The choice of countertop material isn’t an easy one for most homeowners because there are so many fantastic options. To make a decision you’ll love now and continue to be happy with in the years to come, you’ll need to be familiar with each type, its pros and cons, level of care, how well it ages and other details we discuss here. An informed decision is always best, and this guide to countertop materials is the resource you’ve been looking for.
So, which type of kitchen countertop material is right for you? Would something upscale and elegant suit your image of the perfect? Is a material that requires little maintenance a top priority? Traditional or contemporary in style, or perhaps rustic or retro? Kid friendly?
With so many options, your answers to these types of questions will help you decide the right type of countertops for your kitchen. Finally, at the end of this article is a video from Nadia at Howdini, walking through several tips to help you out.
Look and Appearance?
Let’s consider today’s top countertop materials and the look they’ll bring to your kitchen along with a few pros & cons. See each individual countertop material guide for a full list of pros & cons.
Butcherblock countertops were originally made from the grain ends of dimensional boards, but you’ll also find them produced with grain sides. In other words, they’re made with smaller and larger pieces of wood. The look is neat and tidy however they’re made. The traditional smaller pieces of wood produce a casual, somewhat rustic appearance. When the wood is cut in longer strips, the look is still rustic but in a more contemporary way.
- Pros: Warmth of natural wood, several “looks” available, affordable
- Cons: Must be sealed and oiled properly and fairly often to prevent water damage
Concrete countertops sound cold and drab, like a sidewalk Well, they are quite hard, obviously, but the look of most is anything but dull. The concrete can be pigmented, but most often it is acid stained and then polished to a brilliant gleam. In the end, many concrete countertops resemble natural stone like granite, but the look can be easily customized too. They are an excellent choice for high-end, elegant kitchens.
- Pros: Beauty and elegance, natural stone look and other appearances with fewer hassles, durability
- Cons: Pricey, unforgiving on dropped glass items, proper sealing required to prevent stains
Granite countertops might be the most distinguished material currently used. Polished granite slabs and granite tiles are both available. Slabs have the edge in elegance; tiles bring an Old World or country feel to the kitchen. Both are gorgeous.
- Pros: Rich, luxurious look, natural stone, durability and scratch-resistance
- Cons: Expensive, hard, require regular sealing and can chip (though chip repair can be DIY and very effective)
Laminate countertops are available in an impressive range of colors and styles, many mimicking more expensive materials such as natural stone or tile. Laminate gives you the look you want at an affordable price. Most countertop dealers have dozens if not hundreds of samples to show you.
- Pros: Great style range, affordable, easy to clean
- Cons: Some look cheap, not resistant to heat, scratch somewhat easily
Lava countertops are unique, a conversation starter for sure. The look is classy and unique, polished to a sparkling gleam. Lava countertops feature a glazed surface available in many colors, and their appearance works with designs ranging from traditional to retro to contemporary to modern.
- Pros: Uncommon, strong, pretty and resistant to heat
- Cons: Very expensive, hard to refinish (though they last many decades)
Marble countertops boast traditional beauty that is unsurpassed. The stone comes in a range of hues including lovely pinks, greens and neutral tones.
- Pros: Stunning good looks
- Cons: Not commonly used in kitchens due to probability of staining and need to seal properly and often
Porcelain countertops can be stunning, glazed in a rainbow of creamy, gleaming hues to suit your kitchen scheme. The look is quite contemporary.
- Pros: Variety of color options, tough and strong finish, non-porous, so easy to clean
- Cons: High price, can be dulled with heavy wear
Quartz countertops are another elegant choice. This engineered material is pigmented in many colors, each one polished to a bright surface. Quartz is a good choice in traditional kitchens but looks good in contemporary space too.
- Pros: Strong, color options, easy to clean, doesn’t require sealing, resists scratches
- Cons: Costly, not very resistant to heat
Reclaimed wood countertops is among the most popular ecofriendly countertop materials. Wood planks and slabs are milled again and resurfaced to produce profoundly beautiful countertops that work well in country, traditional, Old World and contemporary designs.
- Pros: Warm and beautiful
- Cons: Expensive, require sealing, limited choices
Recycled glass countertops are produced from crushed glass and a clear binder that allows the beauty of the glass to sparkle through. The crushed glass might be of one general hue or a rainbow of glasses can be used. The look ranges from retro to modern.
