Following a decision by Work, Health & Safety ministers on March 2024, engineered stone will be banned from the 1st of July, 2024, replaced by silica-free stone. The absence of silica in man-made stone products has a limited bearing on it’s composition so the production and maintenance of this new variation will have identical challenges to engineered stone. This article highlights these challenges:

Silica-free stone is a beautiful feature to any kitchen – when done right. Replacing engineered stone, due to silica complications, it has an identical look and brilliant quality to it. However, for the unaware, there can be major problems stemming from the incorrect installation of a Silica-free stone bench top. Having worked in the industry for 40+ years, we’ve heard the nightmare stories from home owners who didn’t know the details that matter when it came to installing and maintaining their new bench tops.

Silica-free stone can be a great option for your home, but there are some factors to consider particularly relating to the care of the product. If you keep these in mind, you will be able to enjoy the product for many years to come.

Tip #1 – Heat

Silica-free stone is not as impervious to heat as natural stone could be, though it is tolerant to hot water, even boiling water. Things like a hot pot taken straight off the stove will burn it. Always use a chopping board, or some other kind of heat proof board to protect your bench and prevent burn rings when putting anything directly from the stove top, or oven on your bench. Being an epoxy blend with stone, the epoxy layer can become burnt and it is unfixable – you cannot fix anything in the surface of Silica-free stone, once it has become damaged by heat.

The UV rays from direct sunlight will eat away at the epoxy and colouring, so it will fade and become pitted.

The expansion rate, due to heat, on silica-free stone is almost two to three times greater than any other kind of product. You must have your expansion gaps around the walls to allow for immense pressure, otherwise it will build up too much pressure and something will give and that something is generally the stone. The expansion gaps should be around 5 millimetres. This gap can be covered by tiles or glass.

Tip #2 – Chipping

If you are taking care of your bench top it shouldn’t become a problem, ever. If you are using your kitchen as a kitchen should be used, occasionally accidents can happen, such as picking a pot up out of the pot drawer and swinging it too close to the edge of your bench and nicking the corner.

Damage generally happens more on the right-angled corners of the bench. You see a lot of it under bench sinks, where people pull pots, pans or other dishes out of the engineered sink and don’t lift them up high enough and the edge gets nicked, or chipped. The top line of under bench sinks can look like a serrated edged knife, with so many chips.

You can fix one or two chips, but it can become quite a problem sometimes if people don’t take more care. The solution would be to be aware that silica-free stone benches are not bulletproof and take a little more care. This product can be damaged like a lot of other products.

Another option is to go for slightly rounded edges. The tighter the radius, the more likely it is to chip. A rounded edge will be more likely to disperse the force of impact better than a sharper edge. A full rounded bullnose won’t chip as much as compared to a flatter edge with a 90-degree corner. Chips can be fixed – if a piece comes out, keep the piece, as you would be more likely to get a better repair job, as the chip can be put back in and re-polished.

Tip #3 – Visible joins

Joins are a part of every kitchen. All stone companies specify that you cannot make an L-shaped kitchen without a join on the internal corner of the L Shape. Due to the heat and expansion, tension can build up on the internal corner and cause it to crack. Thus, the recommendation is that a join is essential through the corners.

Sometimes customers prefer their joins to be totally invisible; however, that is not possible. The join will be visible – it will be a dead straight line through the customer’s bench top. We do everything possible to make the join minimally visible. We match the colour of the glue to the stone and we endeavour to get the surface as flat and level as we can. Sometimes the join is hard to spot, but you will always be able to see a join if you look hard enough.

Tip #4 – Overhang limitations

On breakfast bars, or any kind of unsupported stretch of stone that is overhanging, the recommended guideline limit is 300 millimetres. Anything greater than this will void the warranty. We don’t want to push the limits too much, as any kind of pressure or weight on the overhang, can result in the bench cracking and splitting lengthwise. A 400mm overhang on a three metre bench top weighs about 100 kg and you don’t want this to come down on your feet.

Tip #5 – Aesthetics

Silica-free stone has been around for a while and the manufacturers have been able to develop a natural looking grain over time. They say it is a little bit harder to make, but it is all made the same way in the same machines. It is all the same quality. However; anything with grain is more popular, and thus more expensive and can be almost double the price. Bear in mind that the quality is the same as all the other colours, but you are paying for popularity and pattern – just a different look.

Tip #6 – More than just a bench top

When customers picture stone in their minds they think of bench tops. That is what the stone has been designed for. However, Silica-free stone can also be used for more things, from a boardroom table, to skirting boards around a room, to any kind of flat surface. Pretty much, anything you can do with a piece of timber you can do with a piece of stone; it is also used for making picture frames, stairs, fishponds, flooring, bathtubs, sinks – the list is endless.

In conclusion, whenever you clean your Silica-free stone bench top, hot soapy water will do the job. Most brands have their own cleaning products that they will try and sell you, but these really aren’t required.

Bear in mind that too much acid will etch the polish out of the surface, it is not scratch proof. Treat it like a piece of glass. Whatever you would do to look after your glass windows at home you would do to look after your Silica-free stone bench top.

Please contact Precisions Cabinets on (08) 6555 4004, or send an email through our contact page for any Silica-free stone bench top related queries. One of our consultants will be available to make an appointment to discuss options for your new kitchen.

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