If you've been shopping for kitchen countertops, no doubt you've been bombarded with enough options to make your head spin. Materials like granite, marble, quartz and quartzite... wait a minute, "What's quartzite?" Actually, that's something that a surprising amount of shoppers don't know about before they step into a showroom.

Luckily, Affordable Granite and Cabinetry in Fishkill loves to geek out over everything countertops. So, when I began my search for the perfect kitchen their experts gave me a crash course in natural and engineered stone. You may think the opposite by the names, but quartz is a man-made product, while quartzite is natural stone.

Quartz has become extremely popular because of its durability and cost efficiency when compared to quartzite and marble. Quartz also comes in a wide range of colors. Slabs are engineered using actual quartzite crystals mechanically combined with resins, and pigments to form a durable, non-porous and uniform-looking countertop. Bits of glass or reflective material can even be added in to give the stone a bit of "bling." Because of the endless ways quartz countertops can be customized and colored, the stone can be tailored for any decor.

Some designers, on the other hand, swear that there's no substitute for the real thing. Quartzite countertops are naturally formed. Sandstone is naturally heated and compressed below the earth's surface creating flowing designs that dance and spark with quartz crystals. These stones are sometimes confused with marble. Wild, naturally flowing veins of light grey and white make a dramatic statement in any kitchen. The canvas of a quality quartzite countertop will also contain combinations of natural crystals in a variety of colors that can give the slab a hint of pink, reddish-brown or even gold.

Natural quartzite is popular for many reasons. It's harder than granite, low maintenance and resistant to cuts, etching, staining and heat.

While quartzite comes with a higher price tag, the look is something that just can't be duplicated by quartz. And right now Affordable Granite and Cabinetry is having a huge sale on natural quartzite. Usually priced over $140 per square foot, slabs are now starting at just $87.50 per square foot. If you've been putting off designing your dream kitchen, this is a pretty great opportunity to upgrade to some luxury materials while still sticking to your budget.