When guests enter your kitchen, chances are the first thing they notice are your countertops. With so many materials and colors to choose from, countertops can really express your style and set the tone of your kitchen. Of all the countertop material options, the most popular by far is granite, followed closely by quartz. In addition, laminates have been enjoying a resurgence in popularity and are an affordable and attractive choice.
Style and function are unique to each homeowner, and here at Callen, we make sure homeowners are able to make an informed, educated decision about what will work best for them. Below are more than a dozen available countertop material options for kitchen remodeling, along with their pros and cons.
Granite is still very popular with our customers. Extremely durable, it is available in multiple colors and the stone can have natural movement in its pattern. It’s also heat-resistant, durable, and waterproof. You can set a hot pot on it and it won’t burn. You can also cut on it, though it will dull your knives. Neither of these actions are recommended, but if you forget and do one of them, you don’t have to worry about damaging the countertop. To protect the surface, periodic sealing is necessary. People often see sealing as a negative, but it’s as easy as applying the manufacturer-recommended product, wiping it off and lightly buffing the surface. With the lighter granites, we recommend sealing more often because it’s more porous. Other than the required sealing, maintenance is minimal. Certainly, it can be chipped if you drop something heavy like a cast-iron frying pan on it, but of all the materials, it’s probably the most durable.
The quarrying of granite is similar to slicing a loaf of bread. The slab (or loaf) of granite is given a name, and each slice is numbered in sequential order because the first slice can vary greatly from the last one. If your kitchen needs more than one slab of granite, you have to make sure the numbers are in sequence. Because the veining and color shading can vary, we always have the homeowner approve the slabs before they are installed.
Pros: Natural beauty, multiple colors, resistant to heat, durable, and surface can be polished.
Cons: Sealing is required, knives dull when used to cut on it, and limited colors by Mother Nature.
Quartz, also known as engineered stone with trade names like Corian®, Cambria®, and Silestone®, is made by combining quartz with resin and pigments in a process that binds the medium permanently. Like granite, quartz is durable and resistant to wear and tear, stains, scratches and high temperatures. One of the major advantages of quartz is the color selection, but on the downside, it does lack veining. Manufacturers are trying to introduce more of a pattern to it by moving the grains and introducing color to make it look like natural marble or granite.
Pros: Durable, nonporous, and multiple color choices.
Cons: Doesn’t duplicate the natural movement of granite. Edges and corners can chip.
Ceramic tile is a product that’s been around forever. We replace a lot of ceramic tile countertops when kitchen remodeling, not because they’re worn out, but because they’ve had their time to shine and the colors are old. The tile itself will resist staining, but the grout will not. Grout stains easily, even with sealing. Ceramic tile also is heat resistant and available in a variety of colors and patterns. However, not all tiles have matching edge pieces. The solution is to go with a wood edge, but it can get dog-eared from water and cleaning solutions. However, tile is still popular among countertop material options and is a good choice for many applications.
Pros: Cleans easily and available in a wide range of prices, colors, textures, and patterns.
Cons: Grout stains easily, even when sealed. Edging can be difficult or even impossible to match to the countertop tiles.
One of the biggest categories is high-pressure laminates. They’ve become particularly popular with people who want to update their kitchen with new countertops but don’t want to go over the top with it. Laminates have come a long way from the ’60s and ’70s. Laminate is made of paper or fabric that’s impregnated with resin and put over a composite wood product like particle board. Through digital photography, laminates can be made to look like granite or stone, and some of the stone patterns on laminate look extraordinarily authentic. At Callen Construction, we even have an area in our showroom where we display a granite island, and the L-shaped perimeter is actually laminate with the same type of beveled edge treatment. Most people initially don’t realize there are two different products. Laminates are a suitable alternative, especially if there’s a tight budget for the kitchen remodel. Laminate surfaces also have become much better as far as resisting scratches, stains, and heat.
Pros: Durability, many color choices and patterns, and less costly.
Cons: Scratches and chips are difficult or impossible to repair. Visible seams and difficult to use with undermount sinks.
Solid-surface materials, such as DuPont’s Corian®, are durable, long-lasting, heat- and stain- resistant, and have many colors and patterns available. Solid-surface materials are composed of polyester or acrylic resin plus a mineral filler. Solid surfacing is the same material all the way through, so minor surface blemishes can be sanded out. An advantage is it’s virtually seamless. Integrated sink bowls are available that are made of the same material, though they’re usually a different color than the countertop.
