Choosing the right countertops for your newly remodeled kitchen can have a big impact on how your whole kitchen looks and feels. Your countertops need to work together with your backsplash, cabinets, flooring and appliance finishes to create the look you want. Of course, in addition to choosing a material that looks great, you’ll want to consider performance and durability.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular countertop materials right now. Some are perennial favorites, some are new and others are making a comeback in kitchens across the country.
It probably comes as no big surprise that polished granite is still the top choice for kitchen countertops. The classy look and feel of granite is hard to beat. It does require some maintenance, though;you’ll need to clean up stains from oil, wine, acids and soda immediately. Plus, you should re-seal the surface once a year. For many homeowners, however, the beauty of the natural patterns is worth the maintenance.
In addition to their simple elegance, engineered quartz countertops are virtually maintenance-free because they resist staining, scratching and acids. Quartz doesn’t need to be sealed like natural stone surfaces and it is available in a wide variety of colors. Quartz is actually tougher than granite, and is extremely resistant to scratching, cracking, and staining.
Another difference between quartz and granite is that while granite is naturally occurring and offers unique natural patterns (no two slabs are identical), quartz is engineered and uniform. For those who like consistency, that’s great. If you prefer the unique patterning, you may still prefer granite.
Butcher-blockwood countertops remain very popular because they create a warm, casual look in the kitchen. When properly sealed and treated, the surface is great for food preparation. High-qualitywood countertops are also heat-resistant. Many homeowners are opting for a combination of wood with other surfaces to enjoy the benefit of a good chopping surface and an interesting contrast to a stone or engineered surface.
This surface has increased in popularity, partly because light-colored marble offers a different kind of classic elegance than granite does. One of the benefits of marble is that it hides wear and lighter stains well. Because it is porous, however, it’s not impervious to damage. If you choose marble for its beauty it is essential to seal it and to avoid letting acidic substances stay on the surface.
If you’re looking for an attractive, natural quarried stone with color ranges from light gray to green-black in color, soapstone may be a good choice. Even though the material is soft and pliable, it doesn’t require regular sealing because it is nonporous. Soapstone is also resistant to stains and acidic materials. It is, however, somewhat susceptible to scratches and deep indentations. Some homeowners like the way that light gray soapstone weathers and darkens over time and can develop an aged, patina finish. That might not be desirable if you want your countertops to keep a fresh, bright look. Also, seams in a soapstone countertop can be more visible than with some other materials.
Some homeowners like the sleek, modern, industrial-style look of stainless steel countertops. Obviously, this material goes well with stainless steel sinks. A big advantage to stainless steel is that it is very easy to maintain. Another plus is that it doesn’t provide the kind of surface that permits bacteria to grow. There are those who find the surface too cold-looking for a warm kitchen.
If you like the idea of using recycled materials in your home, you may like countertops made from recycled glass. The glass may be recycled from beer or wine bottles, traffic lights, or even car windshields. You can choose from two basic styles. Some recycled glass countertops have the glass suspended in acrylic—giving the impression that the material is floating. Another option is to set it in cement to create a shimmering mosaic look. Crushed glass counters are non-porous so they don’t chip, scratch, stain, or burn—and they don’t require sealing. Another advantage is that recycled glass countertops don’t fade over time.
The ultimate decision for which countertop material to use in your kitchen, of course, depends on your sense of style, the kind of use your countertops will receive and the budget you have in mind. Working with a professional designer can help you to pick the material that will deliver the best value and look for your specific situation.
Adapted and expanded from a post that originally appeared April 7, 2016.