Jan 13, 2014

Your Guide to the Top 10 Kitchen Countertop Materials

If you’re renovating your kitchen, it can be difficult to make everything fit with the style you've envisioned for your home without sacrificing functionality. More often than not the most functional aspects of a kitchen are difficult to compromise on, especially countertops. With so many countertop materials to choose from, picking the perfect option can be tricky. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most popular countertop materials to aid you in your search.

Granite Kitchen Countertops

Granite is arguably the most popular choice with variety, durability and classy appearance. Being a natural stone, granite can be frustrating to work with due to innumerable color/hue options and wide ranging cost variables based upon the scarcity of the hue.

Cost: $20+ per sq ft.

  • Granite is durable and sanitary, very easy to clean.
  • Granite doesn’t depreciate and actually adds value to your home.
  • Granite comes in a wide variety of colors and hues, making it easier to fit into whatever color scheme you have in mind.

  • Granite lasts forever. If there is any problem (tired of the color, cracks, and stains) with your granite, you will have to rip it all out and redo it.
  • Ripping granite out can cause damage to the cabinets.
  • Cost varies, the cost of granite can be high depending on the scarcity of the hue, the availability of the granite, and generally you end up paying for more than you use.

Engineered Quartz Kitchen Countertops

Quartz countertops are relatively new to the home renovation scene, but are steadily gaining popularity and already have a dedicated following. Bringing allure and durability to the table, quartz is here to stay and may soon dominate as the most popular choice.

Cost: $95-$200 per sq ft.

  • Quartz is even more diverse in color than granite!
  • Quartz has the better durability than granite because it doesn’t crack or chip as easily as granite would.
  • Since Quartz is a non-porous material, it is more sanitary with less chance of staining.

  • Quartz is a very pricey material.
  • The heat resistance of Quartz compared to a few other countertop materials is considerably reduced.

Tile Kitchen Countertops

Tile, since it is one of the more affordable options, is common. Depending on the look you are going for, you can choose from a varied set of color options from two main types, stone or ceramic. Each has is own advantages and disadvantages.

Cost: Ceramic is $10-$50 per sq ft. Stone is $30-$70 per sq ft.

  • Tile offers complete customization. You can design your countertop to suit your style and it can be incredibly unique.
  • Tile is the most affordable option for countertops, both in short term and long term since you don’t have to replace it for many years.

  • Tile is very easy to damage. Dropping anything heavy or leaning on a poorly supported counter can severely crack the tile.
  • The only way to repair damaged tile is to completely replace the damaged tile(s) which may ruin the color scheme or design of the counter unless you keep a few tiles from the original installation.
  • Tile requires constant maintenance to the grout joints.

Marble Kitchen Countertops

When we think of marble countertops, one word jumps out: elegance. It’s no secret that marble is probably one of the most sought after countertop materials out there for this reason, but you don’t let the beauty hinder the disadvantages marble brings to the table.

Cost: $70-$100 per sq ft.

  • The elegance and beauty of marble is an obvious advantage here.
  • Marble doesn’t conduct heat well, keeping the countertop cool. This is a serious advantage for those heavily involved in pastry making.
  • Marble is a widely available material for countertops, making is slightly more affordable than say, granite.

  • Marble doesn’t really stand up to wear and tear. It is known to be easily scratched or stained.
  • Marble is also susceptible to ‘etching.’ Mainly caused by acidic foods, etching is when the finish of the marble is dulled and a faint print is left on the surface.

Stainless Steel Kitchen Countertops

Stainless steel has it all, brawn, brains and beauty. Loved by chefs worldwide, this up-and-coming surface is breaking its way into stylish and modern living. Did we mention up keep on stainless steel will cost you less in the long run? Imagine having your best stainless steel cookware as your countertop. Talk about durability and sanitation!

Cost: $70-$105 per sq ft.

  • Stainless steel possesses amazing durability!
  • Clean up is a breeze because stainless steel is nonporous and non-staining.
  • Stainless steel is super heat resistant.
  • Stainless steel will last you forever, literally! It has a life expectancy of nearly a century!
  • Save money long term while enjoying long term style, beauty and modernism.

  • If constant fingerprints and watermarks drive you crazy, this may not be the countertop for you.
  • Stainless steel can succumb to scratches and dents if not treated properly.

