There is no doubt that natural stone is one of the most beautiful materials that you can use to decorate your home or place of business. However, there are a lot of people who can’t afford high-end stones like granite and marble. As we have discussed in the past, these materials are very expensive, but there are a number of other stones that are available. There are also various substitute materials that can give you a similar look at a fraction of the price. For this article, we will be discussing these less-sought-after materials and attempting to determine which one gives the best value for your money.

The Contenders:

First, let’s take a look at the stones and their basic qualities:


  • Hardness Rating (Mohs Scale): 7 out of 10
  • Average Price Per Sq. Foot: $55-$155
  • Beauty Rating: 9 out of 10
  • Impact Resistance: Pretty good

Quartz is one of the most common stones in the world, although its hardness makes it a little bit difficult to carve. Still, this might be described as the “poor man’s granite.” The most common type of quartz is clear or milky white, but this stone can be found in all sorts of colors. In fact, it’s one of the most variable stones on earth. Its semi-translucent nature also allows for the use of a backlight, which is truly an awesome visual effect.


  • Hardness Rating (Mohs Scale): 3 out of 10
  • Average Price Per Sq. Foot: $15-$40
  • Beauty Rating: 5 out of 10
  • Impact Resistance: Extremely good

This is an artificial covering made from plastic sheets. While it may not look as nice as the real thing, it offers an extremely low price. It’s great for those who need something easy and cheap. Also, being plastic, it resists impact and liquids better than any natural stone ever could. To be fair, most people won’t be able to tell that it’s artificial until they look closely.

Ceramic Tile

  • Hardness Rating (Mohs Scale): 7 out of 10
  • Average Price Per Sq. Foot: $18-$35
  • Beauty Rating: 7 out of 10
  • Impact Resistance: Not very good at all

This is basically fired clay, and it is one of the oldest and safest choices. Since clay is everywhere, clay also tends to be cheap. Clay can be found in a variety of different colors, but that doesn’t matter because ceramic tiles will always be painted and glazed. The fact that you can get them in literally any color or finish is great, and they aren’t terribly hard to install either. In fact, you can even get plain tiles and decorate them yourself for a personal touch.


  • Hardness Rating (Mohs Scale): 5.5 out of 10 (some varieties differ)
  • Average Price Per Sq. Foot: $50-$65
  • Beauty Rating: 10 out of 10
  • Impact Resistance: Average


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A little peek of a fun kitchen install #slatecountertops

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Slate is another contender for the title of “poor man’s granite,” and it might be a better contender for that title because it’s cheaper. At the same time, it can be hard to tell high-quality slate from granite unless you have the knowledge to see the small differences. Slate comes in so many colors that you should have no problem matching your home’s decor.

Recycled Glass

  • Hardness Rating (Mohs Scale): 5.5 out of 10
  • Average Price Per Sq. Foot: $50-$125
  • Beauty Rating: 8 out of 10
  • Impact Resistance: Decent


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This detail!!! Thanks @emg_charleston and @polishedrenovations & Lynne W. for your collaboration!

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You have certainly seen these counters before. The surface is mostly made of little glass shards that have been suspended in an acrylic substance. Obviously, this is an artificial material, but its secondhand nature makes it a lot cheaper than most others. Some people really like the look of these surfaces while others may not.

The Battle:

So, let’s compare our surfaces one category at a time. In each category, the winner will get a point. At the end of our little game, we should be able to tell you which of these materials provides the best quality at the lowest cost.


When we take a look at the hardness of all these substances, we find that all of them are substandard to the quality of the high-end stone. However, quartz and ceramic tile have the two highest values and are tied at 7. As such, both of them get a point. Both of these materials are very hard and able to resist pretty much anything that would ever be found in your kitchen. For instance, both quartz and ceramic will do a good job of resisting acids.


In terms of value, ceramic tile and laminate come in the first place and are more or less tied. One of them has a better high number while the other one has a better low number, and so they both get a point. At the same time, it should be noted that slate is only a little bit more expensive and is almost as good as high-end stone. Thus, the slate gets a point as well.


For beauty, the slate is unquestionably at the top of the pile. However, quartz is a very close second. Recycled glass counters are attractive, but some people do not care for the recycled look, and that keeps them from being a serious contender in this category. Quartz and slate will both get a point here.

Impact Resistance

Hardness and impact resistance are not the same. Ceramic tile is a great example of this. While it is technically harder than most stones, it has very little resistance to impact. This is because of its coarse grain structure, which makes it much easier to break. Modern ceramics are a little more durable than natural clay, but ceramics still can’t compete in this category. The same is also true of recycled glass. In this category, the clear winner is the laminate, with quartz being a close second.

The Aftermath:

So, the scoreboard looks like this:

  • Quartz: 2
  • Laminate: 2
  • Ceramic Tile: 2
  • Slate: 2
  • Recycled Glass: 0

This is a very interesting result. What we can see here is that recycled glass does not take the prize in any one category. If it were a little bit cheaper or a little bit more durable, it would be worth getting, but it’s not. Quartz is beautiful and tough, but almost as expensive as high-end stone. Laminate is the best choice if you need the absolute cheapest, but it doesn’t look that nice.

In the end, we have to give the win to the slate. It offers the beauty of high-end stone at a cost that is extremely low. It doesn’t have the same durability as granite, and it absolutely will require the use of a sealer due to its porousness. Still, it offers the greatest number of benefits at the lowest cost. If you have found our research to be helpful and informative, we hope you will fill out the contact form below.

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