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Kitchen Countertops: Which Material is Right for You?


The first step in any kitchen remodel is to plan out the details, vision, and goals that you have for the space—from the flooring and walls to the appliances, cabinets, and lighting fixtures. Choosing your kitchen countertops will be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in the process, and all of the available options can quickly leave you feeling overwhelmed!

In addition to the layout, size, and color of your counters, you need to choose a material that works with the needs of your home and complements the other design features in the room. Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly product or you want to go all-out with a luxurious, natural stone counter, understanding the benefits and challenges of each style will ensure that you make a smart investment in the long-term performance and value of your home.

Soapstone Countertops—$80 to $100 per sq. ft.

As a natural stone composed primarily of talc, the chemically inert composition of soapstone gives it the ability to handle heavy daily use without damage, making it impervious to chemicals, stains, and the build-up of microbes. More than just durable and easy to maintain, soapstone counters are also beautiful to look at! The deep gray/green neutral tone of the natural stone shines when first installed, and over time, it will darken to a beautiful deep charcoal that gives any kitchen a modern, sleek look.

  • Pros: The strength of soapstone is its top selling point, and these countertops can last for hundreds of years, making them a smart investment. Unaffected by heat or acids, it has a high-density structure that keeps it looking great for a lifetime.
  • Cons: With its talc composition, soapstone is among the softest of natural stone materials. Over time, nicks, scratches, and wearing can add to the patina of the counter—giving you the option of living with the look or sanding it out.
  • Maintenance: You don’t need to do much to keep your soapstone counters in great shape! Mild soap and water will easily clean them, and food-grade mineral oil can be applied to create a shiny, dark-hued luster.

Granite Countertops—$50+ per sq. ft.

If you have been thinking about a kitchen remodel, chances are that you have considered adding granite countertops to your home. Over the last several years, granite has skyrocketed in popularity as a high-end kitchen counter material that is ideal for everything from modern homes to traditional kitchen styles.  However, with the popularity of the stone comes its own drawbacks, and finding a high-quality piece that meets your aesthetic expectations and is available when you need it can be a challenge.

  • Pros: The beauty of granite makes it a beautiful option for nearly any style kitchen, with colors, patterns, and textures that run the full spectrum of hues. Resistant to normal wear and tear with proper sealing, granite is also heat resistant and able to hold-up to decades of daily use.
  • Cons: Seasonal quarries, political unrest, and limited supply can all affect the availability of granite. It also has a wide range of price points, based upon the exact composition and color of the slab, which can put certain styles out of the reach of some budgets.
  • Maintenance: Granite countertops require regular, yearly sealing. Without being sealed, granite can absorb liquids and bacteria—giving you a stained, unclean feature in your kitchen.

Engineered Quartz Countertops—$95 to $105 per sq. ft.

When you want a fully customized look in your kitchen remodel, there is no better choice than engineered quartz kitchen countertops. Available in a nearly unlimited range of shades, this manmade material consists of up to 95% ground quartz crystals, with added resin and pigments.  This combination produces a lustrous shine with impressive benefits that add value to your investment.

  • Pros: Easy to clean, customized to your home, and nonporous, engineered quartz counters seem to have it all. The vast array of style options make it a popular choice for homeowners around the country, and its resistance to stains, impacts, and scratches allows it look beautiful for years down the road, even in the busiest home kitchens.
  • Cons: Unlike some types of counter materials, engineered quartz is only heat-resistant—not heat-proof. Although it is non-toxic and non-allergenic with low VOC emission, many quartz counter manufacturers engineer their products outside the United States, and the petroleum-based resins used in production may be a drawback to some health-conscious homeowners.
  • Maintenance: Unlike granite, engineered quartz counters don’t require any sealants or waxes to resist stains and stay in prime condition. Easy maintenance is a big plus of this type of counter material, and all you’ll need is a bit of soap and water to wipe down your new countertops on a routine basis.

Eco-Friendly Kitchen Counters—$30 to $100+ per sq. ft.

