Your kitchen is a vital part of your home, a place where the family can come together at the end of the day in preparation for family supper. From baking cookies with the kids to preparing romantic dinners for two, your kitchen should be a practical yet stylish place that you enjoy spending time in.
One of the most noticeable and essential parts of any kitchen is the countertop. A good kitchen countertop can make or break any meal preparation, as you don’t want to have to deal with a surface that isn’t amenable to your food handling needs.
Choosing a kitchen countertop surface can be an extremely overwhelming and frustrating process due to the wide variety of options out there. It can be easy to get lost in the decision making process, but with a little knowledge about the benefits of different kinds of kitchen countertops you’ll be well equipped to choose. We’ll give you a rundown of the best kitchen countertops out there (as well as some kitchen countertop options you’ll definitely want to avoid). Here are the top five kitchen countertop surfaces to choose from:
One of the most popular kitchen countertop surfaces due to its increasing affordability, granite adds a luxury and class to your kitchen that will make you want to spend as much time cooking as possible. While it still is one of the more expensive options, its cost has started to come down as the supply of granite has increased.
Granite kitchen countertops are incredibly heat resistant, so you don’t have to worry when putting down hot pots and trays straight from the stove or oven. Its strength and durability make it impervious to most cuts and scratches, and installing a granite countertop will certainly add real estate value to your home. Granite comes in a wide variety of colors, as each slab of this natural material is unique. The different patterns of granite increase its appeal, and you can choose from more rare colors and veining for a little extra cost.
Because of the porous nature of granite, periodic sealing will be required to resist stains. Both polished and matte finishes resist most stains, so you can choose whichever look accentuates your kitchen the best. Wiping up stains and spills quickly will reduce how often you need to reseal, but oil that’s seeped into granite can be removed by using a poultice. And while granite is incredibly durable, it is capable of being chipped on the edges, which will require professional repairs.
Quartz kitchen countertops are actually made of engineered stone containing up to 93% crushed quartz that gets shaped into slabs and bound with resins. Quickly becoming one of the most popular kitchen countertops surfaces on the market, quartz is known for being almost entirely maintenance free while adding the same elegance to your kitchen as natural stone.
The top benefit of a quartz countertop is the lack of maintenance required; unlike granite, you won’t need to seal quartz. These countertops are resistant to most damage, whether it be from acid, scratching, or heat. The man-made nature of quartz countertops means that its slabs are entirely uniform and can be custom-made in whatever size or shape you need. Quartz countertops come in a variety of vibrant colors as well as patterns that mimic other natural stones such as marble. Its color and texture is also very consistent, making it easy to install without worrying about variations in pattern.
Similar to granite, quartz countertops are on the more expensive side. However, its durability and lack of maintenance/sealing required may in the long run end up saving you money spent on repairs. Its edges and corners are also vulnerable to chipping (and would require a professional to repair), although rounding the edges of your countertops can help you avoid this.
While granite and quartz are certainly the top two kitchen countertop surfaces to choose from, laminate is an old-time favorite that is definitely on the more affordable side. Laminate countertops consist of plastic-coated synthetics that are made by bonding laminate sheets to a particleboard core. Although laminate used to be considered a lower quality than other kitchen countertop surfaces, the increase in varieties of colors, designs, and patterns make it a blast from the past that you may love.
The greatest quality of laminate countertops is their affordability. Laminates are very easy to install (even on your own), and maintenance of them is a breeze as they are stain resistant. You can buy laminate in sheets that are cut to fit, printed with whatever designs or colors you can think of. Laminate patterns imitating natural stone are becoming a popular affordable alternative to quartz or granite countertops, or you can even go retro with mid-century designs for that nostalgic feel.
The biggest drawback of laminate countertops is that you pay for what you get. Laminate tends to be viewed on the cheaper side by people looking to buy your home, so it may not help when estimating the value of your home. Laminate surfaces are vulnerable to cracking, scratching and chipping, and they are not all that heat resistant. Cutting directly on laminate can permanently damage it, and repairing laminate is almost impossible.
Wooden kitchen countertops are not only an ideal work surface for preparing food; they also give your kitchen a warm, cozy look straight out of a magazine. You’ll feel like a professional chef or butcher when preparing meat directly on a wood countertop. They’re available in many colors and finishes, with rock maple being the most popular followed by woods such as oak, walnut, cherry, or teak.
The three styles of wooden countertops are: edge-grain, where long, thick strips of wood are glued together with the edge grain facing up; end-grain, where short, square sticks of wood are combined with the end grain facing up; or wide-plank, where wide boards are edge-glued together. Wide-plank wooden countertops are also known as butcher blocks, and can offer a beautifully unique look to your kitchen.
