When hunting for a natural stone countertop, you’ve likely come across both prefabricated and slab options. Both are, of course, made of natural stone — so what’s the difference, and how will it affect your decision-making process? Let’s investigating the pros and cons below.
Prefabricated Stone Countertops
Prefabricated stone countertops have been cut to certain standard dimensions before arriving at the distributor. The standardized, limited range of manufacturing options can often greatly reduce costs, which are then passed on to the consumer. Thus, if you have a countertop in your home that fits one of these standard dimensions, choosing prefabricated stone will be a much cheaper option than having a slab custom-fit. Installation also tends to be a lot faster, and most prefab stone suppliers even throw in a backsplash for no additional cost.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that in most cases you truly do get what you pay for when it comes to prefab stone. Many pieces are manufactured in bulk in China and India, with little oversight and quality control. Thus, a deal that seems too good to be true may be just that: the stone can be thin and brittle, or might not even be natural stone at all — it might be granite or stone dust mixed with resin. So, make sure you find a quality dealer and be wary of any truly low price tags.
Often there is a limited range of colors to choose from when looking at prefab stone, often limited to the most popular and common colors. Shapes are also very limited, and some manufacturers might not make prefab stone bar tops or island countertops. Noticeable seaming might also be an issue when choosing prefabs, and color consistency may vary from one piece to the next since they’re not cut from the exact same piece of stone.
Finally, prefabricated stone countertops only come with bullnose edging, which is a completely rounded edge. While most homeowners don’t mind this standard detailing, know that you’ll likely have to go with a custom slab if you wanted any kind of customization to the edge.
Slab Stone Countertops
These are custom-made countertops created from a single slab of stone. Homeowners can go to a supplier and choose the exact piece of stone they want, and there is virtually an endless range of colors and textures available. Although these slabs are quite costly, no two are alike — you’re truly getting a completely unique, one-of-a-kind piece of art.
Because your countertop will be cut from a single piece of stone, there will be continuity in color and texture throughout, even if multiple pieces need to be cut and seamed. Seams will also be less noticeable, and you can customize the edge of the stone as well. A slab can also be cut to any dimensions and to suit nearly any project, from islands to tabletops and more. The installation will be slower and more sometimes more costly, as the supplier will need to make a template of the countertop before cutting the stone and if the project is complex, it may take additional time to get the stone into place and secured.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to know that whether you choose slab or prefab stone countertops, both are made of natural stone and therefore require a higher level of care and maintenance than laminate or other options. Both prefab and slab can scratch, stain, or chip if you’re not careful and, while these can often be repaired, it can still be both a hassle and an additional cost.
As for the final decision, it all comes down to weighing your budget versus the reality and demands of your kitchen, bathroom, or wherever the countertop is being installed. If you have a smaller budget and your countertop is a standard size, there’s no reason not to consider a prefabricated stone countertop — as long as you make sure you go to a reputable dealer. If you really want the wow factor of having a one-of-a-kind, custom piece of stone in your home, then you definitely need to go with a slab countertop, though do be conscious that it will be an investment.