How To Choose A Kitchen Countertop Material

Your kitchen is a busy place, and the countertops get a lot of use–and abuse! It’s abundantly clear when a kitchen countertop is unattractive or can’t stand up to the rigors of regular kitchen activity. Therefore, it’s important to choose a countertop material than can perform–and look great while doing it.

If you’re renovating or remodeling the kitchen in your Boston home, making an informed decision about your countertops is just smart. Even if you have a specific material in mind, it’s important to know how that material will perform, and how it stacks up against other options.

What to Look for In a Kitchen Countertop Material

While it can be tempting to choose a kitchen countertop material based on a singular factor such as price or appearance, you want to consider how it will fit your life and hold up to the activity in your kitchen and will fit in seamlessly with the rest of your kitchen remodel.

  • Durability. Think about how you’ll be using your countertops–and who will be using them. If you have children who tend to make messes, or you intend to prepare meals directly on your countertops, you’ll want a material that can take the heat.
  • Aesthetics. As we mentioned, don’t choose a countertop material based on looks alone. But the aesthetic is a critical part of your countertop and the overall design of your Boston kitchen. Each material is quite different visually, so keep the finished look in mind when making a selection.
  • Performance. Different materials perform differently, whether it be how resistant they are to cracking or bacteria growth to how they hold up against water and spills or contact with a pot of boiling water.

 

Boston oysters on a wooden countertop

Wood countertops can handle cold objects like this plate of fresh Boston oysters. Just don’t place a boiling tea kettle on it!

 

What is the cheapest kitchen countertop material?

Where cost is concerned, the price structure of countertops has fortunately leveled out in the marketplace over the years. With the exception of wood or butcher block countertops, the prices for stone materials are generally quite similar. Laminate remains an inexpensive option due to its less durable characteristics.

Ideally, your countertop materials would strike a perfect balance between function and fashion, so you can use it the way you want, and enjoy the look of your Boston kitchen. Remember, countertops are just one of the important factors to consider when budgeting for your kitchen remodel.

How to Pick From the Most Common Kitchen Countertop Materials

Now that you’ve determined what qualities you want for your kitchen countertops, you can begin the fun part–selecting the material. Here is a rundown of the most common kitchen countertop materials and what you can expect out of them.

Quartzite: The “King of Stone” for Kitchen Countertops

Checking all the boxes of what to look for in a kitchen countertop material is quartzite. It’s typical for homeowners to immediately think “granite” when considering a high-end kitchen countertop material, but quartzite offers some little-known benefits over and above granite or quartz.

  • Quartzite is the hardest stone for countertops, trumping both granite and quartz.
  • Quartzite is a natural stone, formed when sand is heating and compressed in the earth, which makes it strong and beautiful. Quartz is man-made, which makes it more susceptible to scratches or dents.
  • Quartzite can be less expensive than other stone materials like marble, and is becoming more widely-used, which has been steadily driving down the price.
  • Quartzite is easy to maintain as it won’t discolor or sustain any damage from a hot pan. Regular cleaning will keep your quartzite countertop looking good as new.

Quartz

While the names are similar, and so can be deceiving to homeowners, quartz is quite different from quartzite. As mentioned, quartz is not as hard as quartzite because it is a man-made material that combines bits of ground quartz with resin and polymers, it is susceptible to contact with a hot pot or pan.

However, because quartz is man-made, it has some key differences from quartzite:

  • Quartz is slightly more flexible, so is known to chip less than quartzite.
  • Quartz tends to run at a slightly lower price point.
  • Quartz can be custom-colored to your kitchen aesthetic.

Granite

Granite is the third-strongest countertop material after quartzite and quartz, and remains a popular choice for homeowners.

  • Durability: Highly durable. Granite is a very hard material that will stand up to all types of use.
  • Aesthetics: Granite has a very particular look, but the patterns and colors are so varied as to make it possible to match with nearly any kitchen design.
  • Performance: Granite has a high PSI, meaning it will stop water in its tracks, and do so without a sealant because granite simply isn’t porous enough.

Marble

Marble is another popular choice for kitchen countertops, but is the softer material when held up against quartzite, quartz or granite.

  • Durability: Marble is soft and porous, causing it to easily absorb oils or stains like red wine, which would be especially visible on lighter-colored marble designs.
  • Aesthetics: Marble offers beautiful patterns and designs that are very pleasing to the eye and complementary of most kitchen color schemes.
  • Performance: Being a softer stone, marble will naturally absorb water and can more easily be damaged by chips, cuts or blemishes. Limestone and soapstone also fall into this category.

Soapstone

Soapstone would be the softest material out of the aforementioned countertop options, but many love it for its unique aesthetic.

