Top 10 Materials for Countertops

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Most Common Countertop Materials

Ten materials make up the majority of kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities on the market. These include granite, marble, quartz, and more. Each material has its own pros and cons. For instance, some are very durable while others can be easily scratched or damaged. And some types of material cost a lot more than others. See details below to get an idea of what countertop material might be the right choice for your project. 

Granite Countertops

Granite has traditionally been the countertop material of choice when the cost is not an issue. Granite evokes a sense of elegance in any kitchen space with its beauty. Even modest kitchens seem like luxurious spaces when flavored by the presence of stone as your countertops.

Historically, granite has been an expensive material, but its cost has come down somewhat as supplies have increased and engineered granite has become more common.

Pros to granite include the fact that the material is almost impervious to heat, as well as being very strong and durable. An additional pro is that granite often adds real estate value to home and with nearly 3,000 different colors and types available, it easily fits into any style of design features. It’s also nearly maintenance-free when treated with newer sealers.

A few cons to granite are it’s generally higher cost and inability to be effectively installed without professional help. Some people are also concerned about slabs that may have imperfections and do not see them as giving character to the material overall. Important to note is that granite can crack if stressed or improperly installed and should not be used as a cutting board surface. Also, granite is porous and requires sealing to avoid stains, but this is easily done with newer sealants. 

Soapstone Countertops

Soapstone is a natural stone that can be dark in color and sometimes smooth to the touch. It has seen recent popularity as an alternative for granite countertops, but it also serves as both the countertop and sink material in some homes and commercial spaces. Contrary to expectations, soapstone countertops are actually quite hard and resistant to stains. Over time, scratches will add to the antique patina of the stone. Some pros to soapstone include the elegant deep, rich color, which also makes it somewhat stain resistant. Soapstone is airly impervious to heat and when damaged, it can be sanded and buffed to cover the damage. It also offers an antique and historic look to a space that can add to the overall design element. 

The cons include the fact that soapstone may darken further over time, which may impact the color scheme of the original space. Soapstone installation is also best accomplished with an experienced contractor and not attempted as a weekend DIY project. Another factor to consider is that soapstone must be treated with mineral oil and the surface can scratch and dent, though some will appreciate that this can create an attractive antique look that could not otherwise be accomplished. 

Marble Countertops

A natural stone commonly used in kitchen countertops is marble, and it’s often used for its the highly varied texture. Marble is too expensive to be seen on the main sections of a majority of kitchens, so it most prominently displays its luxurious look on an island or as part of a baking center. Marble may not necessarily be the best choice for kitchen countertops because of its penchant for staining and scratching. Although newer sealers can reduce marble upkeep, it is a more temperamental material than granite or soapstone.

The pros of marble countertops include the fact that it is waterproof and heatproof and also can add solid value to any real estate. Marble is also exquisitely beautiful, with unique veining and other attractive design properties. The cons of marble countertops include its high price tag and the fact that it requires professional installation. It is also more fragile than other materials and can be scratched while repairs are difficult or impossible. Marble is also quite porous and for that reason, it stains easily unless sealed. 

Engineered Quartz Countertops

The countertop material known as “quartz” is actually an engineered stone product. These are not solid quartz slabs manufactured in a quarry. They actually contain roughly 93% quartz and minerals and another 7% of additional materials. A quartz surface is generally better-performing and more adaptable than granite and marble. Quartz surfaces come in a range of colors, including simulated marbles, with nonporous surfaces that resist scratches and stains. Unlike natural stone, there is no annual sealing required for quartz surfaces. Similar technology is now being used in more environmentally sustainable countertops. Such crushed glass particles are blended with resins and shaped into countertop slabs. Consumers keen on being on the cutting edge may want to consider this as well as quartz countertops.

There are a number of pros to using engineered quartz, including the ability to DIY installation without using a professional contractor if you have the skills and tools to do it yourself. Engineered quartz is also easy to maintain with no sealing required to prevent scratching and staining. Another major benefit of using this material is that slabs are uniform, with no imperfections, and can be custom-fabricated in any size and shape to meet your space and design needs. Engineered quartz also resists stains and is impervious to heat and acid and overall exhibits a more convincing, natural appearance than other solid surface materials. The only cons to engineered quartz are the high cost and the slabs can be extremely heavy in comparison to comparable material choices.

Solid Surface Countertops

If you’re looking to remodel your kitchen, be sure to consider whether your choice of countertops will still satisfy you a few years down the line. Solid surface countertops and sinks have been around for nearly 50 years, but at the time of introduction, they were regarded as space-age alternatives to natural stone. These countertops that used to be regarded as the height of luxury are now seen as somewhat standard. Solid surface is still an excellent option for mid-range kitchens and often works in high-end households and commercial spaces with plenty of counter space or those who want a durable material without breaking the budget.

Pros of solid surface countertops include a stain resistant material with seams that are virtually invisible. Additionally, damage can be easily sanded out. Design enthusiasts will appreciate that these countertops are available in many, many colors and patterns as well as integrated sink/countertop units. Cons include the fact that solid surface countertops are moderately expensive and more vulnerable to damage from hot pans than other materials. Also, solid surface options must be fabricated and installed by professionals. 

Ceramic Tile Countertops

A natural stone, quartz, or solid-surface countertop for your kitchen is going to come at a higher price than ceramic tile. If you are looking to save money and do most of the work yourself, ceramic tile is the best option for you! Porcelain tiles offer many more design options than nearly any other countertop material type. Porcelain tiles can mimic the look of wood, marble, leather, or cork. Recent innovations in porcelain tile provide even greater variety to choose from for do-it-yourselfers. 

