Kitchen countertops are one of the hardest working surfaces in the home. When selection new kitchen countertops, you will want to choose a durable and practical material that can withstand daily abuse. The long-term durability of the material should be a major factor in choosing your new countertop.
Kitchen countertops are available in numerous different materials from natural to man-made, and each material has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Finding a countertop material that suits your needs and lifestyle is just as important as finding one that fits aesthetically in your kitchen.
Aside from price, another factor to keep in mind while shopping for new countertops is the amount of maintenance you are willing to put in to keeping the countertops clean and in good shape. All countertop materials will require some sort of care and maintenance, but certain materials are more high maintenance than others. Low maintenance countertops shouldn’t require more than soap and water to keep them clean. High maintenance countertops will require regular upkeep such as polishing, or sealing. Think of how much effort you are willing to put in before settling on a specific countertop material.
Another thing to keep in mind is the edge profiles/treatments of the countertop. You might not realize it, but the edge treatments can affection function, cleaning, and safety. They will also play a role in the overall cost of the countertop. Standard or less elaborate edges will cost less because they are easier to produce. Fancier or more intricate edges will cost more because they take more time and effort. Edge profiles that are more rounded are less susceptible to chipping than square-edge profiles.
TYPES OF KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS:
These countertops have been around for over fifty years. Throughout that time, Laminate’s popularity ebbed and flowed as new countertop surfaces were developed and/or manufactured.
Laminate countertops have made a comeback in popularity in recent years due to more advanced manufacturing processes and an increase in stylish designs and appearances. Laminate is also typically the least expensive type of countertop. Check out our blog on Laminate Countertops for more information.
SOLID SURFACE COUNTERTOPS
Solid surface countertops are man-made through the combination of acrylics and/or polyester resins and a filler material. In layman’s terms, solid surface countertops are basically made out of plastic. Because they are man-made, there are hundreds of colors and patterns available. And any seams will be virtually invisible. Check out our Solid Surface Countertop blog for more information.
NATURAL STONE COUNTERTOPS
Kitchen countertops can be made out of several different natural stones – each of which has its own unique characteristics. While all stone countertops will need specific maintenance and care, the type of stone depends on how much. The longevity and appearance of the stone countertop depends on long-term care.
Granite is a hard, durable material that comes in a wide range of colors and patterns. It will not scratch, but it can chip or crack if it is struck hard enough. A downfall of granite is that it is a porous material. Granite countertops will need to be periodically sealed to keep them waterproof and to prevent staining.
Marble comes in a variety of natural coloration and veining patterns. While beautiful, marble is not very practical in a hardworking kitchen because it is super high maintenance. Marble is prone to staining, scratching, and chipping. It is also sensitive to acids and caustic chemicals.
Marble is less expensive than granite. And, like granite, it is available in slabs, large tiles, and small tiles.
Slate is a softer stone, making it more susceptible to scratches. Some types of slate are more absorbent than others. More absorbent pieces of slate will need to be sealed periodically, while the denser slate may not need sealed at all.
Two other disadvantages of slate are that it has a gritty texture and that it only comes in a limited range of color options.
The material is softer than other natural stones, but it is also very dense and nonporous. Soapstone countertops will not need to be sealed. But, because it is a softer stone, soapstone can easily be scratched or dented. Any scratches can be sanded out. The material is very tolerant to heat and will not be affected by acids or caustic chemicals. Soapstone also resists stains.
Check out our blog on Natural Stone Countertops for more information on all the materials you’ve seen here.
ENGINEERED QUARTZ COUNTERTOPS
Engineered quartz countertops are made out of crushed quartz combined with a resin binder. Depending on the manufacturer, color, and edge treatment, engineered quartz countertops can be quite expensive. They can also up the resale value of your home.
Engineered countertops are made to look and feel like natural stone, but, unlike natural stone, these countertops will be completely smooth. A disadvantage of engineered countertops is that the material will not have the variations and veining of natural stone.
For more information, see our Engineered Quartz Countertop blog.
Wood or butcher block countertops are biodegradable, and they come in a wide array of styles. The hardness of the wood varies on the species. If you want a wood countertop that will not show a lot of wear, you will want to choose a wood that measures higher up on the Janka hardness test.
Maintenance of a wood countertop depends on the species, the finish, and the overall use of the countertop. Wooden countertops can either be finished in an oil, wax, or polyurethane coating. Depending on which one your countertop is finished with will affect how often you’ll need to reapply.