Wood is particularly resistant to bacteria, offering a much safer work surface that’s easier to clean. Installation is easy and repairs are also easily done by sanding or resealing the wood. Wooden countertops are very heat resistant and will last a long time provided you get a proper finish. Wood is certainly one of the more affordable options, and you can even consider using natural or engineered stone for the rest of your kitchen while dedicating a specific section of your kitchen countertop to wood in order to take advantage of a variety of prep surfaces.
Wooden countertops can easily be damaged by scratching and cutting with knives, although those nicks and scratches can be sanded out. Resealing is required to protect from water damage and stains, and it is vulnerable to cracking if not properly maintained. And although it is bacteria resistant, proper cleaning is vital as improper maintenance can allow bacteria to grow.
Very different from the kind of concrete slabs used in constructing buildings or bridges, concrete countertops are slabs that get highly polished to give your kitchen an elegant and unique look. Concrete countertops are incredibly customizable and can be stained or textured any color you wish or even mixed with materials such as glass or marble to provide an exotic and personalized look for your kitchen.
Concrete is an excellent choice as a kitchen countertop surface for anyone needing a custom-made countertop in an uncommon shape. The biggest asset of concrete is its uniqueness as well as its ability for customization, so if you’re looking to make your kitchen one-of-a-kind, concrete may be the way to do it. Concrete kitchen countertops are resistant to heat and scratching, and have the added benefit of being energy efficient; concrete will retain heat when the temperature rises and release it when the temperature lowers.
Due to the custom nature of installing concrete, it must be professionally installed and the cost of installation may be higher. Concrete kitchen countertops are susceptible to cracking over time, and must be regularly sealed as their surface can be quite porous. Although most concrete countertops are cast in your kitchen itself due to their heavy weight, they have been known to curl up at the corners due to uneven curling, so you may want to consider getting it precast.
What NOT To Choose
Depending on your budget and the design choices you’re going for in your kitchen, any of the above kitchen countertop options may be a wonderful fit. Whether you’re looking for something that requires little to no maintenance or you’re trying to increase the value of your home in order to sell, these are certainly the top five choices available for your kitchen countertop.
However, many people make the mistake of installing kitchen countertops with a great style and look that end up being impractical or hard to maintain. Two kitchen countertop options you’ll absolutely want to avoid are tile countertops and marble countertops. Although they may look great on installation, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits and make both of these options a nightmare for homeowners.
Ceramic tile is durable and easy to clean, and is a much less expensive option than natural stone or quartz. However, while the tile itself is easy to clean, the grout lines between the tiles are incredibly difficult to clean. The grout is very susceptible to staining and will require regular resealing in order to maintain. Annual resealing is needed to avoid the bacteria growth that commonly occurs due to the buildup of dust and grime in grout lines.
While tile can be beautiful, it doesn’t add have nearly the elegance of granite or quartz (or add the same kind of value to your home). Tile kitchen countertops are incredibly brittle and prone to cracking, so the utmost care must be used when handling pots or skillets on it. It’s also not an ideal work surface, as its uneven surface makes things wobbly and unstable and makes rolling out dough impossible.
Although marble is another natural stone that can add value to your home, your money would be better spent on a more durable stone such as granite. Marble is an extremely high maintenance and temperamental stone, requiring frequent sealing to avoid stains. It is especially vulnerable to acid damage, so take care when handling citrusy fruits such as lime or orange juice.
Marble kitchen countertops are also easily scratched and stained, and repairs are incredibly difficult and expensive. Marble has all of the drawbacks of other natural stone countertops (expense, needing to be sealed, porous) without the benefit of durability and lower maintenance. These qualities make marble an expensive choice that’s not worth the money you’ll spend installing it (not to mention repairing it).
How To Decide Your Kitchen Countertop Surface
To properly choose your kitchen countertop surface, you need to decide what it is you’re looking for in a kitchen. Things like brand names and popularity may not be important to you if you’re looking for something budget friendly that provides your kitchen with a unique feel. If, however, you’re looking to sell your home and add value to it, you’ll want to go with something that will entice prospective homebuyers to want to live there.
You don’t need to break the bank to make your kitchen look stylish and comfortable. Oftentimes the more unique choice will help your kitchen stand out far more than what’s the hottest thing on the market right now. If you work together with the company installing your kitchen countertops, you can select a design that feels like you and makes your kitchen an inviting place to cook and prepare food. You spend plenty of time in the kitchen, from meal prep to family time, and you want to make sure it represents what you want your home to be.