May 22, 2024 | Product News

What does the future hold for stone benchtops? An update

With the ban on the manufacture and supply of engineered stone surfaces effective from 1 July 2024 you may be wondering what the future of stone benchtops looks like. Is there an alternative? If so, is it a solution that offers the advantages of engineered stone with the assurance of meeting new industry regulations? Let’s get an update.

Q. Which engineered stone materials will be banned?

A. The ban will apply to engineered stone benchtops, slabs and panels.

In March 2024, Work Health Safety (WHS) ministers agreed that engineered stone be defined as an artificial product that:

  • contains at least 1% silica as a weight/weight concentration, and

  • is created by combining natural stone materials with other chemical constituents (such as water, resins, or pigments), and

  • becomes hardened.

The definition excludes porcelain and sintered stone products (including benchtops, slabs and panels). Complete definitions and exclusions can be found on the FAQ section of the Safe Work Australia website.

Q. Is the ban effective nationwide?

A. The engineered stone ban takes effect on 1 July 2024 with a transition plan and arrangements specified by the work health and safety regulator in each state or territory. In NSW and SA, there will be a transitional period for contracts for the installation of engineered stone benchtops, panels and slabs entered on or before 31 December 2023, if the installation is completed by 31 December 2024. Installation of engineered stone in WA will only be permitted up to 31 December 2024 for contracts entered on or before 1 January 2024. QLD, VIC and ACT prohibit the manufacturing, supply, processing or installation of engineered stone benchtops, panels or slabs from 1 July 2024 without any transition period. Latest updates are available through workplace health and safety regulators in each state.

Q. Is there an alternative available to engineered stone?

A. Yes. A new range is already available that offers a comprehensive stone benchtop solution that is fully compliant with Australian government legislation. It’s called the Sintered Collection and it’s from Smartstone, a leading distributor of stone-inspired surfaces since 2002.

The recent launch of these innovative sintered surfaces has been welcomed by stonemasons and other industry professionals, including architects, interior designers and kitchen retailers. It has also already been positively received by homeowners seeking the luxurious aesthetic of natural stone benchtops with Smartstone’s practical benefits – and, of course, with the assurance of full compliance with new industry regulations.

Q. How do these new surfaces differ to engineered stone?

A. Unlike engineered stone, the surfaces in the Smartstone Sintered Collection comprise 100% natural materials and contain no metal compounds or resins as binders. The new surfaces are made using a ‘sintering’ process, inspiring the name of the Collection, which is vastly different to engineered stone manufacture and excluded from the ‘engineered stone’ category under WorkSafe guidelines.

Q. What does the ‘sintering’ process involve?

A. Sintering combines advanced technology with natural fusion techniques which replicate millions of years of the earth’s metamorphic processes. Intense heat and immense pressure (30,000 tons) bind the natural materials to create an ultra-compact, extra-durable and non-porous surface material.

Q. How does Smartstone Sintered Collection performance compare with engineered stone?

A. While both materials deliver extreme durability and non-porous qualities, the Sintered Collection also offers 100% UV stability. This expands Smartstone surface applications to outdoors usage, in addition to endless interior applications.

Q. How is the Sintered Collection superior to traditional porcelain surfaces?

A. Smartstone elevates the qualities of traditional porcelain to an entirely new level by delivering superior performance and enhanced natural-stone aesthetics. Advanced print technology extends from precise natural stone replication on the surface into the body of the slab. The Collection has been independently tested by Australia’s Stone Initiatives, a NATA-accredited evaluation company that specialises in testing for performance, durability and quality assurance. The surfaces are certified resistant to stain, chip, etch, thermal shock, frost, chemicals, mould and mildew.

kitchen benchtops, engineered stone, porcelain benchtops, sintered stone

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