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9 Countertop Options

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If your kitchen needs a lift but you’re not up for an all-out renovation, consider a countertop makeover.

If your kitchen needs a lift but you’re not up for an all-out renovation, consider a countertop makeover.

Easier than remodeling, new countertops can give your kitchen a much-needed change of face. Before committing to a material however, it’s important to know what each offers in terms of durability and ease of maintenance. For more tips, watch our video.

A countertop must be able to withstand constant use while maintaining its good looks; a material’s lifespan is dependent on its ability to support the task at hand. A basic checklist of qualities should include the following: durability, ease of cleaning, heat, stain and water resistance and visual appeal. No one countertop material is able to meet all of these requirements, so selection will mean some compromise.

Here’s an introduction to the most common countertop materials plus the advantages and disadvantages of each.

In this article:
Laminate
Solid surface
Marble
Granite
Slate
Tile and mosaic
Wood or butcher block
Stainless steel
Quartz

Laminate

  • most popular of all countertop materials
  • made of plywood, chipboard or medium-density fibreboard topped by thin plastic laminate

Advantages

  • solid, durable material
  • wide range of colours, textures and patterns available
  • cleans easily with soap and water
  • water resistant
  • resistant to most stains
  • inexpensive

Disadvantages

  • dark backing may be visible at seams
  • can chip or scratch
  • cannot be used as a chopping surface
  • non-resistant to heat

Solid surface

  • made of cast plastics such as polyester, acrylic and mineral fillers

Advantages

  • highly resistant to permanent damage; markings can be sanded away
  • seams are barely visible
  • can be moulded into unified counter and sink
  • cleans easily with soap and water
  • durable

Disadvantages

  • expensive
  • lower cabinets may require reinforcement
  • dark colours will show nicks
  • looks artificial

Marble

  • luxurious stone available in a variety of colours and patterns
  • surface suited to baking, candy making and rolling out dough
  • requires a sealant to prevent staining

Advantages

  • water and heat resistant
  • beautiful, natural material provides a smooth, cool surface
  • hard wearing, durable
  • cleans easily

Disadvantages

  • expensive
  • lower cabinets may require reinforcement
  • may not be practical for entire kitchen; better for one work area
  • stained by lemon juice, sugar, alcohol and oil
  • will dull knife if used as a chopping surface

Granite

  • elegant, polished stone available in a variety of colours
  • surface suited to baking, candy making and rolling out dough

Advantages

  • water and heat resistant
  • immune to stains, resistant to most alcohol, oil and lemon juice
  • cleans easily
  • aesthetically pleasing and functional

Disadvantages

  • expensive
  • lower cabinets may require reinforcement
  • will dull knife if used as a chopping surface

Slate

  • dense, fine-grained stone available in black and muted shades of green, grey, purple, red and blue

Advantages

  • less expensive than marble and granite
  • water and heat resistant
  • surface damage can be removed with sandpaper
  • easy to clean

Disadvantages

  • lower cabinets may require reinforcement

Tile and mosaic

  • high-fired, dust-pressed clay available in a variety of colours, designs and textures
  • best to choose glazed ceramic with textured surface or matte finish

Advantages

  • water and heat resistant
  • resists scratching
  • easily cleaned
  • will not burn, stain or discolour

Disadvantages

  • grout between tiles is difficult to keep clean
  • hard on glassware and china
  • lower cabinets may require reinforcement
  • cannot be used as a chopping surface

Wood or butcher block

  • warm, natural material
  • hardwoods like maple, teak and beech are best
  • surface should be finished with clear varnish or oil
  • wood cut across grain wears most evenly

Advantages

  • excellent chopping surface
  • easy on glassware and china
  • resistant to moderate heat
  • easily cleaned

Disadvantages

  • avoid using near sink, moisture will blacken surface
  • may contract in dry conditions
  • can scratch and scorch
  • wet metal kitchen equipment left on surface will leave rust stains

Stainless steel

  • available in matte, patterned, sandblasted or polished finishes
  • strong material; appropriate for areas in contact with water

Advantages

  • waterproof, heat resistant
  • durable
  • easy to clean
  • extremely hygienic

Disadvantages

  • noisy and cold
  • fabrication is expensive
  • will dull knife if used as a chopping surface
  • difficult to maintain shine and keep free of marks

Quartz

  • also referred to as engineered stone, made from 93% natural quartz and 7% resin pigments and binders
  • strong material

Advantages

  • mold, mildew, heat, crack and scratch resistant
  • impervious to stains
  • does not need to be sealed
  • extremely hygienic
  • available in different looks such as imitation granite and stone or in a variety of colours

Disadvantages

  • seams are visible
  • very heavy — must be installed by a professional
  • lower cabinets may require reinforcement

 

Photographer: 

Angus McRitchie

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