It’s always exciting to shop for a new kitchen counter, whether you’re just renewing the kitchen decor or starting a complete renovation. There are many different materials to choose from, all with factors to consider such as durability, maintenance, cost, design, and color.
Here are some of the most popular countertop materials, along with their pros and cons to help you make a selection.
Quartz countertops are the most popular on the market, having overtaken granite as the top choice for residential kitchens. Unlike granite and marble, quartz is an engineered stone product that’s about 93 percent crushed quartz, and 7 percent resin binder and color. Small particles of glass or reflective metallic flakes are also added to some designs to give a unique look.
- Available in a wide range of colors, patterns, textures and finishes, and can resemble other materials such as granite or marble.
- Has a contemporary look.
- Doesn’t need to be sealed on a regular basis like natural stone countertops.
- Extremely durable — resists stains, scratches, food acids, and bacteria.
- Easily cleaned with a damp cloth or mild cleaner.
- Doesn’t chip as easily as granite or marble.
- Can be custom-made to fit any size and shape.
- Seams between slabs are less visible than between slabs of natural stone.
- More natural appearance than solid surface countertops (e.g. Corian).
- DIY (do-it-yourself) installation is possible.
- Among the most expensive countertops.
- Doesn’t have the natural look of stone since it’s engineered.
- Not as resistant to heat as granite — only up to 300°F.
- Over an extended time, direct sunlight will cause fading, and possibly warping or cracking.
- Countertops are very heavy.
Granite is a natural stone containing many different minerals, and these minerals give each countertop slab its unique appearance. For example, rich red or pink highlights are a result of granite high in feldspar, quartz provides pink, white, or blue hues, and mica causes brown or black veining. It’s important to select slabs quarried from the same stone to make sure the color and amount of veining are similar.
- Among the most beautiful countertops.
- Wide choice of colors.
- Resistant to scratches and heat damage (up to 1200°F).
- Extremely durable when properly cared for.
- Resists stains well, and easy to clean when correctly sealed.
- Resealing is easy and sealer is affordable.
- Very expensive.
- Stone is porous and needs sealing and resealing to avoid stains.
- Poorly sealed granite may harbor bacteria.
- Corners may break or chip if a heavy object falls on them.
- Slabs may have imperfections
- Installation best left to the professionals.
Marble is another popular natural stone countertop and remains a classic choice when choosing premium quality. Marble quarried in various parts of the world will have different colors and amounts of veining. For example, Carrara marble from Italy is white, gray, or blue-gray, with light gray veining in a soft and feathery patterning. Nero Marquina marble from Spain is black with irregular white veins that vary in thickness.
There are also popular finish options for marble, including: honed or matte, polished, and leather.
- Considered one of the most beautiful materials.
- Every countertop is unique.
- Large choice of luxurious colors and veining.
- Choice of premium finishes.
- Fits different design styles from classic to modern.
- Outstanding durability when properly cared for.
- Excellent heat resistance.
- Over time marble develops a light patina, giving it an antique, aged look (some people like this, but others consider it a disadvantage).
- Marble is porous and must be sealed properly to prevent stains.
- Must be resealed once a year, or more often if needed.
- Higher maintenance — spills of oil, liquid soap, and acidic foods and liquids should be cleaned up quickly.
- Heavy items will chip or crack it.
- Can be etched when exposed to acidic substances (e.g. tomato juice).
- Scratches more easily than granite, especially the high-gloss finish.
- Must be installed by professionals.
Solid-surface countertops are a man-made blend of polyester or acrylic particles, resins, mineral fillers, and dyes. Some of these products resemble other materials such as granite, stone, or quartz, and even wood. Corian is a well-known brand for solid-surface countertops.
- Generally less expensive than quartz, granite, or other stone materials.
- Good choice of colors and patterns.
- Non-porous and doesn’t need sealing.
- Easy to clean and maintain, and resists staining.
- Seams are nearly invisible.
- Integrated sinks are available.
- Scratches and burns can be removed with careful sanding.
- Moderately expensive.
- Can be dented and scratched but is repairable.
- Not as resistant to heat as quartz and stone (up to 212°F) but can be repaired.
- Must be installed by professionals.
Butcher block countertops are one type of wood countertop, and are made using two distinct grain orientations — end grain and edge grain.
End grain butcher block counters are made using blocks of wood positioned with the grain running vertically, or perpendicular to the work surface. Edge grain butcher block counters are made with long strips of wood laminated together, with the long edge running along the length of the countertop. The edge of the wood strips forms the countertop surface.
A true butcher block countertop is meant to be functional and intended for food preparation that includes cutting and chopping. It should be finished with a food-safe mineral oil that helps preserve the wood.
A more decorative wood counter isn’t intended for any cutting or chopping and is finished with a permanent coating (e.g. polyurethane). Decorative wood counters use a face (plank) grain orientation where the wood planks are glued together with their wide surface forming the countertop. Using a knife on these counters would cut through the finish, exposing the wood below and damaging it with whatever’s on the surface.
Butcher block countertops can be made from many different wood types. Maple is a traditional choice, but other popular choices include red oak,
bamboo, birch, teak, black cherry, hickory, pine, poplar, beech, or alder.
Butcher Block Advantages
- Strong and durable — lasts a long time when properly cared for.
- Good for chopping and cutting.
- Provides a warm, rustic look.
- DIY installation possible.
- Can be re-sanded and refinished to look brand new.
- Easy to clean.
- A green product if made from sustainable harvest woods or reclaimed wood.
Butcher Block Disadvantages
- Requires regular oiling (every 4-6 weeks) to protect the surface.
- Needs to be cleaned often and properly to prevent bacteria.
- Some wood types can be very expensive.
- Needs to be protected from standing water exposure.
- Sink areas need protection from water (e.g. undermount sink, silicone around sink seam, wood sealer).
- Easily scorched or burned.
- Stains easily if food and liquids not wiped up quickly.
- Over time will accumulate dents, chips, scratches and cut marks.
- Wood expands and contracts — can warp and seams can gap if good installation techniques are not followed.
Laminate countertops are produced by combining layers of paper and resins into a semi-rigid plastic sheet. These plastics sheets are then cut to size and glued to underlying plywood for custom countertops. They can be fabricated on-site or in the manufacturer’s shop. Alternatively, they’re bonded in layers on top of hard particle board as pre-formed segments.
Laminate countertops can be made to resemble the look of more expensive materials such as marble, granite, quartz, and even wood grains. The high-end laminate counters are more durable and have a visual “depth” to the pattern compared to the flat, one-dimensional look of the standard laminate counters.
- Inexpensive, but premium will cost more.
- Incredible range of colors, patterns and textures.
- Non-porous and easy to clean.
- Not prone to damage from food-related acids.
- Resists stains.
- Relatively easy DIY installation.
- Undermount sinks available.
- Good impact and abrasion resistance with reasonable care.
- Visible seams — some colors and patterns make them less conspicuous.
- Not heat resistant — will scorch or burn if hot pans are placed on them.
- Can be scratched, chipped, and cut by knives and utensils, or from rough treatment. Very difficult to repair.
- Can fade over time when exposed to sunlight and ultraviolet light.
When your major appliances need repair or maintenance, call the experts at C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 or fill out our on-line service request form for prompt, reliable service.