When redoing your kitchen, you want to be sure you choose the right countertop to complement your kitchen. However, you shouldn’t get hung up on which one is the so-called “best.” Figure out which countertop material is right for you — your lifestyle, your overall design vision, your budget.
The choices you have when you select your countertops are several. They include quartz, granite, solid surface, laminate, wood, stainless steel or copper, and tile.
Quartz coutertops are man-made engineered stone countertops formed by combining about 90% ground quartz (a natural hard mineral) with 8-10% resins, polymers, and pigments. This forms a very hard granite-like surface. Fabricators then create quartz countertops by cutting the shapes from the slab and then profiling and polishing the edges.
On the other hand, granite — or natural stone — is quarried directly from the earth in large blocks. These blocks are then sliced into slabs and polished on one side at the quarry before being shipped to the broker or fabricator. Fabricators cut shapes from the slabs according to your countertop measurements. They then profile and polish the edges.
Quartz has some pros and cons compared to granite. On the pro side, quartz is one of the strongest materials on the planet. Quartz countertops are stronger and more flexible than granite. Also on the pro side, quartz surfacing is non-porous and doesn’t require any sealing like granite does. On the con side, quartz countertops can discolor over time when exposed to direct sunlight.
Granite also has its pros and cons. On the pro side, granite is 100% natural and it is one-of-a-kind. Each granite slab is unique. On the con side, granite doesn’t offer color consistency and granite countertops need to be sealed.
Quartz and granite are also some of the most expensive countertops.
Solid surface countertops are less expensive than quartz or granite. Solid surface is a man-made material usually composed of marble dust, bauxite, acrylic or polyester resins and pigments. It is most frequently used for seamless countertop installations. DuPont was the first manufacturer to produce a solid-surface countertop — Corian. That was in 1967 and the category continues to thrive. There are currently more than a dozen manufacturers offering countertop materials in hundreds of colors and designs.
Solid-surface tops are normally a half inch thick and made of acrylic, polyester (or blends of the two) along with fillers. Edges are built up with two or three layers of material for a thicker appearance.
Laminate countertops are some of the least expensive. Laminate countertops are often referred to as plastic laminate countertops. However, it is a material made more of wood product than plastic. The composition is of kraft paper, decorative papers, and melamine resins, bonded through high heat and pressure. It is sometimes referred to as formica, but this is a trade name of a manufactured high pressure laminate, of which there are many manufacturers.
Wood is the original solid-surface countertop. It is uniform through and through and damage can be repaired by sanding and recoating. Moisture is the number-one enemy of wood tops. Seams and areas around sinks are particularly vulnerable. And a wood top can, and will, expand and contract.
Most wood tops are created from one and a half inch strips of maple edge-glued to one another. Oak and other woods are available, but they make up such a small share of the market that most need to be special ordered. End-grain maple tops — the true “butcher block” with the cut ends forming the cutting surface — are usually four or more inches thick and proportionately expensive.
For homeowners intending to use wood as their primary top, a penetrating oil finish is recommended because cuts and dings can be touched up with a little oil and a swipe of a rag. For those intending to use the surface as more of an eating area, tops with a varnish finish can be ordered.
While stainless steel seems to be the choice for restaurants, stainless steel and copper countertops are not frequently seen in homes. That’s because it is expensive and there are not many fabricators. On the pro side, they’re completely anti-microbial, provide a good heat-proof surface and are easy to clean. On the con side, they show fingerprints and water spots easily, especially when new. Also on the con side is that they’ll show nicks, dents and scratches quite readily.
Tile countertops provide many advantages and disadvantages. On the pro side, tile countertops, when properly installed, have a beautiful look. A talented installer can create patterns and designs on the counter with the tile. Also on the pro side, is that tile countertops are relatively inexpensive.
On the con side are the grout joints between the tiles. Grout joints can be hard to maintain, and you will need to make sure that the grout joints are sealed every year or so. If you spill something on the grout, you need to wipe it up immediately so that the liquid does not stain it. The grout joints in between the tiles also make it difficult to clean the countertop. Little pieces of food can get stuck down in between the tiles,
Also on the con side is the cracking. Ceramic tile can crack if you drop something heavy on it, like a cast-iron skillet. If someone leans on the edge of a counter that is not supported properly, it could crack the tile as well.
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