One of the easiest ways to change the entire look of your kitchen is by bringing in new kitchen countertops. The material, color and style can make your kitchen go from bland to grand. Tempting though it is to choose a countertop based on looks alone, a material’s durability, maintenance and, of course, cost are also important factors to consider when making a selection for your kitchen.
Homeowners should assess the way they live before settling on a countertop surface. If they have three kids and they’re making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the countertops every day, they might not want to go with that white granite. The good news is if they have their hearts set on a certain look, but the material just doesn’t match with their lifestyle, odds are there’s another material that does.
PROS: The most affordable countertop material on the market and comes in an array of colors and designs.
CONS: Laminate can scorch if a hot pan touches the surface and has a reputation for scratching easily. However, the product has made strides in scratch-resistance in recent years.
MAINTENANCE: Clean with soap and water, but avoid anything abrasive.
Solid Surfacing (i.e. Corian and similar)
PROS: Solid surface countertops have a lot of appeal. They come in countless colors, are seamless, resist stains and scratches can be buffed out.
CONS: Not heat-resistant under prolonged heat.
MAINTENANCE: Clean it with soap & water.
PROS: Well it looks like a glacier and it’s also extremely eco-friendly, made from 100% recycled glass set into cement.
CONS: It is not heat-resistant and it can stain.
MAINTENANCE: Needs bi-annual sealing and tri-annual (is that a word?) waxing. For everyday cleaning, all-purpose nonacidic cleaners will do the trick.
Engineered Stones (i.e. Silestone, Caesarstone, Quartz)
PROS: Engineered stone countertops come in a wider variety of colors than natural stone countertops, are more durable and are a cinch to maintain.
CONS: This material doesn’t have the natural variegation of granite, so it may be evident that it’s an engineered product. It’s relatively pricey, although its durability can make it a worthwhile investment.
MAINTENANCE: Clean with soap and water.
PROS: Gives a sleek and modern look that many homeowners are looking for. There are many custom design options with glass countertops, so this is perfect for those who want something unique. It is heat-resistant.
CONS: It can scratch and crack. It is glass, people.
MAINTENANCE: Windex. No, seriously. Windex is awesome.
PROS: Concrete countertops, which can be completely customized with pigments, are gaining popularity. Concrete is available in several different finishes: trowel (smooth), ground (sanded to expose the sand aggregate) and pressed (a tool is used to reveal marble like veining). It’s very durable, resistant to heat and scratching.
CONS: Installation can be a you-know-what if you’re having it cast in your home. It’s not so bad if it’s pre-cast. Extreme or abrupt changes in temperature may cause concrete to warp or curl, damp sponges left on the counter can cause discoloration and acidic spills may etch the surface.
MAINTENANCE: To keep a concrete countertop looking its best, it’s advisable to seal them it to four times per year and wax with a paste every two to three months.
PROS: Wood instantly warm up a kitchen. You can cut up your veggies anywhere you want without a cutting board! If you scratch it, you can sand it out. If you stain it, you can stain it back out. It is wood after all.
CONS: It’s not heat-resistant. Water damages butcher block quite easily, so….
MAINTENANCE: Wood countertops must be oiled frequently to seal the surface.
PROS: Modular and inexpensive, ceramic and porcelain tile offers nearly limitless options for colors and designs. Tile works with almost any kitchen style, from country to majestic Old World. It holds its own against heat and sharp blades, and resists stains. If one or two tiles chip or crack, they’re fairly easy to replace.
CONS: Tile’s uneven surface can make it difficult to balance a cutting board or roll out a pie crust. Unsealed grout is prone to staining; standing moisture can damage it and contribute to bacterial growth.
MAINTENANCE: Always keep your ceramic tile countertop dry especially when it is not in use. Stagnant water can stain the ceramic tiles and cause them to whiten or fade. It can make mildew and fungi to develop on the surface. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe the surface dry after washing and sponging the tiles. You can also caulk your ceramic countertops with silicon mildew resistant caulk..
PROS: Available in a variety of shades such as blacks, whites, greens, corals and beiges, and no two pieces are exactly the same. Granite is available in two finishes. A polished finish results in a shiny look and often darkens the appearance of the stone, while honing is soft and matte. .. Also very durable, heat & scratch resistant.
CONS: . Like most stone, granite must be sealed every so often to avoid stains. And its heaviness means you’ll need very sturdy cabinet boxes to support the weight.
MAINTENANCE: No ammonia-based cleaners since they can hurt the polish on the granite.
PROS: It’s timeless, pretty, and has that organic look to it that just never gets old. I mean, it’s got fossils in it for crying out loud. You don’t get a whole lot more organic than that.
CONS: It’s a soft material. Meaning, it can stain, chip, and scratch quite easily…
MAINTENANCE: As with pretty much all natural stones, no acidic cleaners allowed! Seal annually.
PROS: Nothing beats marble for sheer elegance. It stands up to heat well, and because it remains perennially cool, Bakers love to knead dough on it.
CONS: Again, it’s very soft material. It’s notorious for staining and discoloring. However, over time this discoloration adds depth and visual interest to the marble and can actually be quite beautiful. It’s not often used throughout an entire kitchen — most homeowners limit it to one or two small areas. It can also scratch and chip.
MAINTENANCE: Again, nothing acidic cleaning-wise.
PROS: Soapstone won’t crack like other stones. It comes in many colors and gives the room a soft, warm feel. Heat and stain resistant, and pretty much no maintenance! It’s the lazy man’s countertop.
CONS: It will dent if it gets hit with something hard. The dents give it a used, stressed look that some people really like. If you want it to darken evenly, treat it with mineral oil. But some people choose to leave it looking like its natural self.
MAINTENANCE: Any cleaner will work, and you can sand away any scratches. Apply mineral oil to soapstone every other week for the first year to help the stone oxidize evenly; apply every other month thereafter.