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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Glasson

Alternatives to engineered stone benchtops: everything you need to know

Updated: May 6

Australia has taken a significant step towards ensuring the health and safety of kitchen stone benchtop workers by implementing a ban on engineered stone kitchen benchtops containing silica from 1st July 2024.


Given it was used in >60% of kitchen installations in Australia in 2023 you might be wondering what alternatives to engineered stone benchtops are available. Let’s look at the reasons for the ban and what your options are moving forward.

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Why were engineered stone silica benchtops banned?

The ban on silica-containing kitchen benchtops stems from a growing awareness of the health risks associated with silica exposure. Silica, a common component in certain engineered benchtop materials, poses respiratory hazards when the dust is inhaled during the installation process, sometimes leading to the potentially fatal Silicosis disease.


What are the alternative products to engineered stone benchtop in Australia?

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Natural stone

Nothing beats the beauty of natural stone, which is why engineered products have emulated the look since they were first created. Every piece is unique and they come in a huge variety of stones and looks. Prices and properties vary dramatically depending on the type of stone selected. Stones like Dolomite come in an incredible variety of patterns and are extremely robust and more affordable. Popular looks like Calacatta Marble can be very expensive and are susceptible to etching in contact with acid due to its porosity. This is poses a high risk if you are an avid cook or baker.


Porcelain

Porcelain is an excellent alternative to engineered stone, though about 30% more expensive. It is very hard but more brittle than engineered stone and needs a substrate underneath as it is usually 12mm thick. Porcelain is printed directly on top with no through-body colour or veining, so you may notice it’s not real stone where you see edges such as around an undermounted sink.


Porcelain cannot tolerate rapid temperature changes such as hot pans being placed directly on the surface – can crack in these circumstances. It is also UV stable, so perfect to use indoors and outdoors.


Sintered stone

Sintered stone is a already a popular option in other parts of the world and will soon become popular in Australia. It contains no resins, no silica and is extremely hard and durable, stronger than porcelain and non-porous, so won’t stain. Though it can be somewhat brittle if knocked hard, it is highly heat resistant and can tolerate rapid temperature changes, so you can put your hot pots straight on the benchtop!


It’s UV stable and resistant to yellowing, so ideal for indoor and outdoor use. Sintered stone can also be manufactured with through-body colour or veining to match the surface. Sintered stone is extremely heavy, so this may need to be factored in during installation.



How are key manufacturers in Australia responding?

With the ban implemented July 2024, Australian manufacturers have embraced the change and invested in developing high quality replacement products.



smartstone logo


Sintered stone smartsone

Smartstone new Sintered Stone Collection

A key player in the engineered stone space, Smart Stone has launched their next generation Silica free stone solution called ‘Sintered Stone’. The new range performs even better than engineered stone and is manufactured by the fusion of raw natural materials under extreme pressures and high heat. The result is an ultra-dense benchtop that can be used both indoors and out. Its high density, low porosity and absence of resins means that the Smartstone Sintered Collection is highly resistant to yellowing, stains, heat, chemicals, chips, scratches, mould and bacteria making it one of the most durable and hard-wearing products available today.


The Sintered stone collection has three ranges:

·        Pure contains the purest white and black, and versatile neutrals.

·        Classic and Deluxe veined ranges, which includes recreations of luxurious stones.


Sintered Collection surfaces come in either matt or suede finishes and a choice of edge profiles. All surfaces offer through-body 'biscuit' that perfectly matches the surface colour. (That means the veined surface runs through the body of the material, so that cut edges such as around the sink show the vein rather than a plain edge you see with regular porcelain.) Book matching is available for selected surfaces. Pricing is closely aligned to Smartstone's previous engineered stone products.


Caesarstone logo





A key manufacturer of engineered quartz surfaces for over 40 years, Caesarstone has responded proactively to the recent ban on silica-containing kitchen benchtops in Australia. In 2024 Caesarstone® has introduced a new Silica free formulation benchtop called Caesarstone Mineral™ which retains the same ease of fabrication and functional performance as previous products, using minerals, glass and resins. The new range of benchtops have now launched.


Caesarstone® also has their porcelain collection which is both beautiful, stain resistant and good for both indoor and outdoor applications. For more information see Caesarstone's Porcelain collection here.




Talostone logo


Upholding their dedication to excellence and Safety, Talostone have also detailed their upcoming Silica free benchtop solution called MinQ Zero technology. Slated to be launched in the first half of 2024. Currently undergoing testing for strength, stain, scratch and heat resistance, Talostone has said some stock should be available by March 2024 in very limited colours/ranges.


Good news is the MinQ Zero range still offers all the colours from the existing range of Talostone products with only a small number of colours being discontinued.

See more information on the new MinQ Zero technology here: https://talostone.com.au/minq-zero



Corian Logo



Corian benchtops offer a great affordable, non-silica option for kitchens creating the look of stone with incredible flexibility and hygiene. This non-porous surface is highly resistant to staining, is UV stable and easily able to be moulded into curves or seam-free edges. The only notable downside is its low heat resistance and propensity to crack with rapid temperature change or scratch if used as a cutting surface. Corian is not ideal for use with a gas stove due to the radiating heat. Corian is easily repaired on-site though, which mitigates some of this risk.


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Should I delay my kitchen renovation in light of the silica ban?

With each of these manufactures having now released high-quality alternatives to engineered stone, with stock levels plentiful and ready to go, there is no reason to delay your kitchen renovation.


At Shire Build, we are committed to using safe and compliant materials in all our construction projects, so if you have any questions or need assistance with your building or renovation needs, feel free to reach out. We are here to ensure your project is finished with the best quality materials and creating a look you love.


If you have any questions or want to start your dream kitchen renovation please contact us today!


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