to apply sealer often, so it is less vulnerable to stains and other damage from liquids.

Every type of granite finish has its pros and cons, so the decision is a personal one. You’ll need to consider your priorities, the amount of time you’re willing to spend maintaining the counter, the type of room and its decor, and the likelihood that a future home buyer will appreciate it, too. The most important factor is to choose the finish that will best complement and enhance the beauty of your premium surfaces.