A complete kitchen remodel typically involves a wide range of tasks, including designing, planning, and executing the renovation. Along with the tasks, countless decisions must be made that encompass both form and function. One of those decisions is to choose the type of countertop to install.
Choosing the best countertop material for your kitchen can be difficult, almost as difficult as deciding where to eat as a family that’s not burgers, chicken nuggets, or pizza (tell me it’s not just me). Working with a professional interior designer or directly with the supplier can simplify the choice. They’ll be able to walk you through the myriad of factors to consider like aesthetics, durability, maintenance, and cost. Ultimately, however, answering these three questions will help you choose with confidence:
- Which option fits your lifestyle? (i.e. How much time do you want to spend maintaining your tops?)
- What option aligns with your aesthetic?
- Which material fits your budget?
Guidelines for Choosing a Countertop
When thinking about what kind of tops may be best for your new kitchen, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Consider your lifestyle: Think about how you use your kitchen and how the countertops will be used. Will they be subject to heavy use, such as chopping and food preparation? Will they be exposed to heat or acidic liquids? Will they be covered in homemade slime with glitter and Play-Doh or wine spills when the girls start fighting over the last bits of the butter board during girls’ night? These factors will help determine the maintenance required of the material.
- Compare costs: Compare the costs of different materials, including the cost of installation, to determine which option fits your budget.
- Look at durability: Consider the durability and longevity of the material. Some materials, such as granite, quartz, and porcelain, are more durable and require less maintenance than others, such as marble and wood. So, you don’t have to worry about your husband using the counter as a chopping block or a trivet.
- Consider the aesthetic: Consider the overall aesthetic you want in your remodeled kitchen and how the countertops will complement the design.
What Types of Countertop Materials are Available?
Let’s look at countertop material options more closely. There are several materials to choose from including granite, marble, quartz, solid surface, quartzite, porcelain, wood, and concrete. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons of each:
- Granite is a natural stone that is durable and heat-resistant, has tight patterns, a traditional look, and is relatively affordable.
- Marble is also a natural stone that adds a luxurious look to a kitchen, but it can be easily etched and stained. (No red wine in this house!)
- Quartz is a man-made material that replicates the look of natural stone, is durable, and low-maintenance, but can also be expensive.
- Solid Surface is a synthetic material that is available in a variety of colors and patterns, is durable and easy to clean, but is subject to scratches.
- Quartzite is a hard and dense natural stone that is versatile, but does need to be sealed regularly and can be quite heavy which means extra supports may be necessary.
- Porcelain is a dense material that is resilient and easy to maintain; while it is hard, it can still crack or chip if struck by a heavy object.
- Wood is an environmentally friendly material that can be customized, but requires regular oiling to prevent warping or cracking and it’s susceptible to atmospheric changes and water damage.
- Concrete is a strong and durable eco-friendly material that can withstand heavy use and resists scratches and heat damage, but it requires skilled installation and must be sealed as it is porous.
What Countertop Material is Most Popular
Granite counters certainly had their moment several years ago. It seemed every real estate listing had “Granite Countertops” as a key selling point. While there are homeowners who still want granite tops, newer materials are taking over. Quartz and solid surface options have been in the spotlight for a few years, but quartzite, porcelain, wood, and concrete are quickly becoming materials of choice.
Granite vs. Marble
Often people only want to consider granite or marble for their kitchen counters. Both granite and marble are natural options, but they have different characteristics and properties. It’s important to know the differences.
Granite is a natural stone known for its durability and heat resistance. It is a hard and dense material, which makes it less prone to scratches and chips. Granite also does not absorb liquids easily, meaning it’s resistant to staining and water damage. It comes in a wide range of colors and patterns, making it a versatile choice for any kitchen design. Granite is mid-priced and does require regular sealing to maintain its appearance.
Marble is also a natural stone that adds an elegant look to any kitchen. It is a soft and porous material, which means it can be easily scratched and stained. Avoid using acidic products such as lemon juice, vinegar, and tomato sauce as these substances can etch or dull the surface. Pasta Grannies beware. However, with proper care and maintenance, it will last a long time. The unique veining and color variations in marble give it a distinctive appearance, but it also can be quite expensive.
