Outdoor kitchens are a huge trend in home improvement as homeowners seek to take their living space outdoors. Barbecue grills are the top appliance for outdoor kitchens because America loves to grill. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, manufacturers shipped more than 15 million barbecue grills in the United States in 2010. Homeowners wishing to take the high-end outdoor kitchen approach to barbecuing should consider cost, maintenance, design flexibility and durability when selecting an outdoor barbecue countertop material.
Slab granite will almost always be more expensive than tile to install. Purchasing a granite slab requires paying for a large amount of material overage. Granite slabs also require expensive machining to be turned into a countertop. The weight of a granite slab demands a large, specialized installation team, which can be costly. Tile, on the other hand, comes preformed into the appropriate size and can be shipped to a job site for installation by a single professional. Porcelain and ceramic tile can be found for low prices, but specialty or highly decorative tile will increase the overall cost.
Natural granite slabs require specialty care to maintain the countertop. Granite needs to be sealed periodically and should be cleaned only with specially formulated products to avoid marring the surface. Although tiles themselves are a relatively easy-care product, grout lines require heavy scrubbing periodically to maintain a clean surface. Both granite and tile are subject to staining, particularly in an outdoor barbecue area where spills including red wine and barbecue sauce are commonplace.
Granite is available in an increasing array of styles. Individual slabs can display speckled or pebbly patterns, solid black coloration or large, sweeping swirls of coloration. Granite slab can also be machined to a variety of edge finishes beyond the standard square edge or bullnose, but specialty edgings will increase the overall cost. Tile is infinitely customizable, allowing for insets and mixing of different color, size and material tiles. Highly reflective surfaces on either tile or granite are not recommended for outdoor use because exposure to the elements leads to a buildup that can dull the shine.
Tile countertops are more likely than granite to be damaged by extreme weather conditions. The porous nature of grout allows water to penetrate into the grout lines. In areas with low winter temperatures, grout could become saturated with water from accumulated snow and sleet. When temperatures drop below freezing, the water in the grout lines freezes and expands. The formation of ice causes grout lines to crack and tiles to loosen from the surface of the countertop. Slab-style granite can withstand repeated freeze-thaw cycles without damage.
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