Porcelain vs Sintered Stone: A Material Comparison
In the realm of kitchen countertops, both materials are becoming more popular. And if you were to skim the literature of these materials you might come to the conclusion that they are the exact same thing. Yet, looking a little closer at the details of each, you will find that there are differences. They are in fact different classes of material and in this article, we are going to do a comparison. But before we get into our look at porcelain vs sintered stone, let's take a brief look at each material.
Porcelain surfaces are known by several brand names. Some of these include the following:
- Stile by MSI
Even though the brands are different these materials are all porcelain. When people think of porcelain, they often times associate it with tiles. This is because for so many years people have seen porcelain tiles used for flooring and other surfaces. So porcelain triggers thoughts of flooring tiles and the like for many people.
Even though people may think of flooring tiles when porcelain is mentioned, porcelain countertops are much bigger. These larger formats require care when moving, handling, and even working with them. Yet, they are very durable and make countertops that are easy to care for and maintain.
Sintered Stone Countertops
The term "sintered stone" is used to describe a family of material that can be easy to confuse with porcelain; and people often do confuse the two. Some of the brands of sintered stone include:
Sintered stone is described using a variety of proprietary terminology. Some terms that get used in connection with sintered stone are Ultra-compact Surfaces and Pyrolithic Stone.
The variations in terminology stems from the fact that each company that produces sintered stone has very specific ingredients and a detailed process they use to create the surfaces. Thus, the variance in these aspects of production result in materials with nuances making each different enough to be its own technology.
So that is the short summary of each material and some of the brands associated with these materials. With all of that in mind, let's get into comparing porcelain with sintered stone.
Comparing Similarities of Porcelain and Sintered Stone
As we mentioned at the beginning, it can be easy to confuse these materials with one another. Especially if you read through the literature quickly and haven't investigated each material thoroughly. What makes these materials similar?
Both Are Sintered Materials
One of the similarities between sintered stone and porcelain is that these surfaces are both "sintered". We won't go into enormous detail as to what the term means, but Wikipedia says the following:
Sintering or frittage is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heat or pressure without melting it to the point of liquefaction.
When you research just what happens during the sintering process, it becomes clear that sintering is very similar to (and some might describe it as a form of) the metamorphic process that occurs in nature. Sintering transforms specific materials into an entirely different material.
The similarity we are highlighting between these materials (sintered stone and porcelain) is the process. Both porcelain and sintered stone make use of the sintering process. There are differences and we will get to those in a bit, but what are the results of the sintering process? A hard, non-porous, and chemical tolerant surface.
The material that results from the sintering process will vary according to the ingredients that were used in the process and the mixture of forces applied to the materials. Both porcelain and sintered stone are hard. In fact each is harder than some granite surfaces. This translates into scratch resistance and durability.
Each is Non-porous
One of the long standing maintenance requirements for natural stone is that, whether you use a topical sealer an impregnating sealer, or a food safe penetrating sealer, natural stone must be sealed. Why is that the case? The reason is because natural stone is porous and will readily absorb liquids.
However, porcelain and sintered stone are non-porous. The sintering process used on the materials in both sintered stone and porcelain produces a material that has no pores. Thus, these materials do not absorb liquid. In fact, the liquid stays on the surface and does not make its way into the stone.
Resilience to Cleaners
When a material is treated with a penetrating sealer, it adds a requirement in the daily cleaning of the surface. Not a particularly difficult challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. This requirement is that the material be cleaned with a pH neutral cleaner. As a result, natural stone must be cleaned using this type of cleaner. If an acidic cleaner is used, the sealer will be broken down and the benefits will be lost.
In contrast to natural stone, both porcelain and sintered stone, as we have previously stated, need no sealer so these materials do not require a pH neutral cleaner like others. In fact, porcelain and sintered stone are two materials that can be cleaned using a variety of cleaners. However, neither material is completely impervious to harm from certain chemicals. So, it is important to read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Contrasting Porcelain With Sintered Stone
Although both sintered stone and porcelain materials make use of the sintering process, They differ in a couple of important respects. First, the raw materials used are different. Second, the sintering process itself varies from one manufacturer to the next.
Different Raw Materials
One of the ways in which porcelain is different from sintered stone is that they begin with different raw materials. Porcelain makes use of raw materials like clay, silica, feldspar, and flint. On the other hand, sintered stone uses different raw materials. And although sintered stone may have material in common with those of porcelain, it has others that porcelain does not have. Does different raw materials really matter that much?
It might be hard for some to believe that the material used in the sintering process makes that much difference. But it does. In fact, we will elaborate on this point in a moment. But first, let's look at our second area of difference.
Differing Forces During Sintering
We have already established what sintering is. However, it can be easy to overlook the details. The quote we mentioned at the beginning of our discussion mentioned that heat and pressure were involved in sintering. But how many ways are there to produce heat? Furthermore, in what ways can pressure be created? Still yet, are ther other forces that could be introduced to the sintering process to yield a different result?
You get the idea, right? Sintered stone consists of different forces and materials that does porcelain. In fact, the sintering protocol, recipe, or both vary from one sintered stone manufacturer to the next. That's why we said earlier that each sintered stone manufacturer varies a bit with regard to their material.
What is the conclusion? First, porcelain and sintered stone are alike in that they are cared for and maintained similarly. Additionally, they are both durable and scratch resistant. But they differ in ingredients and in the specific processes through which each is produced. No matter which one you choose (if in fact you are trying to decide on one of these), following the guidance supplied by the manufacturer will give you the needed understanding to get the most form your countertop.