Choosing the countertops for your kitchen/bath project is one of the most important decisions you can make. Of course you want to choose a color that looks great and works within your design scheme, but you should also be educated on the different types of materials that are available to you to ensure you spend your money wisely.
Often referred to as Formica, a Laminate countertop is still the simplest, most cost effective choice in the world of countertops. With a variety of decorative edge profiles such as Beveled, Bull-nose and Ogee, a Laminate top can give you the attractive look you desire. Also, many laminate manufacturers have recently began offering “high definition” colors and textures that resemble stone/granite pretty remarkably, allowing you to have the stone look at a fraction of the cost.
Limitations: Laminate is susceptible to just about every kind of wear and tear that happens in the kitchen. Scratches, burns, chips…and repairing this kind of damage is next to impossible.
Solid Surface Countertops (Corian)
Solid Surface countertops are durable, easy to clean, come in many colors, and are water resistant. With inlays, seamless backsplashes and inline sinks, your design options become great when a Solid Surface top is selected. Where Corian is still the industry leader and most popular type of Solid Surface, there are dozens upon dozens of manufacturers offering they’re version of a Solid Surface countertop. This makes the amount color options and price comparisons very attractive for the consumer. Along with the available features like the seamless backsplashes and molded sinks, Solid Surface is also a non-porous material which is great at combating stains and bacteria. Because solid surface counters are just what they're called, solid, any scratches can be sanded out and ultimately repaired.
Limitations: They can be vulnerable to hot pans and stains which can damage the surface. Solid Surface can also be moderately expensive.
Granite’s growing popularity and availability have made it a more affordable countertop solution for your kitchen/bath. In some cases, it prices out right around the same a Solid Surface top will. Granite’s hardness measures a 6-7 on MOH’s scale. Granite is available in many different colors, edge profiles and finishes such as polished, honed, flamed, sandblasted etc… The price of a Granite top depends on the grade of stone, its availability, how rare a stone it may be and demand. It really adds value to your kitchen and your home. If you want the beautiful, natural look of real stone, then granite’s the way to go. It’s chip, scratch and burn RESISTANT.
Limitations: Although it is resistant to most damage, like any stone, it can chip, scratch or burn if you try hard enough. Your knives can become dull if you cut on it. Granite is also a porous material that needs to be sealed from time to time to keep bacteria and other stain culprits from seeping in.
Quartz (Man-Made) Countertops
Quartz countertops are available under a variety of manufacturers/names such as, CeasarStone, Zodiac, Silestone, Cambria, Viaterra etc… Its hardness measures a 7 on MOH’s scale and is a non-porous material. That’s the biggest advantage that a Quartz countertop has over an actual real Granite top. You don’t have to seal it. This non-porous attribute makes Quartz an anti-bacterial countertop choice. The edge profiles available are right there in line with Granite and the color options available are greater than most materials.
Limitations: Quartz is a man-made material. You WILL NOT get that natural, inconsistent look of real stone that Granite will give you. It also can scratch, chip and burn under extreme circumstances and is not considered very environmentally friendly.
A beautiful, European/old world choice for your countertops, Marble has become a little more accessible these days. It can be finished in a variety of ways such as polished, honed, antiqued or sandblasted. Because of the cost, Marble countertops are often used in small projects like a small cabinet area or a bathroom. A good alternative to real Marble in the bathroom is Cultured Marble which is offered by just about every showroom and/or big box retailer out there and is a fraction of the cost.
Limitations: Very expensive. Marble’s hardness is only around a 3-4 on MOH’s scale. It’s very porous and needs to be sealed to protect this surface. Marble is also easily scratched and acid sensitive. Think of the old European Marble buildings and columns. This is the old-world look you have to love to be comfortable with how Marble countertops will age in your home.
Really a must-love kind of countertops choice, Soapstone’s popularity is usually limited to the HDTV specials and if someone actually see’s one on there. It is a nice look though and most marks/scratches that appear are superficial and can be rubbed out and refinished with mineral oil.
Limitations: Expensive and limited availability… Soapstone is an extremely soft stone measuring only a 1-1.5 on MOH’s scale. It’s tremendously easy to scratch and must be sealed with mineral oil. Make sure you love it and are comfortable with a high-maintenance countertop… especially if it’s going in your kitchen.
Other countertop materials available include, but are not limited to: Concrete, glass, ceramic tile, wood or butcher block, stainless steel etc…