Leathered Granite: Maintenance Pros and Cons, How to Care for It, and More
If you’re considering a kitchen remodel you’re likely aware granite countertops are a well-established staple in the kitchens and bathrooms of the stylish and chic. The draw to natural stone is almost universal, and it has been used as a building material for ages, thanks to its durability and the beauty of its natural color. The ancient architects and masons of the Egyptian pyramids, Roman amphitheaters and Grecian temples made extensive use of granite, while more modern uses include flooring for some of the world’s most famous buildings, making use of its natural color and luster. Granite can come in a wide array of types and colors, but what about finishes?
Leathered (matte, textured finish)
Polished granite is found fairly commonly in fine kitchens all around the world. The high sheen and smooth surface of a polished finish make it a reasonably elegant and easy to maintain choice, especially for kitchen countertops. Honed granite, on the other hand, stops the sandblasting process short of attaining that highly polished gleam that we have come to expect from natural stone
Offering a more casual, natural look, the more textured appearance of granite with a honed finish can still fail to wow visiting friends and family because the process tends to wash out the natural color of the natural stone. Not long ago, your options would have stopped there (honed and polished being the most common ways to treat granite) but a new and trend has flipped the script when it comes to how you finish your granite: leathered granite
Leathering has become the new, most interesting, and, frankly, unique way to finish your perspective countertop. The process takes that boring old granite slab and turns it into a living, breathing monolith of contoured and beautifully colored igneous rock. In this article we will explore this process, as well as leathered granite countertop pros and cons, and the best way to care for and maintain you leathered granite countertops.
What is the leathering process?
Leathering granite is an intense and difficult process that is best left to professionals. To achieve the trademark rough surface and slightly matte look of a leather finish, a diamond tipped brush is run over the stone’s surface repeatedly. This strips away imperfections and polishes the stone while leaving the natural contours and grooves intact. Much depends on the fabricator or homeowner’s appetite for texture, as a leathered finish can leave your granite almost perfectly smooth or as rough as you’d like. After the desired texture is achieved the granite will be sealed (usually) and ready to install. It should be remembered that leathered granite does have both pros and cons due to its unique design and textural surface.
What choices of finish do I have with leathered granite?
When deciding which way you want to finish your granite countertop, conventional thinking from most fabricators will have homeowners choosing between honed and polished. Polished granite will have a high sheen that can often provide a pleasant contrast to the wooden cabinets often found in kitchens. Honed granite will always be smooth and matte, providing its own contrasting beauty when installed in tandem with metal fixtures and hardware.
Both of these finishes can be beautiful and elegant in their own right and deserve due consideration. However, the growing trend of using leathered granite for all your countertop needs cannot be ignored. Combining both a tactile and textural appeal and with a natural beauty that cannot be ignored, leathered granite countertops are the hot new fashion in town.
What are the advantages of leathered granite?
Present a Unique and Rustic Style: Perfect for use in historic homes, leathered granite has an immediate rustic appeal due to its rough texture and slightly dulled hue. Often seen on exterior countertops and vanities, leathering can bring a unique, antiqued, and seemingly traditional look to a usually standard type of countertop.
While a polished finish can bring a high gloss and sheen to a stone (giving granite an ethereal quality), leathering goes for a more natural look, as if it were quarried that day from the side of a mountain. Leathered granite adds a natural charm to what would be an otherwise overlooked surface. Coming in a variety of tones and textures, the choice available with leathered finished granite is off the charts.
Wonderful Texture: One of the best parts about leathered granite is the way it feels. Depending on how far you go with the finish, leathering can achieve a super-texturized to almost perfectly smooth feel. This customization is not found in any other type of honed finish and depends heavily on the your desired and the perceived natural texture of the cut stone.
Granite can have some wonderful natural texture to it that will be lost in the overzealous sandblasting of traditional finishes. To the touch, a leathered finish will feel like a living, breathing entity. Suffused with history and eons of mineral memory, granite’s true texture will fascinate and thrill your guests while looking incredible as well.
Reveal the Natural Color of the Stone: Often used on darker types of granite, black pearl for example, leathering has a tendency to bring out the natural colors of the stone while staying a few steps away from the high sheen achieved in the polishing process. A happy medium between a honed and polished surface, leathering dismisses the washed out or overly shiny conventions in favor of a textured appearance that shows off the all-too-often disregarded color of the granite itself.
Whether your dream granite countertop is absolute black, kashmir or green ocean, leathering will make it pop. Where honing has a tendency to dull the natural hue of a stone and polishing misconstrues sheen for shade, leathering allows the color of your stone to become the true star of the kitchen, bath, or outdoor area.
Hard to Stain: Leathering granite is known to tighten the natural pores of the stone and thus mitigate damage done through spillage. Stains, the great enemy of all countertops, will not be able to coalesce as well as they would in a polished or honed surface due to this phenomenon, making a leathering an excellent choice for a stain-resistant surface.