  • Durability: Soapstone is one of the softer countertop materials, so you can expect some wear. However, most knicks or scratches can be buffed out.
  • Aesthetic: Your soapstone countertop will be truly unique as no two slabs are ever the same. It features similar veining as marble, and comes in earthy tones like green and grey, which blend right into the decor of high-end luxury homes.
  • Performance: Soapstone is non-porous, so it can withstand red wine or contact with a hot pan, and doesn’t need to be sealed to ensure performance.

Stainless Steel

This material is a great option but is often overlooked because it can be difficult for contractors to cut and work with. However, the benefits far outweigh those challenges.

  • Durability: Stainless steel is extremely solid and durable. It is commonly used in commercial kitchens for this reason, as it is highly resistant to damage. If it is scratched, the blemish can be easily buffed out.
  • Aesthetic: Stainless steel is a popular choice, especially for appliances, because it has a sleek, new, modern look. While it has a more industrial feel, it’s perfect for modern kitchens that are pushing the envelope in regards to blending design with functionality.
  • Performance: As a non-porous material, stainless steel is bacteria-free and is very easy to keep clean. It will not rust, making it a perfect choice for outdoor kitchen spaces. However, it can be dented if a heavy pot or other object is dropped on the surface, which could not easily be removed.

Concrete

This material has been steadily gaining popularity for kitchen countertops. It offers a unique look and feel, and has different characteristics all around.

  • Durability: Extreme changes in temperature can cause concrete to warp or crack, due to variances in the veining.
  • Aesthetic: Concrete can be completely customized with pigments, and can have several different finishes using different tools, including smooth, sanded or pressed, giving it a textured, unique look.
  • Performance: Similar to rainwater on a sidewalk, exposure to wetness causes discolorations, which can become permanent if the substance is acidic or oily. However, if the concrete countertop is properly sealed and waxed, these blemishes will not be a problem.

Laminate

This material remains popular since its initial use in kitchens in the 1950s and 1960s, but it falls short in several areas.

  • Durability: Laminate can be easily damaged by contact with a hot pan or knife edge, leaving permanent blemishes that in most cases are highly visible.
  • Aesthetic: Laminate comes in a wide variety of colors and designs, allowing it to match or blend with any kitchen look and feel.
  • Performance: Laminate is a softer material, so it easily absorbs stains and can show damage.

Wood

While wood or butcher block countertops offer a unique visual aesthetic to a kitchen space, they also have a unique set of challenges that make this material tough to recommend.

  • Durability: Wood is easy to clean, and can be easily sanded down if damage occurs. However, significant damage is more difficult to fix and can permanently alter the appearance.
  • Aesthetic: Butcher block looks inviting and will match any kitchen design. It is especially popular for a more rustic feel.
  • Performance: Wood countertops are very susceptible to water damage, and must be frequently sealed.

Why is it Important to Select the Right Kitchen Countertop the First Time?

Italian pasta on messy countertop

Your kitchen countertops are used more than you may even realize, and choosing a material that can stand up to long-term kitchen activity is important. You want a material that will last, and ideally that won’t require a high amount of maintenance to achieve that longevity.

Considering the aforementioned characteristics of each material, such as performance vs. aesthetics, it’s important to avoid installing a countertop that ends up not working for you.

You may love the look of marble, for instance, but should consider the ramifications of using a softer material, especially if you want a lighter colored countertop. Besides chips and other blemishes, you’ll want to avoid stains from cooking oil splatters or rings from beverage glasses that may never come out.

Further, you should always fully understand what you can do with your countertop so you don’t use it in a way that results in damage or blemishes. For example, while granite and quartz are very durable, it is not recommended they be used in place of cutting boards, as knives can leave microscars in the material. Similarly, marble is such a soft material that cutting on its surface will leave lines.

Avoiding a Total Redo and the Associated Costs

Not doing your homework before choosing and installing a kitchen countertop material can result in an inconvenient and pricy redo.

What is the process for installing new kitchen countertops?

In a traditional scenario, the installation would unfold as follows: First, the countertop is installed. Then, a plumber will hook up the sink and dishwasher. Following that step, the backsplash is installed. Finally, the electrician hooks up the appliances.

Replacing a kitchen countertop requires the same amount of work in reverse order, and a complete reinstallation. This work can run 50% to 100% higher than your initial budget. Instead, know you’re making the right choice for your kitchen countertop material the first time.

Even if the material is slightly higher in price, selecting a kitchen countertop material that can meet the demands of your daily kitchen use while matching the visual aesthetic of your space makes the spend worth it for the long-term. Several years from the installation, your countertops will look as beautiful and be functioning as perfectly as the first day.

If you have an upcoming kitchen remodel, you should make sure you read this first.

And if you still have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us here!

 

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