Along with the cabinetry, the material and color of your countertops will greatly influence the appearance and functionality of your kitchen. And with so many choices available, how do you decide which is right? Below are some of our favorite counter surfaces with their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Granite/Marble Stone countertop materials like granite and marble offer extreme durability and natural beauty. Both granite and marble may be found in an array of colors with a polished or honed finish to suit a variety of décor styles. When making a selection, remember that each slab is unique, with random and inconsistent patterns.
To protect against staining, the stone should be sealed about once a year, but is otherwise maintenance free. Since marble is less stain-resistant and more porous than granite, it is prone to discoloration and more suitable for a low-traffic kitchen or countertop area. Granite and marble surfaces also accommodate hot pans, but may be damaged by hot grease if neglected.
Granite and marble may be more expensive than other countertop materials but will provide beauty and function for the life of your kitchen.
Soapstone For a softer and warmer countertop material, consider soapstone. Soapstone has been used for centuries in traditional and country kitchens, but lends itself to contemporary kitchen design as well. Soapstone is a natural stone product quarried just like marble or granite. When first quarried, the stone may contain blue, green, or gray tones with random veining, but all mature to a deep charcoal gray over time (a result of oxidation). Soapstone develops a characteristic patina with age and must be rubbed down regularly with mineral oil.
Soapstone is a relatively soft yet incredibly dense stone. Although it scratches very easily, it is nearly impervious to staining, does not harbor bacteria, and holds up very well in everyday kitchen use. Another truly functional property of soapstone is its almost total resistance to heat.
Engineered Stone It may sound fake, but engineered, or manufactured stone, provides better performance than natural stone and offers more consistent color. Composed of natural quartz (93%) mixed with epoxy resin binders, these extremely durable kitchen counters are scratch and stain resistant, and never need to be resealed.
Like genuine stone, it has an extremely hard surface, which is excellent for durability but also slippery and cold to the touch. Engineered stone also lacks the uniqueness and distinction that is found in natural stone. Since it is created and installed in solid slabs, there may be visible seams along the front edges and the deck of the countertop.
FYI: Quartz grows in clusters and does not form huge stone blocks like granite. This makes it unsuitable for large slabs in its natural state, meaning that it needs to be converted into engineered stone to make it usable.
Wood Often called butcher-block counters, wood can be a warm, long-lasting addition to your kitchen. Oak, maple, cherry, red beech, walnut, teak, and mahogany hardwoods are all favorites. They work well on islands or in other areas designed for food preparation (not clean up). Wood counters stain and scorch easily and are prone to water damage if placed next to a sink. Required maintenance includes regular mineral oil treatments. Most cuts and dings can be repaired easily with a little oil and a rag. Sanding and recoating will fix major damage.
Recycled Glass Recycled glass countertops, also knows as terrazzo, consists of crushed stone and glass set in a cement or epoxy substrate that is buffed smooth. Overall, terrazzo can be a good green choice due to its 40-year-plus lifespan, low maintenance, and high recycled content, especially if you use local materials. Glass, stone, and other recycled materials can make up as much as 95 percent of the materials in terrazzo. The colors may be handpicked and made into any shape. Recycled glass surfaces are strong, durable and as smooth as polished granite. In fact they are about equivalent to granite in heat resistance, care and maintenance. They may need re-sealing every year or two.
Still can’t decide? There’s no rule that says you can’t combine multiple countertop surfaces in one room. In fact, this could be a better choice. For example, you could have a butcher-block top on the island (as a food preparation and bread making surface), and the rest of the counters could be granite (for natural beauty).