There’s a lot of different stone out there, but there are two primary varieties that are used in homebuilding and renovation.
Granite is a type of naturally occurring stone that forms within certain layers of the earth because of the extreme heat and forces involved in shift in the earth’s crust. Every single cut of granite is completely unique, much like a fingerprint.
The other primary option for countertops when it comes to stone material is engineered stone. Engineered stone is made by man through a process of crushing natural stone, usually quartz, and mixing it with other aggregates and reconstituting it as a block of natural stone. Engineered stone tends to be very consistent in its appearance.
One of the biggest differences between the two that matters to homeowners is the appearance of the surface of the two stones. Granite is completely natural and shows the patterns and differences between the parts of the rock as they solidified in the Earth (heat, pressure, etc. all had an impact). Therefore, each piece of granite is unique and will show intricate and interesting patterns that can’t be matched by another piece of stone. Engineered stone works best when consistency is key. Made in a factory, engineered stone tends to show nearly the same grain and color across every piece, making for a uniform appearance.
Both offer superior durability though. Since both are essentially natural stone, there is no real difference in the material’s strength and both will hold up well. There is a slight exception for granite in that it is more prone to cracking because of its natural fissures and properties, and it can stain if not properly maintained because of its porous nature (especially from acids). Engineered stone won’t stain because it’s not porous, likewise it isn’t prone to cracking because of the close chemical bonds of the amalgam.
Cleaning is a no brainer with either of these materials as long as you do it regularly too. All you’ll need is a damp cloth and a mild cleaner. Your local hardware (and possibly grocery) store will also carry special cleaners specifically for granite that offer lasting protection designed for natural stone material. You should be able to clean engineered stone with most cleaners because of its nonporous nature.