Kitchen Countertops: What are Your Best Options?
There are so many beautiful countertop options and styles available for you to consider. Each countertop material has distinct characteristics. When you are remodeling, the countertops you choose will have a tremendous impact on the overall design of the room. You also want the countertops to be durable, easy to clean, stain resistant, and attractive. To help you make an educated choice about the best countertop material for you, I highlighted some key points you may not have considered about the most popular countertop material choices. In future blog posts I will go into more depth for each of the categories I am describing below. Categories are in no particular order or rank. (Click any image to enlarge)
Granite Countertops are still the most popular countertop choice in our market. It is the benchmark of what people expect to spend on a counter. Budgets start there, and then alternatives are looked at above or below the price of granite. It is very elegant, extremely durable, and heat resistant. Granite is a natural stone that comes in a range of beautiful colors, but an important consideration is that granite is a natural rock, variable by nature, and the color or pattern will NOT be consistent and there can be surface pits in the rock. You should seal granite once a year and know that edges may chip due to normal wear and tear around the sinks and dishwashers where pots hit the edges going in and out. Expect to have some chips depending on edge design the stone you select. Some stone is harder and may not chip as easily as others.
Engineered Stone/Quartz Countertops are available in a dazzling range of colors and have a nonporous scratch-resistant surface. For those who love the look of granite but are concerned with its lack of consistency, Quartz is a very hard material and can give you a natural stone look with consistent color and texture throughout the quartz countertop. Each slab looks the same, which helps minimize the visable seems that you will get in granite countertop installations. Quartz is easy to maintain and doesn’t require the annual sealing required by natural stone. See these popular quartz manufacturers we often use: Silestone, Caesarstone, Cambria, HanStone, Eco, and Dupont Zodiaq.
Wood or Butcher Block Countertops can add a beautiful, warm look to any room design. Wood tops are not all equal, and different configurations effect the price. For example, wide board plank is more expensive, medium planks will be slightly less, and end-grain will be the least expensive. Other things that affect price are the edge profile (ie: the more detailed the shape the higher the premium). Another thing that affects price is the thickness of the countertop (ie: 2 1/4″ thick countertop will cost more than a 1 1/4″ thick top). The type of wood you choose and the finish are all important considerations. Butcher block is typically maple but sometimes made of cherry or oak or even a mixture of several types of wood. You can chop and dice on butcher block but your slice marks will show. Other wood counter options include bamboo, mahogany, cherry, or teak. There are pros and cons of using different finishes such as a sealer vs. mineral oil. A polyurethane is durable initially but might not be the best choice if you’re putting food on it. It also requires the maintenance of resanding and resealing eventually.
Concrete Countertops in our market are typically cast on the job site . They typically start at the same price as granite but are often more expensive, which is due to the installation fees rather than the material cost. Each counter has to have a custom mold made, but the advantage is that the counter can be formed into any unique shape. We have used concrete in both modern and rustic kitchens and have added color-tinted elements and inlays for an exotic appearance. Concrete is heat and scratch resistant but requires periodic sealing to keep it stain resistant.
Metal Countertops (Stainless Steel Counters, Copper Counters, Zinc Counters) Stainless steel counters will give your kitchen a modern or industrial feel. Think of stainless as you would think of your stainless sink. That is the way it will look. It is heat resistant, durable, sanitary, and easy to clean. It can scratch, so you won’t want to cut on it. Water spotting, dents, and finger prints can occur. Some clients opt for brushed or textured finishes that help hide scratches. Stainless can be noisy so make sure yours is insulated to absorb some of the sound. Other metals like copper or zinc countertops are an option, but not too many people are willing to live with the downsides such as spotting. If you are looking for an old world look this is a beautiful option. If you want it to look perfect all the time, but don’t want to be a slave to it, then metal countertops might not be the right choice for you.
Glass Countertops are a nice choice as are glass backsplashes and even glass floors. Glass gives you the ability to showcase color in an artistic style, encorporate texture and shape, and reflect light. Glass shows less dust and fingerprints, particularly if there is texture in the surface. There are numerous choices in color finishes and patterns. We have installed glass countertops up to 1 1/2″ thick, and they are gorgeous for outdoor applications when backlit. Glass is the least porous and is hygienic but it can scratch like most countertop materials.
