Choosing a countertop for your kitchen is more complicated than many consumers realize. Aside from choosing something that looks nice with your cabinets and the overall feel of the room, you may want to narrow down your search by first deciding what types of material to even consider. Here we’ll review the more popular options for a modern kitchen, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various natural stone, quartz (manmade stone), and wood.
Granite, which is a natural stone, has been tremendously popular for many years, and continues to be the first choice for most of our clients. Granite comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and every slab is unique. It’s heat resistant, and is the most nonporous and scratch resistant of the natural stones. For maintenance, it’s recommended to reseal the stone (wipe on sealer) every six months to a year. The Uniformity of appearance can be hit or miss with granite depending on the source, and this is usually the most important factor. Do you want your counter to have a natural, unpredictable pattern? Or do you prefer uniformity? Either way, you will want to actually see the slab in person before you commit. Because granite is so varied, its price is equally as varied and can be the least expensive option, or the most, depending on how desirable the color is, and where it comes from in the world.
The runners up for natural stone are more temperamental, and less common. Quartzite would be the next most popular natural stone. Though not impervious to chipping, it’s a very durable, heat resistant, beautiful stone, easily confused with some types of granite. It is a more porous stone and requires more maintenance to avoid staining. It can be quite expensive, so it should typically only be chosen if the look of the stone is calling to you. Quartzite is a nice alternative to marble, which can be equally unique and beautiful, but requires even more maintenance due to its porous nature. Finally, soapstone, which has a uniform grey look, is completely non-porous, stain resistant, and great for hot pots and pans. However, composed mostly of mineral talc, it scratches constantly (even a fingernail can leave a mark, and requires the consistent application of mineral oil to smooth out and revitalize the surface.
Wood countertops come in a variety of species, such as walnut, cherry, mahogany, and teak. There are a variety of plank sizes, thicknesses, edge profiles, and methods of assembly. For example, butcher block (which looks like a checkerboard) requires regular oiling and is designed for heavy use, while a wide plank construction which looks more uniform has a smoother finish, but will scratch easily. This variety results in a sizeable range in appearance, functionality, and price. if your cabinets are stained, or painted a darker color, coordinating colors/wood species between the countertop and cabinets can be tricky. A wood top is commonly used in just one section of the kitchen, such as for the island, to provide an interesting accent to the overall design.
The rise in popularity of quartz, a manmade stone, has opened up the option of complete uniformity in a variety of colors/patterns that emulate natural stone but are predictable in consistency. Quartz is very hard, scratch resistant, and completely non-porous which means it doesn’t need to be resealed. Compared to granite, it is more heat sensitive and cannot be used outside due to UV radiation. It tends to be priced evenly with a mid-range granite, and if you are comfortable with the price it is a great alternative to granite. The consistency in color means a sample in a showroom will be the same as the final product, eliminating the need to see the full slab in a warehouse. There are many different manufacturers such as Caesar Stone, Silestone, and Cambria, offering a wide variety of colors. However, if you are looking for the “natural stone look” it is difficult to find with quartz. Many of the colors look very manmade even while trying to emulate the random patterns found in natural stone.