If you are in the process of renovating your kitchen or bathroom and aren’t sure what materials to select for your countertops, don’t worry. You can absolutely narrow down the numerous options by determining how you live and what your design style is. Do you cook a lot? Do you have kids or pets? Do you like cleaning regularly? These questions are important to think about because every countertop has it’s advantages and disadvantages. No countertop is perfect and completely free of stains, scratches, etches, bacteria, heat, abrasion, or water. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different materials will help you select the one that’s right for you based on your lifestyle and aesthetics. Below are the top 5 most common and best rated materials used in homes today.
Quartz has become very popular over the past few years as more homeowners are using quartz for their kitchen and bath countertops. Quartz is a man made engineered stone that is manufactured in a factory. It contains approximately 95 percent ground natural quartz with polymer resins and pigments. It comes in many colors with sparkles and veins to resemble granite and marble. It is nonporous and nonabsorbent which means it obstructs the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew and doesn’t draw in moisture. It is stain resistant, scratch resistant, durable, and easy to clean. No sealing or polishing is required but it can chip if you aren’t careful. Caesarstone, Cambria, and Silestone are common brand names of quartz manufacturers. The price is comparable to granite at about $40-$100/sq ft. If you don’t like maintenance and prefer little to no pattern with a variety of color and don’t mind the price tag, this countertop is for you.
Granite has long been known for its elegance, beauty, and durability. It’s still very popular and continue to be the material of choice for kitchen and bath countertops, although quartz is giving granite a run for it’s money. It’s a natural stone that has unique colors and variations depending on the crystals that make up the majority of each stone. Granite is porous so it needs to be sealed and resealed over time when the sealant wears off. If it is not sealed or poorly sealed, it can harbor bacteria, absorb liquids, and produce stains. If properly sealed, it is stain, heat, and scratch resistant and extremely durable plus easy to maintain. Granite is also about $40-$100/sq ft which is well worth the price for a rich luxurious stone that will last a lifetime.
Laminate has come a long way since the 1960’s and 1970’s. Laminates are produced with layers of paper bonded to a substrate such as plywood, particleboard, or MDF. The top layer is the decorative layer and comes in a wide variety of patterns and colors. It can look very much like real granite, marble, travertine, or wood thanks to evolved printing technology. It is very affordable at $10-$40/sq ft. but is not as durable or long lasting as quartz or granite. It can be easily scratched, stained, and does not stand up to heat, so don’t put a heated pan on top of a laminate countertop. Formica and WilsonArt are some of the big manufacturers of laminate. If you are on a limited budget and still want the elegant look of marble or granite, laminate is for you and yes, the image below is laminate that looks like real marble!
Solid Surface is a man made material that is either polyester based or acrylic based. It is made up of about 66% minerals and 33% binding resins providing a surface that looks like natural stone but is non-porous. Solid surface resists stains, moisture, sunlight, and heat. It comes in a wide assortment of colors, patterns, and finishes and inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew. It is the only material that provides a seamless look with an integrated sink and counter so that it looks like one piece. It can be molded to any shape and is durable. It can scratch if you cut on it, but can be easily fixed by sanding down the scratch. Solid surface costs about $35-$100/sq ft.
When I look at kitchen or bath designs on Houzz or in home magazines, I see mostly marble countertops. It is the material of choice among architects and designers because marble is extremely luxurious, and has a beautiful timeless quality that appeals to a lot of people. It just exudes charisma. Marble stone is formed from limestone which is then superheated to form its unique crystalline structure producing beautiful veins and patterns seen in the stone. Like granite, marble is porous and requires sealing and resealing once the sealant wears off. Any acidic substance will react with calcium carbonate in the marble and eat away a tiny bit of the surface, creating dull spots known as etches. It is also easily scratched and will leave scratch marks. Marble is also expensive at $50-$150/sq ft. and is high maintenance. You will be cleaning all the time. If you you are a neat freak, like constant maintenance, don’t mind scratches or stains, and love the clean, elegant look, then marble is for you.
Each material has its pros and cons so keep that in mind. There is no such thing as a perfect countertop but one or a few of them will be just right for you. Which one of these materials suits your lifestyle and taste? Let me know!