On any given day, your kitchen countertop may wind up playing the roles of cutting board, hot pad, office desk, food prep surface, and snack bar. Though many people prefer the beauty of natural stone, new engineered stone products, particularly manufactured quartz are providing design options and color choices that are attracting kitchen designers and consumers alike. Most homeowners these days are looking for a surface that’s durable, attractive and easy to get along with, and it’s worth weighing the options carefully when you’re remodeling. Below you’ll find the most common countertop options and pros and cons of each that may surprise you.
Rock hard and natural. Stain, heat and water-resistant, unaffected by harsh chemicals when sealed. Requires minimal maintenance. Natural stone has more variation and character than the manufactured tops. The stone normally needs to be resealed after 10-15 years depending how heavily it is being used. Very heavy, and must be supported by sturdy, well-made cabinets.
Cost: $$ – $$$$ (Though the cost has become more affordable in recent years.)
Marble is a beautiful, timeless classic. It’s highly heat resistant, but its biggest pitfall is that marble is porous and absorbs liquids that cause stains. Acids like wine, vinegar, lemon and tomato juice can eat away the polish and leave the stone discolored in a process called etching. Marble is also relatively susceptible to chips and cracks and is one of the most expensive natural stones available. It’s also extremely heavy and needs to be well supported.
Cost: $$ – $$$$$
Not to be confused with “quartz”, the common industry term for crushed quartz that is formed into sheets with resin, quartzite is a natural occurring stone. The most popular variety, quartzite super white, looks similar to heavily veined gray and white marble. It does not share marble’s tendency to stain or etch and is similar to granite in its ability to resist scratches and chips, though knives will mark this surface up when used directly on it and it’s only moderately heat resistant. Because it’s a naturally formed stone, quartzite is limited on the kinds of colors that you can choose from. You’ll mainly find whites and grays with some shades in between.
Cost: $$$ – $$$$
Although soapstone is non-porous and does not need to be sealed as many natural stone products do, it is normally treated with mineral oil to evenly darken the stone, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Stain-proof, unaffected by harsh chemicals, and can stand high heat. Soapstone is relatively soft and can scratch and dent easily. Although it scratches easily, small scratches are virtually invisible after the application of mineral oil and large scratches or chips can be sanded out with normal sandpaper. Soapstone color choices are generally limited to various shades of gray and its colors tend to darken with time.
Cost: $$$ – $$$$
Countertops like Corian and Wilsonart are manufactured by blending acrylic polymers (mainly plastic) and stone-derived materials. Solid surface has a softer, warmer feel than stone, and is available in a huge range of colors and styles. An especially appealing feature is that seams are invisible. Solid surface tops are easy to clean, but they’re not as durable as stone countertops. They can literally melt when exposed to very hot pots and pans. While they’re easy to repair, they scratch and dent easily as well.
Cost: $$ – $$$$
Laminate countertops are created by layering plastic and bonding it to particleboard. Together they make a solid countertop surface and come in a plethora of colors, designs, styles, and patterns. They are somewhat stain resistant, but can scratch and scorch much more easily than stone. Unlike solid surface tops, laminate seams are visible. On the plus side, laminate countertops are budget friendly and don’t require sealing.
Cost: $ – $$$
Butcher block is on the more affordable side of the countertop price spectrum. It takes quite a bit more care and upkeep than other options, but it can be long-lasting if maintained properly (up to 20 years!). Because it’s softer, it’s easier on your dishes but is also easily damaged by knives and hot cookware. Susceptible to water stains and warping. Wood can gather germs, grow mold, stain, or even warp in shape when exposed to moisture. To counteract these unwanted effects, you’ll need to seal your butcher block countertops immediately following installation and on a monthly basis afterward.
Cost: $ – $$$
So there you have it! When making a decision, you should consider your budget, how much you’ll need, how you’ll use the countertops, how much maintenance you can commit to, and your design aesthetic.
Solid surface and stone should definitely be professionally installed, since fabrication and installation require specialized tools and skills. It’s simply not worth it for a do-it-yourselfer to invest the time and dollars required, especially for a project that’s usually a once-in-a-lifetime deal. For more information on countertop pricing and installation, contact your local Honey Do pro!