Marble Countertops are more porous than granite and will have to be sealed more often. Some marbles are more condusive to being used in a kitchen and are less fragile, so we would guide you in choosing the appropriate marble for the room you intend to use it in. If you are using it for a table area as opposed to a task area, then you could get away with a more fragile piece. Marble can be expensive and requires regular maintenance, since it is susceptible to staining. It is waterproof, heat resistant, and extremely beautiful, but it is porous and the surface can stain and edges can crack and chip.
Soapstone Countertops are a cross between marble and granite. We have used them in both old world kitchen designs and modern kitchens. The finish is smooth and deep in color (grays, greens, and blacks). You will often find soapstone used with farmhouse sinks. It is mostly stain resistant but requires regular maintenance with mineral oil. It is softer than granite but still a great counter to work on. Soapstone slabs are smaller than granite, so you often will need additional seams in your kitchen.
Corian Countertops have an appearance similar to stone and can be molded and formed into almost any contour or shape. The color or pattern is consistent all the way through making seams almost invisible. Our original installations of Corian included only four shades of white and beige, but we now use Corian in a wide palate of colors and patterns. Corian can also be used for inlays. We have used certain colors in outdoor kitchens because their translucency allows us to backlight them. In our showroom we have a display that features a variety of lighting effects including one setting that allows multi-color lights to sync with the beat of the music or DJ (Photo here on Kitchen Designs Facebook page). Corian is stain resistant and easy to clean. It is considered heat resistant, but avoid direct heat exposure to protect the surface. Corian countertops can be scratched, so use a cutting board. Shallow scratches can be removed with mild abrasives or a Scotch-Brite pad.
Ceramic Tile Countertops are relatively inexpensive and can have a nice look, however there are several drawbacks including that the grout lines can stain, the tile can chip or crack, and the surface is not smooth. Generally speaking, we don’t see much demand, and this choice is not as popular in our area. We have, however, used ceramic tile in smaller side buffets. Ceramic tile is durable and stands up well to heat. It comes in a wide variety of colors, textures, designs, and prices.
Slate Countertops are a natural nonporous and heat resistant stone. Slate countertops fit well in both traditional kitchens and a modern kitchens. With slate counters, there are limited color choices with tones of green, gray, red, brown, purple, and black. There are many types of slates that need no sealing for preventing stains. Slate stone countertops are scratch resistant. Mild scratches on slate contertops can be removed just with a damp cloth or fine steel wool. The edges are usually simple, with the sharpness taken off the edge. Slate looks beautiful in a matt honed finish. The honing process produces a warm, durable, and natural surface. Although low maintenance, we recommend use of mineral oil to protect a slate counter. (Photo: Sheldon Slate)
Paper Countertops are considered one of the greenest architectural surfaces on the market today, although not hugely popular in our area. Paper countertops are made from recycled paper and proprietary, petroleum-free phenolic resins that are pressed and baked to create solid sheets. They are often used for cutting boards and are a nice option for smaller counters such as laundry rooms. Paper countertops are stain resistant when properly finish but can potentially stain (ie red wine, mustard). Damage that does occur may be repaired by light refinishing the material. A yearly application of mineral oil or an approved finish will help keep this top looking new. (This counter is by the manufacturer Richlite)
Laminate Countertops used to be the norm before we had so many choices. Laminate offers a seemingly endless combination of vibrant colors, patterns, and textures. Certain designs can replicate the look of granite or engineered stone. Laminates combine paper and resin pressed and bonded (laminated) together under high pressure and heat. It is reasonably durable and easy to maintain. Laminates are inexpensive, low-maintenance, and easy to clean. They are susceptible to damage from sharp knives and hot pans. You will need to use a cutting board, and you can’t clean it with abrasive cleansers or steel wool. Dark lines may show at the edges, and if you damage an area, it is difficult to repair.
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Related Reading: (See this very interesting glass floor we recently installed on these blogs CFT411 Cabinet and Furniture Trends,CalFinder Remodeling Blog, and on Kitchen Designs’ Page on Facebook)
Posted by GKelly in Budgeting, Countertops, Design, Glass, Granite, Green Design, Kitchen Design, Learn, Marble, Metals: Stainless & Other, Planning, Quartz, Wood | Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly, Inc. © 2012, Showroom locations: 26 Hillside Avenue, Williston Park, NY 516-746-3435 – 11 Bridge Street, Sag Harbor, NY 631-808-3116| ftc compliant – privacy/disclosure policy | See our favorite kitchen finds at ShopKitchensesigns.com | View our main website at KitchenDesigns.com | Kitchen Designs on Facebook | Kitchen Designs on Twitter