- Pros: Each is unique, easy to clean, tough and strong
- Cons: Limited styles, expensive
Resin countertops are made from various synthetic materials to produce a wide range of appearances from solid colors to the look of small glass beads or colored pebbles fixed in a clear field. Resin countertops have a very contemporary, modern feel.
- Pros: Good range of appearances, easy to clean, durable
- Cons: Inconsistent quality among manufacturers, can be expensive
Solid surface countertops are another synthetic material that is pigmented to produce many different styles from solid colors to a look similar to natural stone. Depending on the appearance of solid surface material, it works in kitchens that are traditional or contemporary/modern.
- Pros: Many color options, easy to clean, tough and durable
- Cons: Poor heat resistance, fairly costly
Stainless steel countertops give any kitchen the look of cleanliness and order. They are embraced by those who do a lot of food preparation and want a material that assists them in their efforts while continuing to look fantastic. Traditional, retro and modern kitchens employ stainless steel countertops.
- Pros: Beautiful, easy to clean, scratch-resistant, durable
- Cons: Somewhat sterile in appearance, expensive
Tile countertops are used to achieve any look because tile comes in such an amazing spectrum of style, size, color and shape. Even if your countertop is another material, tile makes great backsplashes! Traditional kitchens use tile more than any other, but tile enhances other looks including country, Old World, retro, contemporary and modern.
- Pros: Vast array of options, versatile design, heat-resistant
- Cons: Grout must be properly sealed or it will stain, tile can chip and be hard to replace
What’s your Lifestyle?
Do you have a short list of potential countertops you’re considering after reading about appearance, pros & cons? Perhaps you can narrow it down a bit after considering what you want from a countertop.
Your lifestyle is a factor in how much maintenance you’re willing to put into your countertops and how heavily they will get used. Each has implications for what materials you should consider and which you should stay away from.
What’s your tolerance for maintenance?
Are you a person on the go who isn’t a big fan of housework? If so, choose a low-maintenance product. Solid surface, laminate, recycled glass, quartz, engineered stone and stainless steel countertops require very little extra effort to keep them in pristine condition.
If you enjoy working on your home and don’t mind giving countertops some TLC when required, your options expand to include porous types such as granite or concrete countertops or wood kitchen countertops.
All of these need to be sealed periodically and wood does better if it is oiled every 2-3 months. Grout on tile will also need occasional maintenance to counteract discoloration or stains. You’ll need to clean it and seal the grout to keep it looking new.
How much do you cook?
If you prepare most of your own meals and give your countertops a workout, then you’ll want a material that is durable and easy to clean. Choose a non-porous material like stainless steel, porcelain, quartz, glass, solid surface, resin or laminate. If you choose solid surface or laminate, keep hot pads or trivets handy for hot pots and pans, because those materials don’t handle heat well.
Looking for an Eco-Friendly Material?
Recycled materials are now making their way into kitchen countertop designs. Recycled glass countertops use up to 90% recycled material. Other solid countertop types are made from a high percentage of recycled paper, particle board, wood and metal. There are very attractive options with each recycled and repurposed material that are also very friendly to the environment. Glass requires little maintenance; the others will consume a bit more of your time to keep them in top shape.
Family and Budget?
Some kitchen countertops are not as kid-friendly as others. Those that stain easily include marble, some granite and concrete, wood that isn’t well-maintained and tile grout that isn’t sealed on a regular basis. If your kids are older and doing some cooking on their own, keep in mind that laminate, solid surface products and wood countertops don’t resist heat very well. Hot pots or pans can leave a lasting mark.
If your budget is large, consider pricier kitchen countertops such as concrete, granite, quartz, Corian, or stainless steel. Mid-range options include solid surface products, tile, some woods, and recycled glass countertops. Those on a limited budget can still find very nice kitchen countertops in butcher block, laminate and even tile, especially if you could install the tile yourself if you’ve got good DIY skills.
Which of these categories resonates with you? Use your answers to narrow your choices – it will make the ultimate decision that much easier! A wide array of materials, colors, patterns, styles and prices mean that there are great kitchen countertops made for every home.