If you’re remodeling your kitchen, choosing the right material for your countertops is a big decision. It’s important to choose a countertop that fits in with your decor and is beautiful, long-lasting, and affordable. In addition, it’s important to think about how you cook and how you use your countertops. Do you like to cut on them? Then it may be best to get something scratch-resistant. Do you fry foods often? A non-porous surface that won’t absorb splattered oil can be a great choice. Or maybe you like to bake. A heat resistant counter surface, where you can set hot pans or trays, can make your kitchen perfect. Read on to learn about all the available materials, their durability, cost, and pros and cons.

Natural Stone Countertops

Natural stone is both beautiful and versatile and gives your kitchen a sleek but classic look. Many types of stone countertops are mined from solid rock, cut down, and polished to a stunning shine. Some types of natural stone countertops include:

  • Granite 
  • Real Marble 
  • Slate
  • Bluestone
  • Soapstone

All of these stones are available in slabs or can be cut down into individual tiles for easier installation. Slabs are heavy and must be installed by professionals, while tiles tend to be easy for DIYers. Tiles, however, are less desirable than slabs because there tend to be a lot of grout seams. These can deteriorate and discolor over time. Granite and marble are also available in modular pieces, which are thinner and less heavy but don’t have the grout seams that tiles have. They are often pre-cut and pre-sealed to fit standard counters. Modular pieces can be a great compromise, as they tend to be priced neatly between the expensive slabs, and the cheaper tile option. 

Granite and marble slabs range on the more expensive end of natural stone countertops and can run between $50-$100 per square foot, while tiles in these materials run between $4-$20 a square foot. Bluestone, soapstone, and slate run in the $60-$75 per square foot range, while tiles of these materials can be found for under $10 a square foot.

Natural stone countertops to be extremely durable, but because stone is porous, they do need to be resealed between one and three times a year. Soapstone needs to be oiled with mineral oil regularly. These materials can be prone to scratches or chips but are quite easy to keep clean, and small amounts of damage can be buffed or sanded out. 

Man-Made Countertops

Man-made countertop choices are quite varied and are often preferred for their stain-resistance, durability, ability to mimic other, more expensive materials. Below is a list of man-made countertop options and a few details about each.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is created by melting down a variety of metals and then pouring them into slabs, which are then rolled out into sheets. Sheets are cut down to size and installed over a wood substrate. Stainless steel is resistant to heat and bacteria, making it a favorite for pro chefs, though it tends to be pricey at $100-$200 per square foot. Though it can get dented, dents are often easily hammered out and repaired.

Laminate

Cost-effective and easy to install, laminate has been a solid choice in countertops for decades. There are a wide variety of color and style choices, which can sometimes look like a natural material from a distance. Though it’s very affordable at only $7-$30 per square foot, it tends to peel, chip and scratch over time. This damage is not easily repairable and often requires a complete replacement.

Cultured Marble

Cultured marble looks quite similar to real marble and is made by mixing a strong polyester resin with real marble dust. The mixture treated with chemicals and poured into molds. With lots of available colors and styles, it can look impressively realistic with a lower price point than real marble. 

Solid Surface

These countertops are made by blending synthetic acrylic and polyester materials, sometimes with small amounts of natural stone blended in. The materials are then held together with a heat-resistant resin. Solid surface countertops are a low-maintenance option and are easy to repair if they get scratched. Many homeowners choose solid surface countertops because they are more affordable than natural stone, but often look less synthetic than laminate.

Quartz

Quartz countertops are an engineered stone material made from 90% ground quartz and resins, polymers, and pigments. Homeowners love quartz countertops because they tend to look like granite. However, it can be purchased at a fraction of the cost and is not porous like granite is.

Concrete

Because it’s so versatile, concrete has found a home in the kitchen. It can be colored and textured however you like, and you can even embed tiles or stones into it once it’s poured, which means it can fit in with many different styles of decor. This is a great mid-range countertop option that’s heat resistant, non-porous, and easy to clean.

Virgin Glass

Made from sand and silica pigments, and shaped into an endless number of styles, virgin glass is a unique countertop option. If you don’t want to stick to traditional shapes and designs, this countertop option can give you the “wow factor” you’re looking for. Though it can be fragile during installation, it’s more durable than you think and can stand up to heat surprisingly well.

Clay

Countertop options made from natural clay include porcelain and ceramic that’s been painted and shaped into tiles and baked in a kiln. These options are cost-effective, but require grouting, which can stain over time. Ceramic and porcelain are similar in composition, but for clay to be considered porcelain, it must reabsorb a minimal amount of water.

These options are gaining popularity in the US, while they have been popular for a while with the European crowd. Porcelain tends to be more durable than ceramic, but both are stain-resistant and environmentally-friendly options.

Reused Materials

In recent years, green builders have been experimenting with resued materials to create beautiful and functional countertops. If you’re looking to take an eco-friendly route, here are some options.

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Reclaimed wood countertops
  • Recycled Glass – this share many of the same properties as virgin glass, but is made from 100% recycled glass, which makes it a green, affordable, and visually-pleasing countertop option.
  • Paper Composite – this material is made from post-consumer recycled paper and a bit of resin and natural pigments, to give it durability. It’s then compressed and baked at high heat. It’s available in many styles and colors and is durable and easy to clean. You can use it in both indoor and outdoor applications, and it’s one of the most eco-conscious countertop options available.
  • Reclaimed Wood – these countertops are pretty straightforward – wood is reclaimed from other applications and cut down into countertops. It has a weathered look and can add a unique charm to your kitchen. Because this wood has been exposed to the elements for many years, it’s durable and can stand up to a lot of abuse.

Virgin Wood Countertops

Another option is virgin wood. Although it doesn’t have the same rustic charm as reclaimed wood, it’s much easier to acquire. You can choose from a variety of woods like oak, birch, walnut and more. This countertop option is easy to clean, but are susceptible to staining need to be sealed with tung oil to keep it looking beautiful.

How to Choose a Material for Your Countertops

With so many options to choose from, it may seem a little overwhelming. But here are a few tips on narrowing down your countertop selection. The first and maybe most important factor is your budget. When it comes to remodeling your kitchen, staying within budget can be a challenge. This is why it’s so important to allocate funds for every element of your remodel. Think about the most cost-effective option that meets your needs. If you use your kitchen counters for cooking daily or multiple times a day, think about options that are durable and long-lasting. 

Also, consider the amount of maintenance that the counters require, as you’ll want them looking beautiful for years to come. And finally, think about the decor of your home. While most of the materials listed above come in a variety of colors and finishes, countertops are one of the first things that your eyes are drawn to when you enter a kitchen. 

Don’t forget to do research on your own. Talk to your contractor about available options and get a solid estimate of the cost of both materials and installation. Contact us to learn more.

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About the Author:

Pro.com is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.