When it’s time to choose surface materials for your home, there are plenty of gorgeous options available. The use of natural stone, for example, has many benefits, but is it a good idea to use onyx for countertops? In this post, the experts at Cosmos SurfacesTM discuss the pros and cons of onyx.
What is Onyx?
Onyx is a soft, brittle stone that forms when limestone is dissolved and redeposited. It often originates from dripstone deposits in limestone caves, where it forms as stalactites and stalagmites. Onyx is a calcareous (containing calcium carbonite) stone which can contain colorful veins and unique swirling patterns. Because of its fragility, onyx should be carefully evaluated to ensure it will perform well for its intended use.
The Pros of Onyx
First, let’s look at why you might want to consider a stone like onyx:
- Aesthetics: onyx is quite rare in the kitchen when compared to natural stones like marble and granite, but it can flourish in bathroom settings with applications like vanity countertops or walling. Colorful veining and gorgeous swirling patterns make onyx a truly unique addition to the home.
- Long Lasting: if properly cared for and maintained, onyx can last upward of 100 years.
- Lighting: perhaps the most unique feature of onyx is its translucency, which means the stone can be backlit. While this likely isn’t practical for everyday use in kitchen countertops, onyx can be used around the base of a kitchen island, as backsplash, around bathroom vanities, bathtubs or in walling that is backlit (or lit from the inside), creating an effect that makes it seem like the stone itself is glowing.
The Cons of Onyx
When it comes to using onyx for kitchen countertops, there are a few drawbacks to consider:
- Fragility: as mentioned above, onyx is soft, brittle and fragile when compared to some other natural stones. This means the stone isn’t likely to hold up well in high-traffic areas like kitchen countertops. Onyx slabs tend to come with a fiberglass mesh backing to help strengthen and hold it together.
- Softness: onyx can be scratched or scraped easily, which makes it prone to taking on damage from everyday use in the kitchen.
- Calcium-based: since onyx is a calcium-based stone, it reacts to acidic substances and will likely etch from these types of spills (wine, lemon juice, vinegar, etc.), or if an acidic cleaner is used.
Care and Maintenance
Regular care and maintenance are essential for a stone like onyx. Keeping up with the following maintenance tips can help make your investment in onyx well worth it:
- Do not use abrasive or acidic cleaners. Onyx can be cleaned with warm water and mild soap, such as a mild dish soap, or with a dedicated stone cleaner.
- Onyx needs to be sealed regularly to protect it from staining and other types of damage, preferably with an impregnating type of sealer.
- Avoid using onyx in high-traffic areas that are prone to wear and tear.
The Best Uses of Onyx
While onyx may not be the most practical choice for frequently used countertops, such as kitchen countertops, the stone can be used to great effect in other areas, including:
- Bathroom Vanities.
- Unique, eye-catching accent areas.
- Around the base of a kitchen island.
Onyx is an excellent choice for creating dramatic, eye-catching accent areas. It’s translucency, which gives it the ability to be backlit, is unique. The effect of a glowing stone feature in your home can truly set it apart, adding a sense of luxury and value to your home.
While we don’t recommend using onyx for busy kitchen countertops, its many other design applications make it well worth consideration. If you are in search of a natural stone surface material that can stand up well to high-traffic areas, we recommend looking into granite, marble or quartzite.
Work with Cosmos!
If you have questions about onyx, or if you are searching for a stone with specific properties, Cosmos can help. Cosmos SurfacesTM is a 2nd generation, family-owned business dedicated to providing you with knowledge, meaningful customer service and high-quality surface materials. We offer a wide range of products and resources to assist our customers in all their surface material needs. Contact us today to get started!
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