If you are planning to build a new home in 2023 or beyond, you may…
For many years, engineered stone has been regarded as the go-to choice for benchtops, offering a compelling alternative to natural stone. It’s not only easier to work with but also highly customisable and aesthetically pleasing. However, in recent times, concerns have arisen regarding engineered stone’s link to a potentially lethal lung disease called silicosis. This has led to a significant shift towards low-silica benchtops as a safer option.
At Pivot Homes we are dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of our customers, our construction team, and the skilled individuals involved in producing benchtop materials for the homes we build. In light of these concerns, the purpose of this article is to provide insights into why low-silica benchtops, when equipped with the right personal protective equipment (PPE), can be a superior choice compared to silica-free benchtops. We will explore the merits of low-silica benchtops, debunk some common myths, and shed light on the advantages of using PPE.
- The Safety Dilemma: Silica Exposure
- Low-Silica Benchtops: A Safer Alternative with PPE
- Low Silica Benchtop Materials
- The Versatility of Low-Silica Benchtops
- Let Pivot Homes Help You Find The Best Low-Silica Stone For Your New Home
The Safety Dilemma: Silica Exposure
One estimate finds that more than 580,000 workers in Australia are at risk of silica dust exposure, with more than 10,000 projected to develop lung cancer due to this exposure. Additionally, an estimated 83,000 individuals may develop silicosis at some point in their lives. While silicosis was initially associated with mining activities, it has now emerged as a significant risk for tradespeople involved in the fabrication and cutting of silica-containing materials.
Crystalline silica, a common component of sand, soil, and stone, poses minimal danger in its natural state. However, when it becomes airborne and respirable, it transforms into a serious health hazard. Silicosis, though treatable, remains incurable, causing breathing difficulties, reduced lung capacity, fibrosis, and, in extreme cases, even death. Given these risks, finding high-quality alternatives to silica benchtops is paramount for anyone engaged in new home construction.
Low-Silica Benchtops: A Safer Alternative with PPE
While the majority of attention has been on silica-free benchtops as the safer choice, it’s crucial to recognise that low-silica benchtops, when used in conjunction with appropriate PPE, can be equally secure. Low-silica benchtops are designed to minimise silica exposure during installation and maintenance. With proper PPE in place, the risks associated with low-silica benchtops can be effectively mitigated.
Benefits of Low-Silica Benchtops
- Enhanced Durability: Contrary to common misconceptions, low-silica benchtops are known for their exceptional durability. They are less susceptible to scratches and can withstand the daily wear and tear in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Unique Aesthetic Appeal: Low-silica benchtops offer a distinct visual appeal, characterised by a plasticy texture that sets them apart from other materials. This unique texture can lend a modern and luxurious touch to your living spaces.
- Customisability: Similar to silica-free alternatives, low-silica benchtops provide ample customisation options. You can choose from a wide range of colors and styles to align with your interior design preferences.
- Longevity: Low-silica benchtops are designed to be long-lasting, ensuring they remain functional and visually appealing for years to come. Their durability contributes to their longevity, making them a valuable addition to your home.
As with any silica-containing stone, silicosis can result from breathing dust produced when cutting or processing engineered stone. The risk of inhaling dust can be mitigated by taking appropriate safety precautions. – Wikipedia
Debunking Myths About Low-Silica Benchtops
- Myth: Low Durability: It’s often wrongly assumed that low-silica benchtops lack durability. In reality, these benchtops are engineered to be robust and resilient, capable of withstanding the demands of everyday use.
- Myth: Limited Customisation: Some believe that low-silica benchtops offer limited customisation options. However, this is far from the truth. These benchtops come in a variety of colors and styles, allowing homeowners to achieve their desired aesthetic.
- Myth: Inferior Aesthetics: Another misconception is that low-silica benchtops are less attractive. On the contrary, they can provide a unique and modern aesthetic that complements a range of interior designs.
Selecting the Right Low-Silica Benchtop
When considering low-silica benchtop alternatives, it’s essential to collaborate with knowledgeable professionals who understand the intricacies of these materials. At Pivot Homes, our experienced interior designers are dedicated to helping you choose the perfect low-silica benchtop that aligns with your vision for a beautiful and safe home environment.
