If you have ever tackled a kitchen remodeling project, you know that suddenly countertops call for more attention than you may have ever given them before. There are seemingly endless Kitchen Countertop Types with different materials, styles, and colors to choose from, ranging from quiet and unassuming to packed with natural character and unpredictable patterns. In fact, there are a huge number of popular kitchen features to decide on and evaluate in general, adding to the complexity of the process.
You also might start experiencing another common part of the remodeling process – “helpful” advice from friends. If you don’t keep firm footing you can easily get washed away in a flood of tips and stories, all tinted with their unique experiences and situation.
Advice is great (in small doses), but the simple truth is that you need to make your countertop choice on your own. It all comes to down to your needs, taste, budget, and interest in maintenance. We’d like to take you on a quick tour of a few of your options and offer what we hope are helpful considerations.
Our goal isn’t to be just another voice in the crowd, but rather to help you cut through the noise and find what will work best for you.
Popular Kitchen Countertop Materials
Photo by Artichoke Ltd on Flickr
First, let’s zoom out a little and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of your options. After that, we’ll zoom back in and take a closer look at a few of the most popular kitchen countertop types that are being used in today’s kitchens.
- Manufactured Quartz
- Stainless Steel
Pros and Cons of Granite Kitchen Countertops
Granite has become synonymous with the idea of quality countertops, and an immediate feature of interest for home builders, buyers, and renters alike. Let’s take a closer look at this popular option.
Photo by Govi Reddy on Flickr
- Style – Granite has earned its place as a countertop frontrunner for good reason. It’s stunning, timeless, and can find a happy home within a wide variety of kitchen styles. It also offers character, meaning that it has a story to tell in every natural swirl and color explosion across its surface.
- Price – We’ve put this in the “PROS” category because pricing is highly-dependent on the color of the stone, the thickness of the slab, how rare its qualities are, and seasonal considerations. Talking with your remodeling professional about your specific goals and needs is the best way to determine if it is the right material for your budget.
- Longevity – With care, this is a choice that can last a lifetime.
- ROI (Return On Investment) – Granite counters are a quality feature that adds tremendous “wow factor” to your home. Investments in kitchens and bathrooms offer high ROI, making this a material choice that will likely pay you back someday.
- Natural Look – Let’s take one of the benefits listed above and turn it around. Because of its natural qualities and aesthetic, there is a lack of predictability with granite. If you are looking for a consistent, uniform finish, granite likely is not the right option for you.
- Maintenance – Because it is a natural material, it does require light maintenance. This typically includes regular cleaning and sealing it 1-2 times per year.
- Delicacy – Granite may last virtually forever, but that doesn’t mean it is indestructible. You will need to be cautious of scratches, harsh cleaners, staining, and contact with high-temperatures (such as a hot pan being placed on the counter).
Pros and Cons of Marble Kitchen Countertops
Marble counters are not quite as common as granite, especially in the kitchen, but they are a well-loved option.
Photo by Artichoke Ltd on Flickr
- Beauty – Marble goes beyond “style” and steps into a world of true beauty. Available in a stunning array of colors and patterns, it offers a soft, timeless elegance, and adds an air of class to any space.
- Unique – Every slab is different, so your counter is guaranteed to be one of a kind.
- Withstands Heat – Unlike granite, marble is capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of heat without experiencing surface damage.
- Price – While this may be more of a consideration for some than others, the price is still substantial.
- Staining – As cold and hard as marble may seem to be, it actually is porous. This means that it is very susceptible to stains, absorbing liquids that are left standing on the surface.
- Durability – Marble just isn’t cut out for life in an active kitchen. It can be chipped, cracked, and scratched fairly easily, making it less than ideal for most homes. This is why it is primarily used in bathrooms, or in display areas like a mantel over a fireplace.
Pros and Cons of Engineered Quartz Kitchen Countertops
Engineered quartz is made from ground, natural quartz, bound together by resin. In recent years it has received huge recognition, making it a heavy contender in the countertop popularity contest. Let’s take a closer look at some of its benefits and drawbacks.
- Price – While certainly not a cheap option, manufactured quartz is cheaper than high-end granite and marble.
- Style – Because it is an engineered material, it is available in a nearly limitless array of styles. You can definitely find the look you’re looking for.
- Strength – It is stronger than marble and granite, offering a high level of durability.
- Low-Maintenance – It never needs to be sealed, and it’s scratch and stain resistant.
- Quartz does not handle intense heat well.
- Because of its incredible weight, installation can be a tricky process. Also, you need a building or remodeling professional to ensure that your home can handle the load, especially if your counters are on a second floor.
- While beautiful, it does not quite have the recognition and “wow factor” that granite does.
Pros and Cons of Laminate Kitchen Countertops
For many years laminate counters have been the go-to product for budget-conscious kitchen remodelers. Are they the right option for you?
- Cost – Laminate counters are a low-price option, allowing you to save money as you update your kitchen.
- Style – While not exactly sporting natural beauty, laminate options are incredibly diverse.
- Installation – Laminate materials are easy to work with.
- Maintenance – Certainly no sealing is necessary, and you can confidently use any cleaners you would like without risk of staining.
- Easily Damaged – You have to be careful of scratching, gouging, or burning the surface. Repairing a laminate countertop is not easy.
- No Resale Value – Because it is the cheapest option, there really isn’t any “wow factor” or long-term value offered.
Pros and Cons of Soapstone Kitchen Countertops
Circling back to a naturally-occurring material, let’s talk for a minute about soapstone. This smooth, rich, quarried stone is becoming more and more popular for a few distinct reasons.
Photo by Jon Goldberg on Flickr
- Style – Character abounds in this almost silky stone, and that character only develops as the surface grows older.
- Heat-Resistant – A hot pan won’t scare a soapstone counter.
- Low-Maintenance – Non-porous, durable, and water-resistant.
- Resistant to Bacteria Growth – What’s not to love about that?
- Lasts Nearly Forever
- The surface can be scratched, but it’s possible to buff the damage out with sandpaper.
- Limited color options
So, How Do You Pick the Right Kitchen Countertop?
Having so many options is both a blessing and a curse. It can be difficult to narrow it down, and to keep on track with your goals when that specific slab of marble starts to call your name.
Just like it’s a bad idea to grocery shop when you’re hungry, it can be a bad idea to shop for counters without a specific plan in place and a determination to stick to that plan.
Photo by Christian Brothers on Flickr
Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself:
- What is my budget? – Stay as true to this figure as possible.
- What are my priorities? – It may be that you can afford a pricier counter, but that might mean that your budget needs to be cut down somewhere else. Is your countertop worth it?
- Is this your “forever home”? – If you’re planning to sell in a couple of years, investing in a more marketable option that increases home value might not be a bad idea.
- Are you willing to maintain a counter? – Options like granite or wood that require occasional sealing and care may be attractive, but they are a commitment.
- How much use does your kitchen experience? – If you are an avid cook, a more decorative option like marble is definitely not right for you. If, on the other hand, your counters won’t hold much more than a coffee pot and a take-out box, a more fragile stone might be completely appropriate.
- How busy is your home? – If there is a high level of wear and tear, picking a more durable, scratch-resistant surface would be a wise choice.
The key is to look down the road, evaluating your long-term needs rather than simply picking a material because of its beauty. That can be more easily said than done, but it is important!
- Align Yourself with a Trustworthy Building and Remodeling Professional
Our last suggestion is to work with people you trust. Find a professional who can you help you navigate your options, and is really interested in actively discussing your needs.