Zinc Kitchen Countertops

Stainless steel’s little brother, Zinc, is less trendy and always seems to be stuck in stainless steel’s shadow. However, Zinc’s adaptability and functionality in the kitchen is impossible to overlook.

Cost: $100-$120 per sq ft.

  • Zinc is super sanitary! It is naturally resistant to mold, mildew and bacteria.
  • Stain resistant.
  • Since it is very malleable, Zinc is really versatile and can be molded to fit into your design plans.
  • Zinc is really easy to maintain, only needing a quick rub down with water and dish soap.

  • Zinc is pricier than many other options out there. If you are planning remodeling with a small budget, zinc definitely isn’t the way to go.
  • Zinc is tricky to install yourself, so it typically requires professional installation. This could mean even more money out-of-pocket.
  • Zinc difficult to keep scratch free since it is softer than most materials and it is also susceptible to heat because of this.

Plastic Laminate Kitchen Countertops

If you need a cheap, easy way to spruce up your countertops, you may like the plastic laminate option. You definitely don’t lose any versatility or uniqueness with this option since laminate comes in an abundance of colors and patterns. You must, however, think beforehand about edge details. Your options are:
  • Profiled edge: varying by manufacturer, edge profiles include beveled, ogee and bullnose edges.
  • Edge band: thick veneers added to a cabinet’s edge made for abuse and durability.
  • Metal edge: a less sanitary option, these crumb catchers are a retro option that are fastened to the edge of the counter.
  • Exposed plywood: a more modernistic approach, these veneers leave the thin veneer edge and plies exposed.

Cost: $8-$50 per sq ft (including installation)

  • Have we mentioned the affordability yet? Laminate countertops are very low cost.
  • Multitude of colors, patterns and finishes fitting to your style.
  • Laminate is very low maintenance and is a breeze to clean.

  • Laminate is extremely susceptible to scratches and cuts. Keep the cutting board out at all times.
  • Be sure to use pot holders, as lamination is only heat resistant to 150 degrees.
  • When cleaning, you can’t use bleach. Bleach can cause severe discoloration to lamination.

Soapstone Kitchen Countertops

Soapstone is the durability king! While a more expensive choice, soapstone has the potential to last for you, your children, your children’s children, and so on. In fact, most wood-burning stoves from the 1800s, still functioning today, are constructed from soapstone. Talk about a lifetime investment!

Cost: $70-$100 per sq ft.

  • Soapstone can make the perfect kitchen material as it’s not only super durable, but also unaffected by heat.
  • It is a chemically neutral material making it resistant to acidic foods as well.
  • Soapstone is also impervious to bacteria and stains due to its density.

  • Soapstone is another soft stone; therefore, it is in danger of being nicked, scratched and worn. Make sure you pick out a slab that is darker in color and has less of a green cast. These are the harder slabs.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Countertops (BioGlass)

If you have sustainability in mind, Bio-Glass is eco-friendly as well as trendy. It is made out of 100% glass and has a translucent appearance. It can, however, be chosen in a variety of beautiful, earthy colors.

Cost: $85-$115 per sq ft.

  • Bio-Glass is relatively easy to clean.
  • Sustains Cradle to Cradle certification.
  • Stylish and trendy look.

  • Bio-glass is pricey for what it’s worth.
  • Since its glass, this material is NOT knife friendly.
  • Bio-glass is definitely susceptible to scratches.

Recycled Glass & Cement Kitchen Countertops

The combination of concrete and recycled glass may sound trashy and non-functional, but it is actually trendy, eco-friendly and extremely durable. The downside? This countertop material may be the most expensive investment in your kitchen, other than those upgraded appliances of course.

Cost: $100-$160 per sq ft.

  • Concrete and recycled glass is a great way to add character to your kitchen without having to sacrifice durability.
  • This material is both scratch and heat resistant, making it a more desirable kitchen top.
  • This option is super eco-friendly, especially when the plants are located closer to where you’re located.

  • Since concrete is porous, this material is susceptible to staining.
  • Needs to be sealed and resealed consistently.
  • Though this material is tough, it is not knife friendly.

Think about what is most important to you in your kitchen, decide on color and design schemes and finally, take a look again through the pros and cons of each countertop material and find the perfect match for you and your kitchen. What was or is your favorite? Which material do you have in your home currently? Or what material will you use having read this article? Tell us in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!

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