Explore the pros and cons of eight kitchen countertop materials. The options may surprise you.Whether you're remodelling a kitchen, building one from scratch or just ready to give yours a face-lift, countertops are a central part of the look. And you may be daunted by the wealth of options on the market; countertop surfaces range from well-known granite to less common materials such as quartz and butcher block. Finding the perfect kitchen countertop for the most used room in a home can be a challenge. Countertops must be durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean, and improve a kitchen's overall appearance. Although it may seem impossible at times to find the right countertop, a little research will help you make a better informed decision on what type of kitchen counter to choose.
Granite countertops provide uncompromising beauty and elegance, and are naturally durable and easy to clean.
Pros: Granite's beautiful mottling and the host of colours and patterns found in nature make each piece one of a kind. It stands up well to splashes, knife nicks, heat and other wear and tear.
Cons: Like most stone, granite must be sealed every so often to avoid stains. And its heaviness means you'll need very sturdy cabinet boxes to support the weight.
Made primarily from acrylic and polyester, solid surfacing first was sold under the brand name Corian. Today, it's made by a host of manufacturers and has enjoyed steady popularity over the years.
Pros: Because solid surfacing is nonporous, it's virtually maintenance free — no sealing or special cleaning required. Although it can be susceptible to scratches and burns, those are easy to sand out. Colour and pattern options are extensive, and because you're not trying for the look of a natural material, you can experiment with vibrant hues such as turquoise or tomato red. Seamless installation means there are no cracks to trap dirt and debris.
Cons: Solid surfacing can have a patently artificial look and feel, yet can approach the price of natural stone. As mentioned above, it doesn't stand up to hot pans or sharp knives as well as other materials.
Crafted of resin and quartz chips tinted with colour, quartz surfacing (also called engineered quartz or engineered stone) is a good compromise between the beauty of stone and the easy care of solid surfacing.
Pros: Quartz surfacing has the same advantages as solid surfacing with regard to maintenance. As an engineered product, it's available in a far greater range of colours and patterns than natural stone. It is durable and very difficult to scratch, cut, or stain. It will tolerate hot cookware with no sealers or treatments needed and is naturally hygienic. Quartz is a non-porous stone, which means that it can resist stains from such infamous stain makers as make-up, coffee, wine, and several other common substances in the household. Furthermore, quartz does not need to be sealed in order to keep its shine like other stones, such as granite
Cons: This material doesn't have the natural variegation of granite, so if you're after natural look quartz may not be your number one choice.
Is there anything that looks and feels more glamorous than a marble countertop? Peerless in terms of its luminescence and distinctive veining, it's the most traditional choice.
Pros: Nothing beats marble for sheer elegance. It stands up to heat well, and because it remains perennially cool, it's a traditional choice for pastry and baking stations (Dough won't get too soft).
Cons: Marble is very susceptible to stains, even with sealing. For that reason, it's not often used throughout an entire kitchen — most homeowners limit it to one or two small areas. It can also scratch and chip. The main issue with marble is etching from coming in contact with acids, which is not preventable with sealing.
Modular and inexpensive, ceramic and porcelain tile offers nearly limitless options for colours and designs. Tile works with almost any kitchen style, from country to majestic Old World.
Pros: It holds its own against heat and sharp blades, and resists stains. If one or two tiles chip or crack, they're fairly easy to replace. Tile has come such a long way from the old style bumpy 4" x 4". There are large format through-body porcelain tiles -- some as large as 24" x 48" -- so you can cover a counter in a perfectly flat surface that is heat, stain and knife resistant. Very few grout lines are needed and with epoxy or urethane grout it's no longer a hassle to keep them clean.
Cons: Depending on your tile choices, some will have an uneven surface and can make it difficult to balance a cutting board or roll out a pie crust. Unsealed grout is prone to staining; standing moisture can damage it and contribute to bacterial growth.
Made of paper blended with resins and fused to particle board, laminate has been a kitchen mainstay for decades. In the past, it hasn't always had a reputation as stylish, but that's changing: The latest designs on the market mimic stone, butcher block and other pricier surfaces.
Pros: Laminate is one of the most affordable countertop materials, so it's a good choice if your budget is tight. It is low maintenance and easy to clean, light weight and doesn't require the support of a thick cabinet base.
Cons: Laminate is prone to scratching, burns and, in some cases, staining. With wear and moisture exposure, the layers can peel. Because of the raw particle board core, you can't use laminate with undermount sinks, and it's also difficult to repair if it gets damaged.
Once found mostly in commercial kitchens, stainless steel has slipped into vogue within the past two decades. These countertops are custom made to fit your kitchen, so you're guaranteed a tailored look.
Pros: There's a reason stainless steel is used in restaurants and other high-traffic kitchens: It's nearly indestructible, and it resists heat and bacteria. It also provides a very distinctive look that feels appropriate in contemporary and industrial-style kitchens.
Cons: Fingerprints show and must be wiped off frequently, and stainless steel can also dent. It can be loud when pots, pans and dishware clang against the surface. Chemicals can affect its colour and cause unwanted etching. Stainless steel is extremely expensive due to the custom fabrication.
Butcher block has a classic appeal and always looks fresh. It's especially fitting for traditional, country and cottage-style kitchens.
Pros: Many homeowners like butcher block's warm, natural appearance and variegated wood tones. Although knives scratch it, many people like the shopworn look it develops — after all, it's what chopping blocks have been made of for years. But you can also sand scratches down with ease.
Cons: Wood swells and contracts with moisture exposure, and butcher block is no exception. It harbours bacteria and needs frequent disinfecting. Oiling is a must to fill in scratches and protect the surface.
Well you can certainly see there is no shortage of choices above. Hope this helped you demystify the selection process and weigh your options.
Price of kitchen counter tops vary greatly, depending upon material choice and counter top design. Although replacing kitchen counter tops can add considerably to the overall kitchen remodelling cost, avoid selecting a cheap kitchen counter top just to save money.
Selecting a quality counter top will not only drastically improve your kitchen's appearance and function. It will last longer. High-end materials like quartz or marble counters increase the market value of your home.
While you may decide to do most of your home kitchen remodelling yourself, consider the following. Acquire the services of certified professionals to draw up the plans for your dream kitchen, and a kitchen remodelling contractor for custom kitchen counters.
Toni Crockett Design, author of this
column, is a boutique style Design & Decorating Firm. Toni would love to talk to you about designing and managing a
renovation for you.