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Remodeling 101: Lava Stone Countertops

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Apr 24, 2015 01:03 AM
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by Janet Hall last modified Apr 23, 2015

Drawn to natural stone but also a fan of color? Until recently, the options in the countertop world were limited, but of late, lava stone has been gaining traction—and introducing an eye-opening new palette to the kitchen. Is this a countertop to consider? Read on to find out. Above: Glazed lava stone has advantages that raw stones, such as marble and granite, lack: color, for starters. Photograph via Made a Mano . What is lava stone? Lava stone is a natural volcanic rock that is quarried, cut into slabs, topped with an enamel glaze, and fired at a very high heat. The fact that it's volcanic lends it a toughness: Lava stone can withstand high temperatures, offers even heat distribution, and can be glazed, which sets it apart from other stone countertops.  Above: Cut slabs of lava stone await glazing. Lava stone is sourced primarily from quarries in France (from the crater of an inactive volcano in Auvergne) and Italy (at the foot of the active volcano Mount Etna in Sicily). Photograph via Made a Mano . Above: Lava stone's surface is typically patterned with crazing—a web of lines and cracks—that appears in the glazing during the cooling process and, according to fans, lends character. Photograph via Low Impact Ltd . What are the benefits of using lava stone countertops?  Resistant to heat, cold, and temperature fluctuations. Lava stone has a natural ability to dissipate heat very well, meaning that hot pans can be placed directly on the surface without damage.  Extremely durable. The firing process creates an exceptionally hard surface that can withstand corrosive chemicals and UV exposure (no fading!). It doesn't chip or scratch easily, but watch out for knife edges—use a cutting board. Nonporous. The material is impervious to water, won't harbor bacteria, and is stain resistant. Appropriate for indoor and outdoor applications. For all of the reasons listed above, lava stone can withstand everything that outdoor life throws its way. Fun fact: Thanks to its strength and permanence, lava stone has been used for road signs in France for most of the past century. (The famous Art Nouveau metro signs in Paris? Lava stone.) The finish is beautiful and available in a wide range of colors.  Sustainable. A naturally occurring resource, lava stone is also environmentally friendly because it's so indestructable (reducing the waste involved in having to replace less durable countertops). Just be sure to love the material; it's like a long marriage.  What colors and finishes are available? The enameled glaze that tops the stone slabs is available in nearly any color you can imagine, from vivid blues and greens, to clean whites, metallics, and even neutral shades. Most lava stone manufacturers (and there are only a few) offer a number of standard colors, but custom, made-to-order colors are limited only by your imagination. Glossy and matte finishes are also available, but the mattes are limited to a narrow range of more subdued colors. Above: The leading manufacturer of lava stone is the French company  Pyrolave , which offers a palette of 32 colors, 16 in glossy and 16 in matte. Above: Danish company  Made a Mano  offers glazed lava stone countertops in two color collections:  Ossido  (15 neutral and metallic shades) and  Cristalli  (16 vibrant hues). This kitchen backsplash features lava stone in three shades from the Ossido color group.  Above: Until recently, all lava stone was manufactured in Europe. Now the material is making inroads in the US, thanks to MGO Stone Classics, which fabricates its  LavArte  glazed lava stone in New York State. MGO brings raw stone from Sicily and then custom cuts, fires, and glazes it for each project.  How do you clean and maintain lava stone? Lava stone's best attributes include its lack of maintenance. It doesn't require a sealant or treatment with any special cleaners because it doesn't stain or harbor bacteria. A wipe with something mild, like soap and water, is about all it requires. The only recommendation is to use cutting boards on the surface to protect the countertop and your knives (which also makes cleanup easier).  Above: A lava stone counter from  LavArte  in antique white.  How much do lava stone countertops cost? Lava stone's biggest deterrent is its price. At $250 to $350 per square foot, it's one of the most expensive countertop materials around, comparable to, or even exceeding, high-end marble. Most of the expense is due to the cost of shipping the stone. This is exacerbated by the low number of suppliers and the handwork required in the fabrication and glazing process.   Above: Glazed lava stone tabletops, such as this Blue French Lava Stone Tabletop available to order through Sue Fisher King in San Francisco, are great for outdoor use and are offered in a range of sizes and colors.  Lava Stone Countertop Recap Pros Durable and long-lasting Nonporous Heat and cold resistant Available in a huge range of colors Fresh-looking because it's relatively new to the market Can be used indoors and out Maintenance free A natural resource Cons Very expensive Cannot be refinished if you tire of the color Above: A blue-glazed lava stone counter tops an island in a San Francisco kitchen by  Martha Angus . Researching new countertops? Read Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Kitchen Countertops . And for more specifics on the subject, see our Remodeling 101 posts:  The Intel on Black Marble Countertops . 10 Easy Pieces: Remodelista Kitchen Countertop Picks A Marble Countertop Look-alike, Minus the Maintenance Remodeling 101: Butcher Block Countertop Remodeling 101: Marble Countertops Remodeling 101: Concrete Kitchen Countertops Remodeling 101: Soapstone Countertops Remodeling 101: Stainless Steel Countertops Remodeling 101: Corian Countertops (and the New Corian Look-alikes) Remodeling 101: Engineered Quartz Countertops Remodeling 101: Paper Composite Countertops for the Kitchen This post is an update; it originally ran on January 15, 2015, as part of our Kitchen Secrets issue. More Stories from Remodelista DIY: Painted Pastel Knobs Steal This Look: An Artful Bedroom at the Hotel Tivoli Rorschach Revisited: Ceramic Tiles from a Subversive Scottish Design Studio






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