Nowadays, discriminating home builders who wants to be different have a lot of alternative choices of building materials. Take onyx countertops as an example. Granite has been the traditional favorite but other exotic materials are coming into fore.
One of these special materials is onyx stone. Onyx countertops, with its translucent surface have a different elegance compared to countertops made of granite. With its broad band of warm colors running through the surface, any observer will be mesmerized just looking at it. You will never be wrong if you will choose onyx for your kitchen and bathroom countertops. It will enhance the sophistication and style of your home.
Onyx, like granite, is a hard stone that is steadily growing in popularity among upscale home builders. Its traditional use is in the making of jewelry. They are also typically used to build altars of churches since they are considered as ornamental stones. In some cases, they are used for flooring and walls. This stone comes in a wonderful variety of colors and vein patterns, just like granite. The lighter shades of onyx range from white, beige, pink, yellow and gold. Darker colors are green, brown, red, blue and black. There are also different color hues among the lighter and the darker shades. Exciting vein movements and freckling are also present in these stones. Given this special qualities, it is but natural that the price of onyx will also be expensive.
This semi-precious stone is found in caves and other areas where limestone is abundant. It is formed from dissolved limestone that have re-deposited. Because of its calcareous nature or calcium carbonate composition, it is softer and more brittle than granite. Stones of this type absorb more liquid than other hard stones and can manifest imperfections in its structure. It is mainly used for decorative purposes and not as the main design component in the home building and construction industry.
The translucent beauty of onyx really makes it a very beautiful decorative home fixture. But since onyx is made of calcite stone which is softer than granite, you must consider certain things before choosing this material in building your kitchen, bathroom and other countertops in your home. Here are the following factors that you need to consider.
1. Onyx may be the best material for your countertop if you will use it mainly for decoration and not for heavy use as a kitchen countertop. Calcite stones such as onyx are like marble and limestone but they are much softer. If used as kitchen countertops they will be prone to scratching and chipping more than the harder stones.
2. Onyx stones are susceptible to acids. Therefore if you have onyx countertops you cannot use acid-based countertop cleansers and acidic food items. The chemical substances from these products will etch and damage its natural sheen and luster.
3. The consistency of an onyx countertop surface is not uniform. This is due to the calcareous nature of the stone. Onyx slabs have small voids and indentations as well as soft spots. These sections will deteriorate in time if not properly sealed and protected.
4. The cost of a square foot of onyx is even greater than a square foot of granite. A granite slab can cost you about $25 to $300 per square foot for a ¼ inch thick slab. But an onyx slab that is ¾ inch thick will cost you around $100 to $500 per square foot.
Onyx countertops are admittedly very stylish and elegant and will enhance your room if strategically located. Below are some of the excellent qualities of onyx which you can put to use.
1. Excellent decorative material – if you are not very particular about its function but you just want a unique countertop with an original design. Many homeowners use them for their visual qualities rather than as a working countertop. They might be strategically located in areas of the house where there is no heavy activity. In such cases, normal maintenance will keep the luster of the original surface for a long time.
2. Absorbs light – what sets onyx countertops from other expensive countertops are their translucent and opaque properties. Onyx, being the only naturally translucent stone, will glow and sparkle when it absorbs light.
3. Lightens up any room – this ability of onyx to absorb light can be used to lighten the room and brighten up the environment. When you have a back-lighted onyx countertop, it will completely light up your kitchen with a unique glow that only an onyx stone can give. Some homebuilders have even used this ability of onyx to the maximum by building vertical onyx structures and backlighting them. Arrays of LED lights are installed underneath the countertop for this purpose.
4. Applicable in many areas – you can use back-lighted onyx not only for countertops but also for fireplace surrounds, countertop backsplashes and patio enclosures. Your only limitation is your imagination.
Types of Onyx
There are enough variations of onyx stones that you can choose from. You can surely pick a type that will suit your preference and the purpose you have in mind. Following is a sample list of the different types of onyx. There are many others and an online research will lead you to a whole variety of them.
1. Semeraldo onyx – this is one of the more intricate countertop stones. The complex vein patterns and the play in color make this stone very dazzling to the eyes. It conveys excitement and movement more than the other types.
2. Honey onyx – this type has lesser vein movements and more consistency in appearance. Being so, its structure is more uniform and has lesser soft spots than the more intricately patterned onyx stones.
3. Green onyx – this type is similar to white onyx. This type has many vein patterns and green areas all over the countertop surface. It is more expensive than white onyx because of the intricacies of its vein movements and the different color hues in the surface.
You can ensure the longevity of your onyx countertops if you will take the necessary steps. Properly sealing and laminating the surface will protect it from accidental scratches and liquid seepage. Being careful in its use will also go a long way. For cleaning, just use a soft, non-abrasive cloth, dipped in mild, non-acidic soap in wiping off dirt and grime. Regular re-sealing will restore the fresh look of onyx and will give adequate protection to the surface.