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Remodeling 101: 6 Things to Know About Lava Stone Countertops in Every Hue

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Remodeling 101: 6 Things to Know About Lava Stone Countertops in Every Hue

June 28, 2018

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 countertops have been gaining traction—and introducing an eye-opening new palette to the kitchen. Is lava stone a countertop to consider? Read our six areas for consideration to find out.

glazed lava stone has advantages that raw stones, such as marble and granite, l 9
Above: Glazed lava stone has advantages that raw stones, such as marble and granite, lack: color, for starters. Photograph via Made a Mano.
 lava stone counters from french company pyrolave in calm and luxe: an ameri 10
Above: Lava stone counters from French company Pyrolave in Calm and Luxe: An American Designer Reinterprets a Cannes Villa. ”The stone itself comes from the Auvergne region of France; the finish is hand-applied and then baked in a kiln,” the designer says.

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.

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 indestructible (reducing the waste involved in having to replace less durable countertops). Just be sure to love the material; it’s like a long marriage.
cut slabs of lava stone await glazing. lava stone is sourced primarily from qu 11
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.
 lava stone&#8\2\17;s surface is typically patterned with crazing—a web  12
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 from Low Impact Ltd.

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.

the leading manufacturer of lava stone is the french company pyrolave, which  13
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.
until recently, all lava stone was manufactured in europe. now the material is  14
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, such as 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).

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.

glazed lava stone tabletops, such as this blue french lava stone tabletop, avai 15
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
the powder room floor in spring in london features lava stone from danish compa 16
Above: The powder-room floor in Spring in London features lava stone from Danish company Made a Mano‘s Cristalli color group (see more at Steal This Look: Pink Herringbone Bath at Spring in London.) Made a Mano offers glazed lava stone countertops and tiles in a few color collections, including Nudalava (sourced from Mount Etna), Ossido (24 neutral and metallic shades), and Cristalli (19 vibrant hues).

Researching new countertops? Read Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Kitchen Countertops. And for more specifics on the subject, see our Remodeling 101 posts:

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen countertop in our Remodeling 101 Guide to Kitchen Countertops.

N.B.: This post is an update; it originally ran on January 15, 2015.

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