Kitchen Countertops: How to Choose A Countertop Surface
Kitchens are an integral space in your home, with kitchen countertops being vital to the whole. This is not only true in terms of visual effect. Choosing the right countertop surface is also about practicality, and personality too – yours, and what reflects you and your sense of home.
When you’re thinking about replacing or re-fitting your countertop surfaces, kitchen design and installation expert Tracy Tesmer is here to address a few basic pros and cons …
There is an ever growing selection of countertop materials available out in the market today. While the large selection may seem overwhelming, it gives you the opportunity to choose the perfect countertop material to enhance the beauty of your home and reflect your personal style.
Plastic laminate kitchen countertops
Plastic laminate was the popular choice for countertops for many years and still accounts for a large percent of the market today. Plastic laminate is made of multiple layers of resin-soaked craft paper, topped by a patterned sheet of melamine that is subjected to heat and pressure.
- Pros: Laminate counter tops combine beauty, durability and easy maintenance with affordability. They have an extensive choice of colors and patterns and can be easily installed and maintained.
- Cons: Because laminate isn’t as durable as stone or a solid surface, it’s at higher risk for scratching and damage.
Solid surface kitchen countertops
Curved shapes and inlays, perfectly integrated sinks, colors that never fade or wear away – that describes today’s popular countertop choice, solid surface. Most are 1/2-inch thick and made of acrylic, polyester and fillers. Edges are built up with two or three layers of material for a thicker appearance.
- Pros: This material is non-porous, stain resistant, durable and can be crafted into almost any shape, size or color.
- Cons: Some argue that the product is artificial looking and comparatively expensive. The material is sensitive to heat, so avoid placing hot pots or pans directly on the surface.
Granite kitchen countertops
Granite is by far the most durable option for countertops and granite is becoming more popular since the cost is no longer detrimental to most budgets. Granite is the ultimate in elegance and brings out the true beauty of kitchens as well as baths. Granite is made from natural products and come in a wide range of colors, patterns and depths, yet each piece is unique.
- Pros: Granite surfaces resist most stains, and are even tougher if sealed. It has the 2nd highest hardness rating after diamonds and will hold up very well against heat. A variety of edge styles including bevel, radius, half-radius, ogee and square are available. Standard patterns are readily available and relatively inexpensive
- Cons: Non-stock or unusual patterns of granite are on the expensive side, but the price is continually coming down. If the pattern is bold, some seams may be very conspicuous.
Marble countertop surfaces
Marble countertops give kitchens in any home that luxurious, custom look. However, most homeowners don’t use marble on their entire kitchen due to the high price tag, but it is frequently used on islands or small sections of the counter to designate a baking center.
- Pros: Crisp, clean and beautiful. Not frequently used, so will give your space an original look.
- Cons: Marble is among the most expensive countertop material available. Additionally, it’s porous and stains easily unless professionally sealed on a regular basis. Routine maintenance may be required and if you aren’t careful you could easily scratch the marble.
Stainless steel countertop surfaces
Stainless steel is a great choice for those who want a sleek, modern look for your kitchen, but is more often found in a restaurant setting. They are constructed to your exact specifications so you can have countertop custom for your space.
- Pros: Stainless tops are sleep looking, heat resistant, and sanitary due to the smooth surface for easy cleaning.
- Cons: One of the more expensive choices, stainless steel can only be found in limited sizes. As it ages, it can scratch and dent easily. Stainless also shows fingerprints and smudges easily so may difficult to keep spotless.
In the average home, you will likely find ceramic or porcelain tile somewhere throughout the house. Although typically used for floor covering, tile can also be used as a countertop material. Homeowners choose tile for its price point, which can be very low, and the wide selection available.
- Pros: Tile comes in just about any size, style or colors to fit most any budget. Tile is also one of the few countertop surfaces that can be easily DIYed.
- Cons: Because the counter surfaces are uneven, the tiles can easily chip or crack. Regular cleaning is required to reduce stains in the grout lines. Custom or more high-end tiles can become very expensive.
The use of concrete for countertops is becoming an increasingly popular trend in kitchen design. Concrete counters resemble slabs of natural stone and are recommended for those who want a low maintenance surface that’s an unexpected.
- Pros: Concrete countertops give a kitchen an unexpected, unique look. It can be tinted almost any color making it fully customizable, and can easily withstand heat.
- Cons: The customization of the concrete work makes it more costly than the average countertop. Cracking and porosity are potential problems, but can be reduced or avoided with certain treatments.
Quartz countertops are the new worry-free alternative to granite. Quartz is found in great abundance—it is second only to water as the most common mineral-based form on our planet. Quartz countertops are almost complete rock, constructed of nearly 100% quartz.
- Pros: Quartz countertops are strong, require no resealing, are highly resistant to scratches and stains, and come in a huge variety of colors. They are also mold resistant and quite resistant to bacteria as well.
- Cons: Quartz countertops are much heavier than most other countertops, so installation requires several trained professionals. It also tends to skew on the more expensive side of countertop options.
Tracy Tesmer is founder of Tracy Tesmer Design • Build • Remodel • Repair, specializing in kitchen design and remodeling in Gainesville, Georgia. Tracy has over 30 years experience in the construction industry and also hosts a weekly home improvement radio show on WDUN in North Georgia.