The choice between granite and marble comes down to personal preference and budget. If you want a durable and low-maintenance option, granite is the no-brainer choice. But if you want a timeless and elegant look, and you’re as neat as Martha Stewart, marble may be the more perfect choice for you.
Quartz vs. Solid Surface
Quartz is a man-made material produced from natural quartz crystals combined with resin and pigments. It is extremely durable and resistant to scratches (if you must chop directly, go ahead), stains (pass the red wine!), and heat (you won’t have to worry about shattering the material like I may or may not have done once). Quartz is available in a wide range of colors and patterns and is easily maintained which makes it a popular choice for busy families.
Solid surface is also man-made and created from a blend of acrylic and polyester materials. It is durable and easy to maintain, but not as heat resistant as quartz. While it can be scratched (use the cutting board!), it can be repaired and restored relatively easily. Solid surface offers a wide range of colors and patterns to fit most aesthetics.
A benefit solid surface countertops have over quartz is the fact they have invisible seams, which makes them suitable for longer countertops and allows for the creation of integrated sink bowls. For certain design styles, this is a must. However, if you don’t need an island that can seat a football team, quartz is a great choice for families whose kitchens are as lived-in as their living rooms.
Quartzite vs. Porcelain
Quartzite is a natural stone composed of sandstone that’s been transformed under heat and high pressure (cool, right?!). It has a unique appearance that can range from white and gray to pink, red, and yellow, and can have a distinctive veining pattern. The pattern is often a large distinct movement that’s one of a kind and is chosen for its bold statement. While quartzite is durable, it’s also porous and must be sealed with wax, acrylic, or polyurethane to prevent stains.
Conversely, porcelain is a man-made material. It is a type of ceramic that is made from a mixture of kaolin, feldspar, and quartz that is fired at high temperatures. It is very durable and resists scratches and heat plus it’s non-porous making it a hygienic and low-maintenance option for both indoor and outdoor use. These countertops can mimic the look of natural stone and can be made in a variety of colors, patterns, and finishes which means you can have the natural stone look without the required maintenance. It is a hard surface, but it can be brittle and chip if hit with a heavy object, so try to keep the pan throwing to a minimum.
Which to choose? If you want a natural stone with a unique and distinctive appearance, choose quartzite. If you want a durable and heat-resistant option with a wide range of colors, patterns, and finishes, then you’ll want to investigate porcelain more closely.
Concrete vs. Wood
Wood countertops are warm, not only in look, but also in feel, natural, and can work with all design styles. They can be repaired if damage should occur, which may be more likely if spills go unnoticed, trivets aren’t used, or proper clearance isn’t accounted for between the counter and the stove. Wood countertops are also affected by temperature and humidity changes which means they can warp or crack over time if neglected. However, with regular oiling, immediate spill cleanup, and proper care, wood countertops can last for as long as you live in your home.
Concrete countertops, on the other hand, are a modern, customizable option. They are heat resistant and can be stained, polished, or texturized to achieve the exact finish that fits your style. Along with tailored sizes and shapes, custom features can be cast into the counters including drainboards, trivets, and cutting boards. Concrete countertops are heavy and require a solid base for support. It’s also best to have these types of tops professionally installed. Like many of the other material options, they, too, require regular sealing to prevent staining and may crack over time if not installed or maintained properly.
Wood and concrete counters are both eco-friendly choices. The decision comes down to your specific needs and how you’ll use your kitchen. If you want a warm, natural look and are willing to put in the work to maintain the tops, wood is a beautiful option. If you want a modern, durable, and customizable option, then concrete may work best for you.
So, which Countertop Material is Best?
Choosing the right countertop for your kitchen remodel is an important decision. It’s likely to be one of the most used surfaces in your home and it’s a key element used to tie the entire space together. To make the decision a little less daunting, remember that the choice comes down to how you live: How much time do you want to spend maintaining your tops, what option aligns with your aesthetic, and which material fits your budget? Answering those three questions should make the choice clear.