There are a lot of options to choose from when you pick kitchen countertops. Gone are the days when the only choice was what color of pressed wood covered in laminate looked best. The housing industry has exploded over the last 10 to 15 years, and there are endless ways to update your home. In the five years prior to 2019, the remodeling industry has seen an annualized growth of 4.7% on home improvements. A steady decrease in unemployment has left homeowners with more disposable income, as well. With those extra funds available, they’re more willing to pay professionals to renovate their homes rather than doing it themselves.
In most homes, the kitchen is the busiest room and the center of the family universe, especially if there are children. Hungry people wander in and out all day, opening and closing every possible door in the kitchen in search of snacks. All that use takes a toll on the kitchen’s hardware, and it starts to look run down and abused prematurely. Repairs and improvements are needed in the kitchen sooner than in a bedroom or bathroom because of the volume of traffic.
Countertops, specifically, are the workhorse of the kitchen; they do the most work and are taken for granted. They take the lion’s share of the abuse—burn marks, dents, scratches, and other damage can take their toll. It’s the surface that is constantly mistreated by everyone that encounters it, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice on style.
Granite is usually at the top of the list when the discussion is about the best material for kitchen countertops. There are pros and cons with all the options listed here, including granite. Some materials are expensive, some damage easier than others, and some are difficult to install. For every kitchen there is an appropriate style of countertop. Educate yourself on them all so you can make an informed decision.
When price isn’t a factor, granite is the go-to choice for homeowners, and it has been for some time. A nice piece of granite can make the most modest kitchen look elegant. Strong and durable, granite is almost impervious to heat. When treated with a quality sealer, it’s almost maintenance free. The biggest drawback for granite is the cost; it’s often very expensive. Granite countertops come in one giant piece and are very heavy, as well. Professional installers will need to use heavy-duty countertop support brackets to support the granite once it’s in place. If it were to fall, it could break bones, damage floors, and crack in half; then it would have to be replaced at a high cost.
Like granite, soapstone is a natural stone. It has a smooth, silky feel to it and is usually dark gray in color. Believe it or not, soapstone is now more expensive than granite. It has seen a surge in popularity as an alternative to granite, hence the increased price tag. The antique look it adds to a kitchen make it especially popular in historic homes. Like granite, it’s heat resistant and has an almost infinite amount of deep rich colors. The stone, however, is susceptible to cuts, scratches, and dents over time, but those can be sanded out. To keep it in good shape, soapstone must be treated with mineral oil. Wiping and cleaning off the countertop will remove the oil, so it must be reapplied once a week to maintain the color.
Another popular natural stone is marble. No two sheets of marble are the same, so every countertop will be unique. Marble is not often used for the entirety of the kitchen because of its extremely high price. The extravagant look is usually limited to a small section of the kitchen or an island. Like the other natural stones, marble is heatproof and it’s also waterproof. Unlike the other stones, it does have a tendency to stain easily because it’s more porous. Scratches are difficult and costly to repair, as well.
Quartz is a man-made stone product engineered from natural quartz and other minerals. The materials are pressed together, bonded with resin, and formed into giant slabs of stone. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re mined. While they’re not completely natural, they’re still beautiful and highly durable. It was created as an alternative to granite and marble. The idea was to create something that looks as good but doesn’t have the same drawbacks. Quartz is a non-porous product that is scratch and dent resistant. It’s also available in a wider range of colors than marble or granite. Like the natural stones, it’s impervious to heat, easy to maintain, and is installed in one piece.
Solid Surface Material
Fifty years ago, solid surface material was sold as a premium, luxury product. It was marketed as a space-aged, better quality alternative to natural stone. It comes in a variety of brand names, such as Avonite, Corian, and Swanstone, depending on which company makes it. These products are all man-made materials; it’s a blend of acrylic particles and resins that are pressed into sheets and layered. Popularity for this product has waned over the years, and it’s considered a mid-tier option next to granite or marble. It’s still a good product for mid-tier kitchens, though. It’s stain resistant, the seams are almost invisible, and damage can be sanded out easily. It has been made for so long that manufacturers have come up an endless amount of colors and designs to choose from.
Ceramic tile is easy to install, just as durable as stone, and less expensive by a wide margin. Tiles are very versatile, as well. They come in an endless variety of styles, colors, and shapes that allow the inner artist in you to come out when you design the layout. The benefits are the same as stone; water resistant and heat resistant. A major drawback with tile, though, is they’re brittle and can break easily. If a heavy pot is dropped on the countertop it could crack the tile. Replacing a cracked tile is not impossible, but it’s not easy. Depending on how the tiles fit together, the space between them, and if they have a beveled edge or not, there could be an uneven surface on the countertop. The fit of the tiles also creates high spots and low spots that will keep a pot or glass from firmly sitting on the counter, which increases the chances it could tip over. The grout used to seal the tiles and keep them together must also be cleaned often. Grout lines can stain over time, just like floor or shower tiles, and they aren’t any easier to clean.