Blog » Kitchen Countertops 101
In working with clients who are renovating their kitchen, the most common and reoccurring question that I receive is inevitably, “What should I do for my countertops?” With so many choices on the market, it’s no wonder that the question is both common and difficult to answer.
Aesthetics aside, the two greatest factors involved in selecting a countertop material are maintenance and budget. If you’re willing to endure some upkeep your options will be more plentiful (even more so if your budget is large). But even if you’re planning to tackle this renovation on your own or are looking for wallet-friendly materials, there are choices for you, too.
Oh, the choices. Really I could use an entire blog post to talk about each material because there’s so much to learn about every one. But a “101” course this is, so we’ll stick to the basics for now. Email me if you’d like to chat further about a particular material.
Granite has become synonymous with the renovated kitchen because its popularity has skyrocketed over the last decade — and with good reason. It has become more affordable with widespread use, is resistant to heat and doesn’t stain easily. Many vendors now offer a 15-year sealer, making maintenance much easier for the homeowner. And if your granite countertops chip, they are fairly easy to repair on-site.
Quartz is an engineered material composed of quartz particles and resin and is a very popular countertop choice because of its extreme durability. Quartz is stain resistant, doesn’t require sealing and is heat resistant to certain temperatures. Its nonporous surface resists scratches. However, if it were to chip, repair is very difficult. You will have more aesthetic control with quartz because it’s synthetic and the color selection is vast. Overall, quartz is the most durable countertop choice, but it carries a hefty price tag. But if you really live in your kitchen, don’t want to worry about maintenance, and your budget allows, quartz is probably the best choice for you.
Soapstone offers a rich, smooth, dark gray appearance and is a beautiful choice for countertops. It’s generally stain and heat resistant but is more likely to chip or crack than harder stones. Scratches, however, can usually be buffed out with sandpaper. Soapstone should be wiped down monthly with mineral oil to maintain its finish. However, some areas of the material might absorb more oil and get darker, causing inconsistent coloration.
Flip open the pages of any shelter magazine and you’re surely to see a show-stopping kitchen with glamorous white marble countertops. There’s no doubt that marble is a beautiful material, but its main drawback is its constantly required maintenance, as it stains very easily. Marble is very porous, so professional periodic sealing is a must if you choose this material for your counters. It is heat resistant and waterproof, but scratching and chipping are also chief concerns and repairing on-site is quite difficult. Add a high price tag, and you see that marble is not for the weary. But, if you can keep up with the maintenance (and are very clean or just don’t really use your kitchen) and the budget allows, go for it. There’s no doubt that marble countertops make for a dynamite look that’s truly unrivaled by any other material.
The greatest (and perhaps only?) pro for limestone is its beauty. With soft colors and a low sheen, this material is the closest rival to marble in the looks category. However, limestone is even less user-friendly as it easily stains, requires regular sealing, chips easily due to its softness, and isn’t heat resistant. Spills should be wiped immediately because this is such a porous material. Purchasing a more dense limestone helps with stains, but if you’re worried about stains at all, this probably isn’t the material for you.
Perfect for more contemporary kitchens, concrete is a unique countertop material that’s also totally stain proof, thanks to new finishes that reduce its porous nature. It’s also heat and scratch resistant, but cracking is possible (although new treatments can help with that, as well). Concrete is often cast on-site, providing a seamless look and making it easy to repair. But, because experienced fabricators aren’t readily available, the cost of concrete countertops is usually high.
Stainless steel countertops are perfect for very contemporary and industrial kitchens. They’re heat and stain resistant and won’t fade, rust or chip. Scratches, however, can be noticeable but are easily removed with a Scotch-Brite pad. The biggest cons to stainless steel countertops are that they’re noisy, can dent, and they’re pretty expensive. But if a professional, modern kitchen is the look you’re after, stainless steel is a great choice.
Butcher block is a wonderfully affordable countertop option, but also offers a warm, traditional look to a kitchen. You can obviously cut on this material, but frequent cleaning must be done after food preparation to avoid bacteria growth. This material is easy to clean and can be sanded and resealed when necessary; regular oiling is advised to avoid splitting and staining. Butcher block isn’t heat resistant and shows wear over time, but will give a rustic, lived-in look to any kitchen.