Green building practices and eco-friendly materials are here to stay when it comes to modern kitchen remodeling, and that extends to the countertops of your kitchen—and you might be surprised at the number of eco-friendly options that are available on today’s market. While the materials range significantly in style, cost, and durability, a few of the most popular choices include:

  • Salvaged Wood: Have a farmhouse kitchen? Want to bring a bit of warmth and hominess into your kitchen remodel? Salvaged wood is an ideal choice for upgraded personality in your kitchen space. However, with the nature of wood, this style countertop will be susceptible to water and heat damage—making it a better choice for a kitchen island than a full countertop feature.
  • Butcher Block: Butcher block counters can be built from reclaimed or repurposed wood that comes from a range of sources, including shipping pallets or demolished buildings. While it does require some regular maintenance and finishing with food-grade natural oil, it also makes the perfect surface for chopping up veggies and prepping a meal without the use of a cutting board!
  • Bamboo: Bamboo flooring has been around for some time in the design world, but it is also a viable option for an eco-friendly countertop. As a renewable resource that is rapidly replenished, it is one of the most sustainable materials on the market, with natural strength and hardness that exceeds most other hardwood options.
  • Recycled Paper: Have you ever considered a countertop made from paper? If not, it’s time to take a closer look at recycled paper counters. Inexpensive and free from petroleum-based resins, it has a similar finished look to soapstone that makes it a desirable solution for kitchens of any style. Keep in mind, this material only resists heat up to 350 degrees, so you need to protect the surface from hot pots and pans when cooking!
  • Bio-Glass: From beach-inspired homes to trendy, modern spaces, Bio-Glass is a beautiful, translucent countertop material that has big style impact. Made from 100% recycled glass, it has a beautiful finish that goes with a wide range of color and design schemes—but it is important to keep in mind that all-glass counters are not friendly to your kitchen knives!

Laminate Countertops—$8 to $20 per sq. ft.

When you think of high-end kitchen countertops, chances are that laminate isn’t the first material that comes to mind. While it may not have the luxury reputation of natural stone counters, laminate is still a high-quality, affordable solution for homeowners looking to upgrade their counters on a budget.

  • Pros: The most desirable characteristic of a laminate counter is its budget-friendly pricing, but that’s not the only reason that laminate has remained a popular choice for decades. With the versatility of design options available with a laminate finish, you can choose from a limitless selection of colors, finishes, patterns, and options to make your counters your own.
  • Cons: Laminate counters consist of a thin, finished laminate surface that is applied to a plywood or particleboard base. This can make it a challenge to choose an edging profile that has a seamless appearance, and durability doesn’t rank in its top attributes. Knives and heat can both cause serious damage to laminate counters, so you need to take extra care when cooking if you install this material in your kitchen.
  • Maintenance: As long as you avoid bleach, which can easily discolor laminate surfaces, this countertop requires minimal care and forethought with maintenance. The top coat finish is permanent, so simple cleaning with soap and water is enough to keep your counters in top shape.

Tile Countertops—$10 to $70+ per sq. ft.

Durability and affordability sum up the advantages of tile countertops, so it’s easy to see why they have become a popular addition for home designs that range from Old-Word beauty to transitional masterpieces. Typically made from either stone or ceramic tile that is set with mortar and grouted into place, tile counters can be customized with a variety of different colors, textures, and patterns to give your kitchen a unique appearance.

  • Pros: The bargain pricing of tile countertops is a big advantage when you are on a budget with your kitchen remodel but still want top-grade durability and a custom look. Tile counters easily stand-up to heat, and glazed tile has a nonporous surface that resists stains, water, and bacteria.
  • Cons: The biggest disadvantage to tile counters is dealing with grout cleaning. Additionally, the wrong grout and improper installation can lead to a countertop that harbors microbes in the porous grout surfaces. It can also be difficult to repair and replace tiles if one gets damaged down the road.
  • Maintenance: Just like any ceramic or stone tile surface, having a countertop with grout lines will inevitably lead to more cleaning. To reduce the need for regular scrubbing, consider installing your tile counters with minimal grout lines to leave less room for grime to build-up.

Kitchen remodels come in all scopes and styles, from small updates that take your space into the 21st century to down-to-the-stud renovations that give you a brand-new home kitchen. As one of the most important features of any kitchen space, your countertops need to stand-out and hold-up to the demands of your busy household—and there are countless options available on the market today that can help turn your kitchen into the functional and beautiful space you envision.

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