Wood and butcher block countertops will show considerable damage if they are subjected to a lot of wear a tear.Wood is subject to water damage, and it can also contract, expand, or warp depending on the temperature and moisture content.
For more information, check out our Wooden Countertop blog.
Bamboo countertops are durable, but they are not indestructible. Minor damage like scratches or knife marks can be sanded out. Because bamboo is susceptible to water damage, it will need to be sealed. Advantages of bamboo countertops are that they are eco-friendly and have a moderate price point. Disadvantages are that they are available in limited styles and shades.
For more information, check out our Bamboo Kitchen Countertops blog.
Kitchen countertops are available in a limited choice of metals – including stainless steel, copper, zinc, pewter, brass, and bronze. To manufacture a metal countertop, a thin piece of metal is formed and fastened over a slab of wood. Metal countertops are nonporous, sanitary, and tolerant to high heat. A downside is that metal countertops are prone to denting and scratching.
Check out our Metal Countertop blog for more information.
Concrete is typically composed of ground up rocks, sand, and fly ash that is then mixed and held together with a binding agent. Concrete countertops can be formed and poured in place or they can be precast in a workshop.
Because they are man-made, concrete countertops can be customized. They are available in multiple colors, textures, and patterns. Decorative items like stones, tiles, or glass chips can be imbedded into the surface for an even more distinctive look. Built-in features like drainboards and trivets are also available.
Check out our Concrete Countertop blog for more information.
PAPER COMPOSITE COUNTERTOPS
Paper composite countertops are made out of heavy paper, natural pigments and, resin that are mixed together, compressed, and then baked so that they harden. These types of countertops are eco-friendly because the materials would have most likely wound up in a landfill.
While nonporous and durable, paper composite countertops can still chip or crack. They are also only heat resistant up to around 350°F. Nicks, scratches, and scorch marks can all be sanded out. Paper composite countertops are usually only available in medium or dark colors, and only in a matte finish.
Glass countertops are less common than other types, but they are available in either a slab, tiles, or recycled chips. Glass is heat tolerant, and it is available in a wide range of colors and textures.
Slabs and tiles are not as durable or functional for kitchen countertops, so, unless your kitchen countertops don’t see a lot of use, glass probably isn’t an option. Glass slabs or tiles can scratch, break, or chip. Glass can also be damaged by acids. While easy to clean, glass is hard to keep smudge free.
Recycled glass countertops are made out of glass chips that are held together with a cement or resin binder. If cement is used, the countertops will require sealing. Because they are man-made, recycled glass countertops can be custom made using different colored glass chips. Pieces of porcelain, seashells, or other materials can also be added. These types of countertops will give your kitchen a very distinctive look, but they are also very expensive.
LAVA STONE COUNTERTOPS
Lave stone is made out of a volcanic rock. After the magma erupted from the volcano, it hardened into a stone-like material. To make lave stone countertops, the lava stone is quarried and cut into slabs. It is then covered in enamel and fired at high heat. The enamel coating – which is available in a wide variety of colors – makes lava stone similar to ceramic or porcelain tile.
Lava stone countertops are durable, but they are susceptible to damage from sharp knives. The countertops are nonporous and easy to clean. They are also resistant to heat, scratches, and stains.
The downside of lava stone countertops is that they are expensive and not as readily available as other types of countertops.
Any type of tile – including granite, ceramic, porcelain, glass, and slate – can be applied to a countertop. Most tiles are durable, and resistant to heat, scratches, and stains.
Due to the different types of materials available – as well as colors, styles, and sizes – there is almost an endless variety of options available for an inexpensive tiled countertop.
A disadvantage of tile countertops is that tile is prone to cracking if struck hard enough. Repairing a cracked tile means replacing it. Tiles also have to be grouted, and grout lines can be a pain to clean. Grout can also get stained or discolor over time.
PORCELAIN SLABS COUNTERTOPS
While not as widely available in the United States, porcelain slab countertops have gained popularity in other parts of the world. It is a very durable and nonporous material. Porcelain doesn’t stain or scratch, and it is also heat resistant.
If you can find porcelain countertops, the chances are that they will be expensive.
Shakespeare Home Improvement Co. is Lancaster County’s premier kitchen remodeling company. Contact us today free estimate for your kitchen remodel. For inspiration, check out the photo gallery of our past projects.