Ceramic tile offers the benefits of being easy to clean, mostly affordable and easy for DIYers to manage and create a successful result. Ceramic tiles are also immune to heat damage from hot pans and offer an enormous range of colors and styles to choose from. For cons, if you are desiring custom tiles, they can be very expensive. Tiles can also be quite brittle and may crack under impact. Another annoyance is that grout lines can stain and are difficult to clean and ceramic tile overall does not carry the same prestige as granite or quartz. 

Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops can bear trademarks such as Formica, Nevamar, and Wilsonart. These countertops are made by bonding sheets of laminate material to a particleboard (MDF) core for its sturdy yet lightweight design. Laminate countertops are generally manufactured from pre-formed sections of material called “post-form,” or as custom designs fabricated at the construction site or in a fabrication shop. Although once regarded as ordinary, laminates have grown in popularity thanks to a wide variety of colors, patterns, and styles that are available today. Laminates have seen increased use lately due in part to the fact that they go well with retro designs.

Users like laminate countertops partly because they are very easy to maintain. Also, there are thousands of options available and DIY installation is relatively easy​. As an added bonus, laminate solutions are a very inexpensive countertop option.  However, the cons include the fact that the seams are always visible and laminate, in general, is not very prestigious and may be viewed as too average by potential home buyers. Custom edging and backsplash treatments can add unexpected expenses and laminate surfaces can be scratched and chipped, causing damage that is almost impossible to repair. 

Wood or Butcher Block Countertops

Wood countertops are a beautiful and practical option when upgrading your kitchen. Wood is available in a wide range of colors, finishes, and species meaning there’s something for every kitchen!

Wood countertops are typically made from wood such as yellow pine and they can be stained or left natural depending on your design tastes. Wood countertops are a great way to create warmth in the kitchen. The downside is that they need more care than other materials because wooden counters don’t like moisture. If wood dries out too much it will crack and warp which makes chopping vegetables difficult. You should always use cutting boards when preparing food on your wooden countertop to prevent damage!

You may also want to take extra precautions against staining by using mineral oil, but this doesn’t mean your counters won’t get dirty over time. With wood, sometimes water stains happen even when there is a glass top used for protection. 

Countertops should be a focal point of your kitchen and dining space because they’re what most people see when you walk into the room. The right material can make all the difference in how inviting and warm your home feels to guests. Butcher block countertops are sought after because they are less porous than granite, cork, or marble, which means that nothing will stain them for long periods of time so it’s easier to keep up with spills from children or pets. They also have a natural beauty about them that has been valued by homeowners for years. Wood is both soft on hands while still maintaining its durability as an essential element in any household set-up.

The pros to wood and butcher block countertops are that they are both relatively easy to clean and also very long-lasting when properly cared for. If damaged or worn by knife blades, burns, or other usages, they can be sanded and resealed, as needed. What most users enjoy about these countertop materials is that they offer a charming country look in most kitchens and are versatile enough to work with modern and contemporary design elements. Cons are that wood and butcher block are fairly expensive countertop materials and the surfaces can be scratched and cut by knives. These wood based countertop materials can be damaged by water and stains over time and bacteria can be a problem if not properly maintained. Additional considerations are the wood is subject to cracking if not maintained and must be oiled and sealed frequently to prevent this from happening. 

Stainless Steel Countertops

Are you looking for something more contemporary and industrial for your kitchen? If so, stainless steel may be a good option. Stainless steel countertops are the most heat resistant and durable countertops available. Because they’re constructed to your specifications, you can have a seamless countertop to fit your needs. Stainless steel countertops are not only durable, but they’re also environmentally friendly. Unlike other types of materials such as granite and marble which aren’t recyclable, stainless steel is a metal that can be recycled indefinitely without any loss in quality or purity. In addition to being renewable and sustainable, these counter surfaces have the capability to save you money on your utility bills by blocking heat from transferring through the material onto the surface below it as some stone slabs do. That means less energy costs for heating and cooling! However, stainless steel doesn’t provide quite the same luxurious feel as other options may offer, but if you prefer durability rather than aesthetics then this might just be what you’ve been looking for all along!

The significant pros of stainless steel countertops is that they are impervious to heat damage, they are excellent for modern-style and contemporary kitchens, and they are the easiest of all countertop materials to clean. In general, they are regarded as a “premium” countertop and considered to add to the real estate value. The cons are that these countertops are noisy when in use moving dishes and pots and pans around. They are also very expensive to fabricate to suit your particular needs and even so, they can be easily scratched and are not considered to be a cutting surface. 

Concrete Countertops

If you have countertops in an unusual shape, or if you want a truly unique kitchen, concrete may be a good choice for your countertops. Due to their weight, concrete countertops are usually cast in forms right within your kitchen. These are not the same kind of concrete slabs used in sidewalks, but highly polished slabs that may even be textured, acid-stained, or epoxied to create colors and other designs to fit your needs. The inherent porosity of concrete is combated by some innovations in sealers that stabilize the material and can help prevent concrete from cracking.

The pros of concrete countertops are that they are highly heat and scratch-resistant. They are also very customizable and can be color-tinted as well as adding decorative textures that provide a look that is sophisticated and unusual. The cons to concrete countertops include that you will need professional installation as this would make a very difficult and potentially disastrous DIY project and these countertops are relatively expensive due to the custom nature of the work. Another significant con is that cracking may occur over time as the concrete surface is porous unless regularly sealed. Finally, the appearance of concrete countertops may seem too “industrial’ by future home buyers, limiting the pool of buyers for your property on the resale market. 

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