Countertops are central to any kitchen design — whether you are remodeling or building from top to bottom. There are so many kitchen counter options on the market, ranging from new eco-friendly materials to well-known alternatives like the traditional butcher block. Each type of countertop has its pros and cons, from cost to maintenance. Read on to find out which type of kitchen counter would be best for your home.
Natural-Stone Kitchen Countertops
Natural stone is a durable material that stands up to the heavy use of an active kitchen. Stone offers a unique natural complexity of colors that make each countertop beautiful and unique. Granite and marble are the most popular stones used today, but limestone and soapstone are also seeing more usage. Stone is one of the classic countertop materials and therefore, will not go out of style. While it’s the most expensive countertop material, stone is durable, heat-resistant and long lasting. It’s naturally porous, so it needs to be sealed upon installation and requires regular maintenance and resealing (for food safety and aesthetics). The softer stones, such as marble and limestone, can be chipped or cracked. Because of natural stone’s heaviness, you’ll need very sturdy cabinet boxes to support the weight.
Cultured-Stone Kitchen Countertops
These modern countertops are a blend of quartz and pigments that closely mimic the look and feel of natural stone. Cultured-stone countertops come in a wide variety of colors, and patterns. It is heat, stain and scratch-resistant, easy to clean and doesn’t require special sealing or maintenance. Also known as quartz-surfacing, cultured stone is available in uniform colors and patterns, unlike natural stone. However, cultured stone doesn’t look as natural as real stone, even though it can cost as much. It’s durability and easy care might make it a worthwhile investment.
Heat and moisture resistant, solid-surfacing countertops look like natural stone, but do not cost as much or need maintenance. It’s easy to clean and doesn’t fade or age with time. Made primarily from acrylic and polyester, solid surfacing first was first sold under the brand name Corian, but is now made by a host of manufacturers. Solid-surfacing offers a variety of color possibilities and design options and can also resemble glass or concrete countertops. It is not scratch proof, however, and can be scorched when exposed to high heat.
Laminate Kitchen Countertops
The cheapest kitchen countertop material, laminate is constructed with a thin sheet of plastic resin that encompasses a paper that carries the pattern. It is adhered to a phenolyc backer and then glued to plywood or particleboard. Laminate to mimic stone, metal, or wood countertops. Because it is lightweight, laminate doesn’t require the support of a thick cabinet base. While it’s easy to clean and heat, stain and scratch-resistant, it can be easily damaged with sharp knives and high heat. Another drawback is that you can only have a drop-in sink with laminate countertops, because of the way it’s constructed.
Eco-Friendly Kitchen Countertops
If you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly kitchen counter option, you might consider bamboo, recycled glass, and paper composites (combination of resin, pigments, and recycled paper). Sometimes harder to find in certain areas, eco-friendly countertops are easy to clean, fairly durable but can be susceptible to scratches, stains and burning. Recycled glass counters can also chip or break with heavy impacts. While they don’t cost much less than natural stone or other countertop varieties, eco-friendly materials evoke the look of solid surfacing or laminate but with a warmer sensibility. They are also a great deal lighter than natural stone or concrete, so you do not need a sturdy cabinet base.
Wood Kitchen Countertops
With a fresh, classic appeal, wood countertops add instant warmth and charm to your kitchen. Butcher block is the most common type of wood countertop, but crafted wood slabs are also available. Long-lasting wood is a great prep-area countertop material. Although knives cause scratches in wood, it doesn’t dull knives. Part of its charm is the shopworn look it develops with time and scratches. But you can also sand scratches down with ease. Because wood can harbor bacteria, it needs frequent sealing (with oil) and disinfecting. Vulnerable to heat, acid, corrosive materials and stains, it can also shrink and expand with moisture levels.
Metal Kitchen Countertops
Because they complement many types of styles and kitchen appliances, stainless steel countertops have become very popular within the last 20 years. These countertops are custom made to fit your kitchen, so they offer a tailored look. Other metal countertop materials include copper, and zinc. Anti-bacterial, stain and heat-resistant, stainless steel is durable and distinctive. It can be expensive because of the custom fabrication, however, and does have some other disadvantages. For example, if it is scratched or dented, it cannot be repaired. Stainless steel can also create a loud kitchen, as pots, pans and dishes clang on the countertop. Fingerprints and other messes are highly visible, necessitating frequent cleaning.
Concrete Kitchen Countertops
No longer just for floors, concrete is a durable and versatile material that can be colored with tinting and shaped with molds to create a wide variety of design possibilities. You easily can add unique inlays, such as glass fragments, rocks and shells. Slightly edgier than other materials, concrete countertops complement other natural materials such as wood and stone. Although water and stain-resistant, it isn’t as heat-resistant as some other materials. Concrete needs to be sealed and regularly maintained to keep its stain and water-resistant properties. And, it can be damaged from highly acidic liquids. Like stainless steel, concrete is custom made for each countertop, so the price is not low. Concrete is extremely heavy and will need strong cabinet support beneath. With time and settling, concrete can develop small cracks.
Tile Kitchen Countertops
Ceramic tile is heat, stain, scratch and moisture-resistant. Tile can fit into almost any kitchen style, from country cottage to Old World. Although they can chip or crack, ceramic tiles are durable and come in many shapes, textures, and sizes so that many style combinations are possible. Even if one or two tiles are damaged, they can be easily replaced. The grout needs to be sealed and cleaned routinely, as it can stain and mildew. Ceramic tile has an inherently uneven surface, so it can make it hard to balance a cutting board or roll out a pie crust.
Tell Us Which Countertop You Like
Kitchen countertop materials have come a long way since the wood surfaces of bygone kitchens. With so many options available today, we’d like to know which kitchen countertop material is your favorite. Tell us in the comments below!