Low Silica Benchtop Materials
The easiest way to ensure you are choosing a low silica benchtop is to work with a knowledgeable professional. As part of the standard design and build process at Pivot Homes, for example, you work directly with one of our interior designers. Their job is to make your vision become a reality by helping you choose the interior and exterior elements of your home that will make it uniquely yours.
Low-silica benchtops come in various materials, each with its unique properties and advantages. Let’s explore some of the popular low-silica materials in greater detail:
Quartz: Quartz benchtops are a prevalent low-silica option. Comprising primarily natural quartz crystals bound with resins, they offer exceptional durability and resistance to stains and scratches. Quartz benchtops are available in a wide array of colors and patterns, making them suitable for various interior design styles.
Granite: Granite benchtops, while not entirely free of silica, contain significantly lower levels compared to engineered stone. Granite offers a timeless and elegant look, with natural variations in color and pattern. Its robustness and heat resistance make it a preferred choice for kitchens.
Solid Surface: Solid surface materials, such as Corian, consist of acrylic or polyester resins mixed with minerals. They are 100% silica-free and offer seamless installations with inconspicuous seams. Solid surface benchtops are known for their versatility and easy maintenance, making them an ideal choice for bathrooms.
Porcelain: Porcelain benchtops, composed primarily of kaolin clay, boast minimal silica content, typically around 2%. They are exceptionally durable, heat-resistant, and non-porous, making them suitable for kitchens and outdoor spaces. Porcelain benchtops can mimic the appearance of natural stone while offering superior resistance to staining and scratching.
In 2021, the global market for porcelain tableware and cabinetry was estimated to be worth US$22.1 billion. – Wikipedia
A ban on popular artificial non-low-silica stone benchtops is being considered by a national taskforce grappling with spiralling rates of deadly silicosis in tradies. – The Sydney Morning Herald
The Versatility of Low-Silica Benchtops
Low-silica benchtops offer remarkable versatility, making them suitable for various applications within your home. Let’s explore some of the versatile uses:
Kitchen: Low-silica benchtops, especially quartz and granite, are perfect for kitchen countertops. Their durability, resistance to stains, and heat resistance make them ideal surfaces for food preparation and cooking.
Bathrooms: Solid surface and porcelain benchtops are excellent choices for bathroom vanities. Their sleek appearance, low maintenance requirements, and resistance to moisture make them a practical and stylish option.
Outdoor Spaces: Porcelain benchtops, with their resistance to UV rays and extreme temperatures, are an excellent choice for outdoor kitchens, patios, and barbecues. They can withstand the rigors of outdoor use while maintaining their aesthetic appeal.
Maintenance Tips for Low-Silica Benchtops
To ensure the longevity and beauty of your low-silica benchtops, it’s essential to follow proper maintenance practices. Here are some tips:
Cleaning: Use a mild, non-abrasive cleaner and a soft cloth or sponge for routine cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals that may damage the surface.
Avoid Cutting Directly: While low-silica benchtops are durable, it’s advisable to use cutting boards to prevent scratching.
Sealing (if applicable): Some low-silica materials like granite may require periodic sealing to maintain their resistance to stains. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for sealing intervals.
Heat Protection: Use trivets or hot pads to protect the benchtop from hot pans or pots. While many low-silica materials are heat-resistant, prolonged exposure to extreme heat can affect their appearance.
Regular Inspections: Periodically inspect your benchtop for any signs of wear or damage. Promptly address any issues to prevent them from worsening.
Low-silica benchtops can also offer sustainability benefits. Many manufacturers prioritise eco-friendly production processes, reducing waste and energy consumption. Additionally, the durability and longevity of low-silica benchtops contribute to less frequent replacements, reducing the overall environmental impact.
Let Pivot Homes Help You Find The Best Low-Silica Stone For Your New Home
low-silica benchtops, when equipped with the appropriate PPE and maintained correctly, offer a safe, versatile, and aesthetically pleasing choice for your home. Understanding the materials available, their applications, and proper maintenance practices empowers homeowners to make informed decisions.
By opting for low-silica benchtops, you can strike a balance between safety and style, all while contributing to a more sustainable approach to home construction and design. With the guidance of experienced professionals, you can confidently choose low-silica benchtops that enhance both the functionality and beauty of your living spaces.
At Pivot Homes, we are committed to assisting you in making informed decisions for your new home construction project. Contact us today to begin the journey of creating your dream home, complete with the perfect low-silica benchtop that suits your needs and preferences.
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