Sintered Stone or Porcelain?? What’s the Difference?
Sintered stone is still a bit of an enigma in the surfacing space. Many are still grappling with the differences between sintered stone and large format porcelain, despite having been covered extensively by many, including CaraGreen, in this blog post.
Because ‘sinter,’ by definition, means to heat and stone has been accepted as a de facto terminology for a slab of anything–engineered or natural, sintered stone is commonly understood as simply “a slab that was heated.” Thus, it is often differentiated from quartz and other engineered stones by the fact that they do not undergo a high temperature cycle.
But, like solid surface or natural stone, sintered stone is its own category. For example, the solid surface category includes acrylic or polyester based plastic surfaces like Corian, Avonite or Durat. In reality “solid” just means sturdy or uniform and surface is, well, a surface, but we have accepted plastic based as the main requirement for inclusion in the solid surface category.
The same naming convention holds true for sintered stone. Brands like Dekton, Lapitec and Neolith put themselves in the sintered stone category. While each brand’s proprietary magic differs, they all share one common manufacturing process: sintering.
However, in more ways than one, Lapitec is the only sintered stone of its kind. Lapitec uses vibro-compression under vacuum technology to turn powdered minerals into a solid nonporous mass. High heat and precise compression in the factory mimic the geological processes underground that create volcanic rock. #biomimicry #geologyinafactory
And how do sintered stones differ from porcelains? The minerals are different, the temperature at which they are heated varies by brand, and they’re manufactured in different ways. All of these points contribute to why sintered stone is stronger than porcelain.
Porcelain is manufactured in a high pressure environment (same, lol). This tension within porcelain can make it susceptible to chips, and more importantly, cracks. Sintered stone can handle rapid temperature changes, whether it’s a hot pot fresh off the stove, or a dose of liquid nitrogen (-350ºF!!). Porcelain cannot handle such rapid temperature changes which makes it susceptible to the common plumber’s ailment: major cracking.
The thicknesses also vary. Porcelain can be made very thin, 3mm, 6mm and 12mm, where sintered stone tends to be 12mm, 20mm and 30mm, and more common for countertops, though some brands have 6mm options. The extra depth along with its physical composition means sintered stone can handle serious force.
Another comparison often made is the fact that porcelain is printed on top while sintered stone is not. What this means is that porcelain products can be produced in a myriad of patterns, however, those patterns only appear on the surface of the material. The term “through-body” is often used to indicate whether the color and/or pattern go through the entire thickness of the slab.
Some sintered stones, namely Lapitec, have been engineered to produce the pattern throughout the body of the slab. Some other brands “doctor” the edges by printing on them to create the illusion of “through body” patterns but a cut will eliminate the pattern. Lapitec is a full-body material, where patterns are consistent throughout the slab no matter which way, or how many times, you cut it.
This through-body quality becomes critical at joints and edges. Slightly rounding countertop edges can eliminate patterns that have been printed on top of the surface. Fabricating this eased off edge creates an obvious line where the pattern has been slightly removed.
What does this mean for consumers? With a porcelain top your edge options are very limited. Sintered stone can be edged into any shape a natural stone can.
Through-body color is more easily accomplished regardless of brand. Consistent, uniform color throughout the whole slab can be achieved by the mineral/pigment mix, while through-body patterning is much more difficult, as replicating veining or striping is harder to do during the production process. Lapitec has the process down to a science; they can create book-matched, through-body veined slabs.
While porcelain is perfectly suited for some applications, someone had to say it: sintered stone is stronger, more consistent through-body, and more versatile than porcelain.
For more information on sintered stone contact CaraGreen to set up a Lapitec presentation.