Choosing Kitchen Countertops
Countertops set the tone for the kitchen, so choose materials and a look that not only reflect your style, but also are in line with how you use the kitchen.
Granite is on the must-have list for many homebuyers. But engineered stone products made primarily of quartz are replacing granite in high-end design today, and their functionality as a stain-resistant, durable, sleek-looking surface fulfills lifestyle and aesthetic prerequisites for many.
Burgin says half his clients go with granite, and half go with a quartz surface. Jorge Castillo, whose clients want modern kitchens, chooses quartz for its consistency. He would rather the focus be on a dramatic statuary marble backsplash than the work surface. “One of the reasons I like CaesarStone and Cambria is because it doesn’t make the kitchen busy,” he says.
Meanwhile, concrete has come a long way. With more colors and a sleek finish, today’s concrete surfaces are more durable. Crushed glass surfaces provide an opulent focal point.
Eco-Friendly Composite Countertops
Formed from materials such as fly ash or recycled paper, composite countertops inhibit the growth of bacteria and resist stains, scratches and heat. Most are free of VOCs, emit no radon gasses, and are considered food safe. Composite countertops sometimes require sealing or special maintenance. Image courtesy of Paperstone
Natural Granite Countertops
One of the most sought after materials in kitchen countertops, granite serves as a beautiful, durable heat-resistant surface for meal preparation and daily use. Granite countertops are fairly low maintenance: a yearly resealing will help prevent stains and bacteria growth. Design by Christopher J. Grubb of Arch-Interior Design Group Inc.
Benefits of Granite Countertops
Granite countertops come in a range of colors from warm browns and beiges to cool blues and grays to suit any kitchen design. While granite is one of the more expensive materials available, granite countertops can last a lifetime and can increase the value of a home. Design by Dan Heldenbrand of DH Interiors
Durable Engineered Stone Countertops
An attractive alternative to natural stone, engineered stone countertops composed of 93 percent quartz particles are catching up with granite in popularity. LG Viatera quartz countertops combine the elegant look of stone with increased durability. Quartz countertops are scratch-, stain- and heat-resistant and require very little maintenance. Image courtesy of LG Hausys Co.
Benefits of Engineered Stone Countertops
Engineered stone countertops come in a wide range of colors, from subtle and natural to bright and bold. Ideal for modern and contemporary kitchens, these vibrant Silestone countertops are scratch-, stain- and heat-resistant and contain Microban, an antimicrobial product, for increased protection against bacteria. Image courtesy of Silestone by Cosentino North America
Upscale Laminate Countertops
Today's laminate countertops can mimic the look of pricey stone and solid surface countertops for a fraction of the cost. Laminate countertops are very low maintenance, but they're not heat-resistant and are susceptible to chips and scratches. Image courtesy of Formica Corp.
Low-Maintenance Solid Surface Countertops
Nonporous solid surface countertops are durable and easy to maintain, with no sealing required. Today’s designs take style to the next level by mimicking materials such as granite, quartz, concrete and glass. Sharp knives and hot pans can sometimes damage solid surface countertops. Image courtesy of DuPont Corian®
Elegant Marble Countertops
Marble countertops add unmatched beauty to a kitchen. Although marble does stain and scratch more easily than granite, its smooth, cool surface is ideal for baking and rolling out dough. Marble is one of the most expensive options in kitchen countertops. Design by Erica Islas of EMI Interior Design
Timeless Soapstone Countertops
Durable soapstone countertops become more beautiful with age, darkening over time for a dramatic appearance. Unlike other stones, soapstone won’t absorb stains and discolorations, so it doesn’t require sealers. Surface stains can be removed with a gentle sanding, and scratches can be removed with mineral oil. Image courtesy of Soapstone International Inc.
Here’s a wrap-up of workspace surfaces and how they stand up in the kitchen environment. Keep in mind, countertops may dictate the kitchen design and are sometimes chosen before cabinetry.
Granite. Riding a wave of popularity for the last several years as the surface for countertops, granite is available in several grades, generally 1 through 5 (ratings depend on where you buy it), patterns, colors and thicknesses. Depending on what you choose, a slab can cost you anywhere from $25 per square foot for modular pieces of very basic stone purchased at a home center to upwards of $1,000 per square foot. Thickness can really drive up the cost. If you want granite on a budget, you might consider a three-quarter inch thick slab rather than an inch and a half slab, where you’re more likely to get your money back at resale.
Engineered stone. These are your quartz surfaces composed of 93 percent quartz particles and available in a larger range of colors than granite. Prices are comparable, sometimes more. The nonporous surface resists scratches and stains, and manufacturers generally offer a warranty. Brands include Cambria Quartz, Silestone, CaesarStone, LG Viatera and DuPont Zodiac.
Laminates. The surface, frequently referred to by the brand-name Formica, is plastic-coated and available in a range of colors—including surfaces that resemble granite. If your budget is tight and you’re doing a quick-and-dirty kitchen overhaul, this is a solution within reach. You’ll have to weigh the resale pros and cons: Does your home value require granite? (It’s not a bad idea to check out real estate comparables.)
Soapstone. These pewter-toned countertops are ideal for historic renovations, such as this one by Superior Homes. They darken over time and require regular maintenance with mineral oil applications, but people like the smooth feel and rich character.
Ceramic tile. You can lay it on the floor, wall and, yes, countertops. You can recover an existing surface, which appeals to DIYers. And with a wide range of colors and textures available in tiles today, options are seemingly endless. But remember, tiles do crack. And perhaps the biggest down side: tiles require grouting.
Concrete. Cast concrete counters can be poured to suit countertops of all shapes. They can be cast in the kitchen, or produced off-site and installed after the fact. The great thing about concrete is its durability. Plus, today’s concrete is even stronger because of treatments that eliminate cracking and seal the surface so it’s less porous. This style suits a modern kitchen—concrete can be dyed a range of colors.
Solid surfaces. Otherwise known by the popular brand-name Corian, solid surfaces offer the same seamless loo as engineered stone, except these are not resistant to stains and can scratch. (You can always sand those out—but do you want to?)
Stainless steel. This industrial-strength surface provides a sleek finish in modern kitchens. It’s easy to clean with soap and water, and it takes hot pans, no problem. But stainless steel can scratch and dent, so you can’t cut on stainless. Plus, it’s a costly surface. You might decide to use stainless in a certain area of your kitchen, such as a dining area or by the range.