Pros: Many color choices and patterns that mimic stone, plus it is seamless and stain resistant. There are many edge options and integral sink or undermount sink options.
Cons: Needs protection from high heat and sharp knives.
Marble and limestone are beautiful, but they’re not good for areas that see a high amount of use, like kitchens, because they’re softer stones and will scratch easy and need more maintenance. Marble in particular doesn’t take sealers well. Red wine would stain it pretty easily. These materials would work better in a desk or buffet area or bake center. Bakers like marble because it’s an excellent surface on which to roll dough, as its molecular makeup keeps its temperature stable. Limestone doesn’t have heavy veining or graining and can withstand heat, but it stains, nicks, and scratches more easily than granite and quartz products.
Pros: Beautiful to look at and heat resistant.
Cons: High maintenance, has to be used carefully to avoid scratches and nicks, and not stain resistant.
Soapstone is a beautiful stone that’s typically darker. It’s generally gray, green, or bluish in color and has a very smooth feel. Although it scratches easily, the scratches can be sanded out, and the surface can be wiped down with mineral oil to darken the stone and conceal scuffs. Soapstone will not absorb stains, and it patinas over time.
Pros: Smooth feel, deep colors, easy to conceal scratches, and stain resistant.
Cons: Requires regular maintenance with applications of mineral oil.
Onyx falls into the soft stone category. It’s a translucent stone that can be used for bar tops or backsplashes. Backlighting onyx creates a stunning effect. It’s really not suitable for a countertop that’s used for food prep or sees heavy use, however. It’s more costly and is an option that isn’t used very often, but it can certainly be a very nice feature.
Pros: High-end look that is translucent with exotic colors and veining.
Cons: More costly to purchase and install. High maintenance – not suitable for acidic or abrasive cleaners. Stains and scratches easily.
Wood countertops bring warmth to the kitchen but aren’t as durable and user-friendly as other materials. Stains from water or liquid can soak into the grain and may be impossible to get out. Some people prefer a butcher block for chopping, but as with marble, soapstone and limestone, it’s a living surface – it will develop its own personality with nicks and marks. Wood can be treated with mineral oil or beeswax or varnished for stain resistance, but water can still damage it. We recommend wood be used more as a feature in the kitchen, such as on a raised snack bar with the use of placemats.
Pros: Rich, warm look.
Cons: Needs periodic sealing or refinishing to remove cuts, dings and scratches if you desire to maintain a certain look.
Stainless is available for a high-tech industrial look common in warehouse condos or lofts. It’s durable but does not impart a feeling of warmth. It’s nonporous, which means it resists bacterial growth. Spots, although removable, are common. Stainless countertops can also dent. They’re usually fabricated from templates.
Pros: Nonporous, non-staining, and resistant to heat.
Cons: Can be more costly than granite or quartz. It may scratch or dent and you cannot cut on it directly. Fingerprints and water spots show easily.
Concrete counters are cast upside down in molds or formed in place. They can be made in virtually any shape and thickness. Made correctly, they’re hard, durable, and heat- and scratch- resistant. However, compared to other countertop material options, they can stain easily. Concrete is not impact friendly, and if something hard is dropped on it, it can chip. Concrete can be tinted, textured, and have different edge treatments. For a unique look, stone chips or fiber optic lights can be embedded in it.
Pros: Heat resistant, can be color-tinted, texturized, and configured into unusual shapes.
Cons: Subject to chipping.
Recycled glass is better suited for a contemporary application. It’s challenging to make as a countertop. Considered a green product because it’s made of recycled glass, this type of countertop resists heat and scratches.
Pros: Eco-friendly, colorful, and heat- and scratch-resistant.
Cons: Can chip and the cement-based portion is porous, which means it can stain.
Bamboo came in favor with the eco-friendly movement. Just like wood, bamboo is reforested and fast-growing. It can be burned and scratched and swell due to water, however. Again, it’s a nice look, but something to be placed in a featured area, like a snack bar, rather than a main kitchen work area.
Pros: Eco-friendly with a distinctive look.
Cons: Can stain and moisture can cause warping.
Need Help With Countertop Material Options for Your Kitchen Remodel?
Choosing countertops is part of the fun when imagining all the possibilities for your kitchen renovation. But with so many patterns, colors, and countertop material options to choose from, making a decision can also be overwhelming. The designers at Callen Construction, the best remodeling company around, are more than happy to help you select the countertop that functions best for you and will look beautiful in your new kitchen. To schedule a consultation and get some kitchen remodeling advice, call Callen at 414-765-2585 or submit our online form.