There are so many options available for countertops now that it can be confusing to go through the pros and cons of each. Here’s a sample of the most common countertops.
Laminate – this is the most common of all countertop products – it is made of plywood, MDF, chipboard and topped by a thin plastic laminate coating.
It is very solid and durable, comes in a wide range of colours, textures and patterns, cleans up easily, it’s water and stain resistant and inexpensive. However it can chip or scratch, seams may be visible, it can be heat damaged and can’t be used to chop on.
Solid surface – this type of countertop is made of cast plastics such as acrylic, mineral and polyester fillers. It is highly resistant to permanent scratches as any marks can be sanded, seams are almost invisible, sinks and counters can be molded into one piece and cleans easily. Unfortunately, it is expensive, heavy (therefore lower cabinets may need to be reinforced), dark colours can show any nicks and it can look artificial.
Marble countertops – this is a luxurious stone surface and comes in a large assortment of colours and patterns. It is water and heat resistant, has a smooth cool surface suited for baking, durable and cleans easily however it needs to be sealed to prevent stains (lemon juice, sugar, alcohol and oil can stain it). However, it is an expensive option, can’t be used as a chopping surface as it will dull the knife and its weight requires the lower cabinets to be reinforced. This is a great option for a small area of the kitchen counter space as it may not be suitable for the entire kitchen area.
Granite – this is a polished, elegant stone also available in a wide variety of colours. It is well suited to baking and is heat and water resistant. It is fairly immune to stains and cleans easily. It is also more expensive and requires reinforcement and can dull knives if used to cut on.
Slate – this fine grained, dense stone is only available in black and muted shades of gray, purple, green, red and blue. It is less expensive than marble and granite and also heat and water resistant. Any damaged surface area can be removed with sandpaper and it is easy to clean. It is also heavy and it could chip.
Tile and Mosaic – it is available in a wide variety of textures, designs and colours. Glazed ceramic is a better option as it can be cleaned easier. It is water and heat resistant, resists scratching and will not stain. But the grout between tiles is difficult to clean, it can be hard on glassware and china, it’s heavy and also can’t be used as a chopping block.
Wood or Butcher block – these are warm natural materials, usually hardwoods like maple, teak and beech. The surface needs to be finished with oil or clear varnish and if the wood is cut across the grain it wears more evenly. It is an excellent chopping surface, easy on glass and china, easy to clean and resistant to moderate heat. You should avoid using it near the sink as moisture can blacken it. It could expand or contract, it can be scratched or scorched and wet metal left on it could leave rust stains.
Stainless steel – this is a strong material, appropriate for wet areas. It is available in matte, patterned or polished finishes. It is heat resistant, very durable and cleanable and hygienic. It can be noisy and cold, it can’t be cut on, it is difficult to maintain the shine, scratches easily and is expensive to fabricate.
Quartz – this is sometimes referred to as engineered stone, made mostly from quartz and some resin pigments and binders. It is very strong, mold, heat, scratch and crack resistant. It does not stain and does not need to be sealed. It is hygienic and is available in many different looks and colours. However, seams are visible and it is extremely heavy and requires professional installation.