Fingerprints and water spots too, are lost on the hardy surface of leathered granite—a huge bonus for any homeowner that hates wiping off smudges from their countertops after even mild use. The biggest and most often overlooked factor, bacterial resistance, is much higher than it would be for a honed or polished countertop. This is once again due to the tighter pores of the stone, achieved through keeping intact the natural contour and solidity of the granite.
Are there any cons to leather granite?
Though leathered granite tops have a lot of pros, there are some cons to this particular finish. The fact is that stone countertops, no matter what finish or type, will require some maintenance and have downsides. The care and maintenance of leathered granite will be outlined further down in this article, but here are the cons to using this type of finish and how best to mitigate the potential to damage your expensive and classy countertops.
Easier to Scratch: The fact of the matter is all the grooves and imperfections that make leathering such a cool and unique style of finish have the often-unforeseen potential to be chipped and cracked if they are accidentally met with a sharp or hard item. This can damage your leathered granite and make for a chalky, stone dusted surface.
The best way to mitigate this is to make sure your supplier and installer seal your granite surface with a powerful sealant. The natural contours and grooves of your leathered granite are the reason you chose this finish in the first place and it is a terrible thing to see those beautiful features become a hindrance. If your leathered granite is showing signs of wear and tear, consult with a professional as soon as possible.
Trickier to Clean: Due to its uneven nature, leathered granite can be more difficult to wipe clean than its honed or polished cousins. Crumbs can find their way into its cracks and liquids can pool in its grooves. The truth of the matter is that this will always come down to the exact texture you have chosen for your leathered granite. Rougher examples will retain more waste, while smoother ones will be easier to clean.
This is an incredibly important factor to consider when choosing your preferred texture. Brushing your leathered granite with a hand broom will go a long way towards keeping those crumbs at bay, while consistent washing down will ensure a clean and tidy surface. Once again, due to the tightening of pores, stains should not be too big of an issue but will occur if spills are not attended to, thanks the stain-resistant leathering process.
How do I maintain and care for a leathered granite countertop?
Maintaining and caring for your leathered granite is thankfully a little less complicated than it would be for polished or honed stone. The fact is that the ability of a leathered finish to hide smudges and stains goes a long way towards keeping your leathered granite looking great where its honed and polished cousins would seem shabby. Watermarks will be a thing of the past on your new and improved countertops. This puts leathered granite in a whole different tier than polished granite.
The high gloss and reflectivity of polished granite makes it all to easy to smudge, stain and weather. Polished granite has the tendency to reveal all our little kitchen mistakes if not cleaned daily. Honed granite, on the other hand, will stay relatively free of smudges and visible stains, as the matte finish will wash out even the dirtiest of fingerprints. At the end of the day though, you are sacrificing color and beauty for efficiency. This sacrifice, worth it or not, does not actually need to be made as leathering can do all of the above without washing out your granite’s natural hue or requiring daily cleaning. You’ll also be avoiding all the waxing and oiling necessary with soapstone.
Should I seal my leathered granite countertop?
Sealing your granite will often be a matter of course for most fabricators but there is some argument as to whether or not a sealant is actually necessary. At first glance, using a seal on your granite will make the stone more indestructible. Stripping a sealant can be done if too much damage is apparent, saving you from wholesale replacing your countertop. However, there is always the possibility and danger of ugly or imperfect sealing. Visible brushstrokes or bubbles on your countertop left behind from applying the sealer can leave you sorely disappointed and make for a miserable kitchen experience.
Not sealing your countertop is risky and can lead to some troubling results, but you will not have to live with the semi-glossy sheen or potential imperfections that many sealants and enhancers can supply. Due to the tightened pores that are a result of the leathering process, leathered granite will have a natural anti-bacterial defense as well as the aforementioned stain and smudge resistance. This can make sealing your granite an unnecessary expense but may also leave it open to needing replacing should the worst of the worst happen.
Wine stains and errant permanent markers are the worst enemies of an unsealed kitchen countertop and should be avoided if at all possible. At the end of the day, the decision to seal or not to seal is entirely yours, but it is essential to recall that a sealed leathered granite countertop is nearly impossible to stain and will last you for years.
A new natural look
The leathered granite countertop is swiftly becoming the new standard in designer homes everywhere. The utility and beauty of this finish has the power to leave even the most critical cook happy to never leave their kitchens. Leathered granite’s unique texture—that all important and often overlooked feature—is going to be the deciding factor in any person’s mind when deciding whether or not to pull the proverbial trigger.
This tactile element of the leathered stone is something that cannot be found in honed or polished granite and is incredibly satisfying. Whether you install it in the kitchen, bathroom or outdoors, leathered granite will make a fantastic addition to your dream home. It’s utility consistently goes above and beyond the countertop call of duty and is sure to please both your aesthetic and efficient desires. The ability to customize its texture through the wide variety of diamond brush grits, allows you to decide just how far to go in your pursuit of tactile perfection. Rustic and unique, fashionable and chic, leathered granite is easy to maintain and lovely to behold. For more information on countertop materials such as Corian, Quartz and more, check out our guide to kitchen and bathroom countertop blog.