Choosing a material for your kitchen counters should rely on three factors- the aesthetic you’d like for the room, the performance of the materials themselves, and of course, your budget. Different materials require more or less upkeep and work for different styles of cooking. These options roughly break down into stone, manmade stone-substitutes, and other materials. Which did you select for your kitchen- and why?
Marble is a classic kitchen look. The light colored stone can vary from nearly pure white to gray veined. For the baker, marble is great choice because it stays cool naturally. However, the material is porous so it easily stains, even when sealed, and can chip.
Granite is a great choice for an active kitchen. One of the more resilient stones for countertops, it stands up well to heat, knives, and food spills as long as it has been sealed. Its weight does require sturdy cabinets below, and for a larger space, work with your contractor to ensure you get evenly colored stone.
Soapstone is kitchen counter stone that is rising in popularity due to its soft, natural look. When installed, it is a light or medium gray that patinas over time. Soapstone also requires oiling, can’t handle knife cuts, and may scuff china or glassware. Like marble, it is a more difficult stone to maintain but may find the unique look worth the care.
Quartz surfacing is a way to blend the look of stone with the performance of solid surfacing. Made by combing quartz chips and tinted resin, quartz surfacing is available in a variety of colors and patterns. Because the composite removes the natural variations, it may be more obviously a manmade material, but it is very durable and more heat resistant.
Solid surfacing, made from acrylic and polyester, is also nonporous and scratches can be sanded out, but care must be used with hot pots and pans. Frequently referred to by the brand name Corian, solid surfacing is available in a range of color and pattern options, thus a great choice for a more nontraditional look.
Tile is another kitchen counter option that comes in endless styles and colors. You can read more about the history of tile in our past Professor Rue. A word of caution- the uneven surface can be difficult for cutting boards or rolling out dough.
Wood can be used in two ways in the kitchen. A thick butcher-block wood counter can be a direct work surface, though it does require frequent disinfecting. Or a more expensive wood can be used in non-work areas while another surface is used for more intensive cooking, like in our example. No matter which option, wood can swell and contract, causing cracks, and it must be oiled regularly.
Often found in commercial kitchens, metal countertops are showing up in more and more home kitchens. The look is often contemporary or industrial, but our example shows it can still be warm. Resistant to heat and bacteria, stainless steel is easy to clean but can dent or be etched.
Images: June 2012 by Woodnote Photography // Marble from June 2012 by Pierre Verger // Metal from March/April 2011 by Ore Studios // Stone from September 2012 by Emily Johnston // Wood from February 2012 by Emily Johnston