Countertops 101: The Perfect Pairing

When it comes to countertops, you now have countless options including natural stone, quartz, solid surface, butcher block, laminate and more. Our experts will help alleviate the stress in choosing the right surface for your family and lifestyle by weighing the pros and cons of each material. 

Don't have time to read the details? Countertop Material Comparison Chart
Questions to Ask Yourself
  • Do you want to rest hot pots and pans on your surfaces?
  • Are you in danger of spilling acidic foods, such as dressings and red wine?
  • Do you have young kids in your home? 
  • How are you with maintenance and upkeep within your home? 
  • Is a warranty important to you?
  • What is your budget? 

💡 Tip: The rule of thumb is that your countertop should be 10%-12% (bathrooms/kitchens respectively) of your overall renovation budget. Which means, if you are working with a kitchen renovation budget of $50K, you should set aside $6,000 for the countertop.

Countertop 101, Granite Information from DirectCabinets.comGranite                                                                                                     

Granite is a natural stone. It is a slab of stone that has been sliced from a mountain, transported to your fabricator, custom cut and fitted to your application.  What this all means is: 

  • Color and characteristics will vary from slab to slab. 
  • The appearance is not uniform throughout. 
  • Depending on the design, the stone may have visible natural fissures or pitting
  • All of the above make seams more visible.
  • It must be sealed, recommended once per year
  • It is very durable, but not indestructible.
  • We do not suggest you cutting or putting hot pans on your granite
  • You can choose a drop-in or undermount sink

Granite has natural colors, patterns and movement that often times cannot be found in other materials.  It also has a reputation for being durable. Another great perk, is that it has come down in price since the availability of certain colors is great. We have found, that it's popularity has drastically reduced these last 5 years.

💵 Cost: $35 - $150

💡 Tip:  Your kitchen designer will most likely suggest you go to the slab yard to choose your exact slab for your project. This way, you can choose the one with the coloring & movement you want.  PS- the darker the color, the more finger prints you'll see!

 Quartz Countertops pros and cons. Quartz

People always ask, "Is quartz man-made?" We like to say that quartz is natural stone that was touched by man. It's generally composition consists of 90-93% quartz (a natural hard mineral), 8-10% resins, polymers and pigments. So at it's core it is a natural product, that man shaped so it looks and functions at a desirable level.  This all means: 

  • The actual color of your slab is very close to that of a sample
  • Appearances will not vary. 
  • Seams can be less visible on consistent patterns and colors
  • It is nonporous, and never requires sealing.  #lowmaintenance
  • Resistant to scratches and cuts
  • Highly durable, but not indestructible
  • Do not put hot pots or pans on quartz. It can effect the binders. 
  • You can opt for a drop in or undermount sink
  • Brands Include- Cambria, Caesartstone, Viatera, MSI, Zodiaq, Silestone
  • They'll carry a warranty. Of course this varies per manufacturer.  The best warranty in the industry is Cambria- Lifetime, transferable Warranty

Quartz is the fastest growing segment in the countertop industry.  Popular brands, such as Cambria has done such a fantastic job at following color and design trends. With today's trends loving white countertops, a quartz option will come in less than a Granite or Quartzite option. 

💵 Cost$55 - $125 

💡 Tip:  Most well stocked kitchen and stone showrooms will have samples of quartz colors to be taken home to try out again other design elements such as paint, backsplash etc. Just ask!

 
Solid Surface / Corian

Corian is a mad-made material. It was once marketed for its durability, but as we learned it can scratch and nick easily.  With that being said, it too can also be repaired easily.  It remains a favorite in settings that require optimal customization, and a seamless appearance.  Other important features to note:

  • Made from acrylic, polyester or a polyester blend
  • Appearance is uniform, consistent in pattern
  • Actual color is very close to that of the sample
  • Seams are concealed
  • Nonporous- never needs sealing
  • Durable, but not indestructable
  • Can scratch, but is easily refinished
  • Do not cut or put hot pans on a solid surface
  • Brands include- Corian, Hi-Macs, Avonite, Livingstone, Staron
  • Will carry a warranty- depending on manufacturer

💵 Cost$35 - $65

💡 Tip:  Given its man-made nature, Corian can not only be color matched, but also offers a range of looks and textures. Special machinery and technology can mold Corian into various shapes and textures when heated. Not limited to special, unique edges or build in drain boards.

 Marble Countertops, Benefits and Disadvantages
Marble

Marble is a long-time favorite because of its crisp white palettes, veining and old-world connotation.  Marble continues to attract attention despite the potential staining and etching when contacted with acidic foods, drinks and harsh cleaning products. If your china has a rough bottom, it too can even scratch the surface. If you love marble, we suggest using it in the bathroom.  It's soft, velvety feeling feels great against your feet and hands.  Plus it will come in less contact with harmful products there. 

