Be Confident in Your Countertop Selection

Quartz is the most popular countertop aterial

Be Confident in Your Countertop Selection

You’re probably excited to choose the countertops for your remodeled kitchen. You’ve been looking all the different colors and patterns and materials on Houzz and HGTV . So you think you know what you want?

Before you go too far, many people have been disappointed in their selection when their choice was based on a sample seen in a showroom. When the countertops were delivered, they didn’t get what they expected.

If you’re someone who likes uniformity, natural stone tops might not be the best choice for you. Many people love the random color variations found in granite and other stone slabs. Some countertop materials require maintenance, while others are care free. Still others scratch more readily.

Be Certain in Your Selection

How can you be sure you will be getting what you really want? The #1 piece of advice from experts is to ask to see a full-size sample. If you’re considering natural stone, you will want to see the entire slab. Experts say when homeowners skip this step, they often are unhappy.

The patterns found in manmade materials, such as quartz, are not random like those found in nature. If you’re choosing quartz for your countertops, a showroom sample will suffice. But if you have doubts or concerns, your kitchen designer will guide you.

Some of the Most Popular Countertop Materials

Let’s look at some of the most popular countertop materials, together with their pros and cons.

  1. Quartz
  2. Granite
  3. Marble
  4. Soapstone
  5. Solid Surface
  6. Wood
  7. Concrete
  8. Laminates

Quartz Countertops

Quartz countertops are actually “engineered stone”, not a natural stone. They’re made using a combination of 93% quartz particles and other minerals mixed with resins that gets shaped into slabs.

Quartz has surpassed Granite as the most popular countertop material among homeowners, according to a Houzz.com survey. And for good reason. Quartz has many advantages.

Pros.

  • Non-porous
  • Stain-resistant
  • Doesn’t need sealed
  • Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns
  • Looks like Granite or Marble
  • Has no seams, creating an uninterrupted surface
  • Color is uniform. You’ll get a perfect match throughout your kitchen.
  • Extremely durable
  • Doesn’t crack like Granite
  • Heat resistant
  • Resistant to cuts and scratches (although a cutting board is recommended)

Cons.

  • Not natural stone
  • Priced similarly to Granite (on the more expensive side)

The best know manufacturers of Quartz countertops are Caesarstone,  Silestone and Cambria Quartz.  Each of these websites contains a wealth of information regarding their products, together with photos.

Granite Countertops

Granite has been a popular choice in high-end kitchens for many years, and is still desirable although Quartz has overtaken it as America’s favorite countertop choice.

Pros.

  • Natural patterns are stunning and unique
  • Can take a hot pan being placed on it
  • Hard-wearing and holds up well (if properly sealed – see “Cons” below)

Cons.

  • Expensive
  • Because it’s a porous stone, it needs sealed every one-two years to avoid stains
  • It comes out of the earth, this it can have imperfections
  • Can crack if stressed or not installed correctly.

The MSI Surfaces website has information about and lots of photos of Granite. It’s a good resource for getting started with Granite selection if you’ve always wanted Granite countertops.

Marble Countertops

Marble has found its way into luxury remodeled kitchens. It’s prized for its classic, elegant white color with gold, beige or gray veining. Especially popular is Calacatta Marble, a gorgeous natural stone desirable for its distinctive look.  Marble.com has information and photos of different types of marble, but remember – each slab is unique so their photos are only representative of what you may get. Ask to see the entire slab.

Pros.

  • An elegant natural stone
  • Each piece is beautiful and unique
  • Water resistant
  • Heat proof
  • Available in honed or polished finishes

Cons.

  • One of the more expensive stones
  • It scratches
  • Very susceptible to stains. New sealing products can reduce the possibility of damage, but no acids, like lemon or lime juice, wine and vinegar, on Marble countertops
  • Once It’s damaged it is hard to repair
  • A soft stone –  not a good choice for kitchens that get used hard

Soapstone Countertops

Soapstone is a natural stone, typically dark gray with subtle white veins and smooth to the touch. It is often used in historic homes as an authentic countertop or sink material.

Photo from Vermont Soapstone

Pros.

  • As it ages, it takes on an antique looking patina
  • It can darken over time
  • Any damages can be sanded out
  • Resistant to stain

Cons.

  • Susceptible to scratches
  • It dents
  • Needs to be treated with mineral oil

Solid Surface

Solid surface countertops are a man-made material, created from a combination of acrylic particles and resins that have been pressed into sheets. When first introduced by DuPont back in 1967, it was considered a luxury product. Since then, it has been replaced by Quartz.

The most well-known brand of solid surface materials is Dupont Corian. The latest from Corian is now you can get it with a built-in charging surface to charge your smart devices wirelessly. The built-in charger is available in every Corian color.  How does it work, you ask? Energy is transferred safely from below the Corian surface and it stops when the battery is full. See photos and get more info on the Corian website.

Pros.

  • Resists stains
  • Any damage can be sanded out
  • Seams are almost invisible

Cons.

  • Prone to damage from hot pans

Wood Countertops

People choose wood for their countertops because of its natural beauty.

Pros.

  • Provide remodeled kitchens with a warmth that stone can’t match
  • Available in a great variety of choices: Maple, Cherry, Oak, Birch, Teak, Mahogany, Bamboo, reclaimed wood, exotics and more
  • Endless stains, finishes and styles to choose from
  • An excellent work surface – will not dull knives
  • Knife and burn marks can be sanded out
  • Can be sanded and refinished every 10-20 years.

Cons.

  • Require cleaning and maintaining
  • Must be sealed since it is porous and germs can multiply  
  • Must be treated consistently with mineral oil to prevent water absorption
  • Easy to scratch, dent and burn

Grothouse Wood Surfaces is a well-respected supplier of wood countertops for remodeled kitchens. You can get lots of ideas from their website.

Butcher block is constructed from pieces of hardwood Maple laminated together with glue for strength and stability. If an entire kitchen filled with butcher block countertops is too much butcher block for you, it lends itself very well to an accent space, possible on the island or by the range. John Boos & Co is well known for its butcher block.

Concrete Countertops

Concrete countertops are popular with homeowners who want something unique they can design themselves. They embed pieces of tile, stone, glass, shells or other materials in the concrete to create a one-of-a-kind work of art. It can be pigmented to produce any color.

Pros.

  • Extremely hard and tough
  • Won’t easily scratch if sealed properly (every 1-3 years)
  • Highly heat resistant

Cons.

  • It can crack
  • Expensive
  • Needs to be sealed every 1-3 years
  • Extremely heavy
  • Expert installation required

Laminates

Today’s laminates are not what your Grandma had in her kitchen. They’re made from recycled paper that has been chemically bonded with melamine and laminated onto a particleboard (MDF) core.  The Formica and Wilsonart websites have product information and inspirational photos.

Pros.

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Easy to clean
  • Thousands of colors and patterns
  • Long lasting
  • Can be recycled – donate them to a school when you’re ready to replace them

Cons.

  • Prominent seams
  • They scratch and chip
  • Don’t add value to the home because they are considered a “low-end” product

Conclusion

We’ve provided information about the most popular and widely selected kitchen countertop materials. Not included here are other available materials, such as lava stone, glass, quartzite, ceramic tile and others.

In the end, the decision is up to you. It all comes down to what you like and the look you are going for in your new kitchen. And how much you want to spend on countertops.

Your kitchen designer will help guide your selection and make sure you get the countertop that matches the look you like and the price you can afford.