The kitchen is an intimate feature of house and home. Layout, color scheme and building material reflect both aesthetic and functional needs. Considering this, whether you have just purchased a house for renovation, are building from the ground up, or are looking to revitalize, choosing a countertop material that creates the look you want while also suiting your lifestyle is important. The right countertop will catch the eye and last, but there certainly is no universal fit
The apparently limitless number of countertop options may seem overwhelming at first. However, knowledge of the pros and cons of some popular choices makes it just that much easier.
Essentially a mix of naturally-occurring rocks that impart a granular appearance, granite is a classic choice. The intrinsic hardness, prominent edges and subtle sparkle preserve elegance and sleekness in the midst of serious wear and tear—knife nicks and hot pots and pans will not phase the granite countertop. Granite comes in several colors, and each slab is unique. It can be sized, cut and beveled to the specifications of the homeowner. It is important to note that granite is a porous material, meaning it must be treated and sealed at least once per year. Forgetting to do so may create susceptibility to staining. Stains on granite can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Additionally, granite countertops impose structural limitations, as not all cabinet installations can bear the weight of this heavy stone material.
The glamorous cousin of granite, marble is another hard stone countertop material, primarily composed of calcium carbonate. While options for color are limited, a timeless white will brighten up any kitchen or cooking station. This is the epitome of sophistication. Though it is known for its great heat resistance, the main issue with marble is that it is softer and more porous than granite. Even with regular sealing, marble may stain, and acidic spills, such as vinegar, are specifically damaging. Marble is also prone to chipping and cracking. Thus marble may be the choice for a home wherein the importance of a truly traditional and stylish aesthetic outweighs concerns of durability and functionality.
One material quickly gaining popularity is quartz, also referred to as Cambria. It is made through a process of compacting finely ground quartz with binding resins and dyes. Countertops made from this are non-porous and scratch resistant like granite, except engineered stones have two major advantages: many color choices, from earthy tones to bright and vibrant hues, and no need for sealing. And while quartz is more durable than natural granite, damaged quartz cannot be repaired. The choice between quartz and granite really comes down to preference; some prefer the natural variations and unique appearance of granite, while others appreciate the uniformity and increased stain resistance of engineered stone products.
The ability of a wood countertop to bring warmth, tradition and a taste of nature to any kitchen is unrivaled. There are a huge variety of options in both appearance and function. For a centerpiece effect, wood with a deep color, tight finish and relative softness can really be quite breathtaking. For a more functional role, a very hard wood with low porosity can transform the entire counter surface into a butcher block. Either way, minor nicks and bruises can be sanded out with ease. One of the downsides to wood is that it is not heat resistance. Mistakenly putting down that hot frying pan for five minutes can severely alter the coloring and destroy the finish. Wood tops are also prone to warping and staining, so a steady pattern of maintenance is recommended.
Of all materials that could be used for countertops, stainless steel most closely approaches indestructibility. It is non-porous, scratch resistant, heat resistant, and will not be damaged by most household chemicals. Also, bacteria do not survive on steel for very long. The stainless steel countertop will promote an industrial feel, and it can be visually pleasing when incorporated into a modern aesthetic. This is the perfect choice for high-traffic kitchens with a contemporary style.
It is good to bear in mind that stainless steel is definitely loud, and dropping cookware may create dents. Some chemicals may change the color. Fingerprints also show. But perhaps the major burden here is the price, as all steel countertops are custom furnished and can cost quite a bit.
Aside from the most common, there is a host of other options worthy of consideration, especially for the more adventurous, or for those with exacting stylistic requirements or tastes. For example, glass counters provide easy-to-clean prep surfaces that are durable and resistant to heat and scratching. Something like concrete is environmentally friendly and more affordable than related materials.
One very unique idea is the zinc countertop. Zinc is appealing because it is durable like a metal but develops a rich patina over time. Zinc is also non-porous and has anti-bacterial properties, so cleaning is simple.