  • Naturally stays cool - Chef & Baker Friendly surface
  • Timeless elegance that pairs well with any decor
  • Heat Resistant- will not burn, melt or catch fire. But it is a good idea to still use a trivet so pots & pans don't damage the finish or surface
  • Porous- will scratch and stain easily
  • Brightness- it's natural glow reflects light in a room. Great for smaller rooms or those without a lot of natural light
  • Does not carry a warranty

    💵 Cost: Luxury Option $35 - $100+

    💡 Tip:  No kitchen designer will suggest marble to a homeowner that actually uses their kitchen. If the homeowner insists, expect to sign a document that releases any sort of stain/damage responsibility from the seller or fabricator. 

     Benefits and Disadvantages of Soapstone countertops
    Soapstone

    Soapstone is a natural quarried stone. It's a metamorphic rock that got its name from the soft, soapy feeling of its texture (which is thanks to the presence of talc in the stone). It is not as hard as granite or marble, however, it can be easily cut, shaped and installed. It is typically quarried in smaller slabs about 7 feet long, meaning a long run of countertop will have several pieces (and visible seams). But it is virtually indestructible; probably why it is so popular in science labs! 

    • Available in a limited range of color: varying shades of gray
    • It does not stain and stands up to acidic materials
    • It is heat resistant. You can put hot pans right on the surface
    • It is dense and nonporous. It will darken when liquid pools on the surface, but will lighten when the liquid evaporates or is cleaned off. 
    • Low maintenance. Does not need to be sealed
    • Can be scratched and nicked
    • No use of chemicals in fabrication, making it environmentally responsible choice
    • You can choose a drop-in or undermount sink

    💵 Cost$60 - $110

    💡 Tip: People use food grade mineral oil to speed up the natural darkening process, until the entire stone is saturated.

     Quartzite countertops, the good the bad and the ugly
    Quartzite

    Quartzite & Quartz have similar names, but they are NOT the same material. They are different in looks, durability, care and price. Quartize is hard like granite (actually harder!) but has properties similar to marble. Quartzite is a naturally occuring metamorphic rock. It is formed when sandstone is subjected to extreme heat and pressure caused by tectonic plate compression in the crust of the Earth. Quartzite is generally found in white to gray hues. It is quite hard, durable and withstands heat very well. 

    • It withstands heat very well, but we always recommend using a trivet 
    • Can be chipped, etched or dented
    • Porous- can scratch and stain easily, especially when not sealed
    • Not good with acidic elements- cleaners, foods etc
    • Will require maintenance- will need to be sealed 1-2 times a year
    • Does not carry a warranty
    • You can choose to use a drop-in or undermount sink

    💵 Cost$60 - $100+

    💡 Tip: We strongly urge you to read reviews about quartzite prior to ordering. Like granite you will most likely be instructed to go to the slab yard and choose your slab.

    Wood Countertops, benefits and disadvantages
    Wood Tops: Butercher Block, Walnut, Cherry etc.

    Because of its gaining, wood warms a room visually, that no stone can emulate. It is relatively a durable surface. When it becomes worn or scratched, it can easily be sanded down sealed and oiled to make it look new. It is often times chosen for an island top, or to create a more 'furniture look' in entertainment centers or other miscellaneous settings. 

    • Naturally Hygienic, built in protection against bacteria
    • Unlike other materials, can be fixed/ refinished easily
    • Adaptability in style- can be used anywhere in the home
    • Porous, and naturally prone to water damage
    • Do not use harsh cleaners or detergents on surface

    💵 Cost$90 - $225+

    💡 Tip: Simply use soap and water or non-toxic mineral oil to bring out the sheen (other oils will penetrate the surface and create health hazards).

     Benefits of stainless steel countertops
    Stainless Steel

    For those who favor an industrial, restaurant vibe stainless steel is a great choice. Hot pots and pans won't easily damage the surface, however buyers of stainless steel countertops should prepare for scratches- as well as fingerprints! It is often chosen as an accent, perhaps balanced by a warm wood top to break up it's sterile appeal. It also requires a seasoned installer. 

    • Durable and resilient to almost anything
    • Can be scratched or dented
    • Stainless steel is a noisy material option
    • Low maintenance yet High Daily Maintenance due to fingerprints
    • Easy to install
    • 100% recyclable, keeping your carbon footprint minimal
    • You can even opt for an integrated sink! 

    💵 Cost$75-$150

     Laminate Countertops, the least expensive option for counter tops still
    Laminate

    Laminate is still the most affordable choice, and available in numerous colors and patterns. Wilson Art and Formica are the most well known laminate manufactures, and have come out with designs the emulate stone and marble looks.  Laminate is made better today and often available for fast transformation for resale. However, buyers often expect fancier stone counter tops, especially if the house is at a certain price point.  Laminate too, can be scorched and seem ho-hum now compared to the other various options. 

    • Stain and Impact Resistant
    • Does not handle heat well.  
    • Difficult to repair scratches or heavy ware areas
    • Does not handle water infiltration well. It accounts for a high percentage of countertop failure.
    • Most edges and seams will be visible
    • Can only use drop-in sinks with a laminate top
    • Limited Warranty - 1 Year 

    💵 Cost: Most affordable $25 - $45

    💡 Tip:  Unlike a stone top, a laminate counter top will remain room temperature or 'warm' to the touch. This is important to note, especially if you'll be leaning or working on it often, like a desk! 

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    TLDR: Download our FREE Countertop Material Comparison Chart


     

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