Replacing countertops can absolutely transform a kitchen or bath, injecting personal style and taste into the home. Fortunately, a wide range of choices and prices are available. Options to consider in addition to the overall look and cost are durability and resistance to stain, sustainability, heat, cuts, abrasion, and impact.
Quartz is the winner for durability since it is practically indestructible. No need to worry about stains, heat, scratches, or cuts. It is bacteria resistant, and it does not require sealing. Quartz is a man-made combination of crushed quartz with color and resin that mimics the look of stone, but is harder than natural stone. It rarely chips or cracks. Quartz can be made to look like marble or granite, making it infinitely versatile. Despite the expense, it remains the number one choice.
Granite is a natural stone that works well in kitchens of any decor and can be a real winner for many designers. Homeowners can choose a matte or polished finish, which is resistant to heat, scratches, and cuts; however, periodic sealing may be needed for stain resistance. Due to natural variations, a sample may not look like what is installed, so it is best to select a granite slab in person.
Marble is elegant, timeless and dresses up a kitchen or bath, creating a natural flow to any room in the house. Most countertop fabricators have marble on hand, and it can be less expensive than granite. Marble is available in many colors, lending personal style; however, veining is a characteristic that shows seams. The finish can be honed, which is convenient for bakers to roll out dough, or it can be a shiny gloss. Unfortunately, marble will scratch, is very porous, absorbs stains, and imprints substances like red wine, vinegar, lemons, and fruit. Many people feel that this is a negative factor, but it is also considered a positive attribute because it can give the kitchen a distinct patina.
Soapstone, Slate, and Limestone
Soapstone is a completely natural stone, quarried in smaller slabs than granite. It is a soft stone but has a high percentage of quartz, so it is durable and heat resistant. It is highly porous, does not need sealing, and it can be cleaned with soap and water. Considered relatively low maintenance, its dark beauty lends itself to an old-world feel.
Slate is a dense stone that is nonporous and almost maintenance free. Not as strong as granite or marble, it is brittle and can chip. However, scratches can be buffed out, and it has a matte sheen. The colors are rich and subtle — black, green gray, purple, and reddish.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed mostly of skeletal fragments of marine organisms that give it a unique organic look. It is light in color and popular because it is less expensive than marble and can be used in a modern or traditional home. Unfortunately, it requires upkeep because it is more porous than other stone and can scratch or stain easily.
Concrete countertops are made from scratch and closely resemble slabs of natural stone. Color is achieved by adding pigment, and slabs are honed and should be sealed to prevent staining. Sealing should be repeated often so stains and scratches are less noticeable. The right sealer will protect the counter and enhance the color of the concrete. Cracking is one of the concerns with concrete, but often nylon or fibers are added — or wire mesh is imbedded — to strengthen it. Concrete has recently become a popular choice with designers because it is rustic in appearance but at the same time has an industrial allure.
Wood countertops are popular because of their warmth to the eye and to the touch; therefore, they create a feel that no other surface can duplicate. Many kitchen styles work well with wood countertops: traditional, French, Mediterranean, old world, modern, and transitional. The finish makes the difference. Wooden counters are most often made from maple, teak, walnut, cherry, and oak, yet unless the wood is maintained, the surface is susceptible to stain, cuts, warping, or cracking. There are many options to sealing and waterproofing. Recently, reclaimed wood has become popular to achieve repurposed beauty at its best.
Laminate countertops, first used in 1958, evoke memories — all kitchens in the 1960s were dressed in laminate! However, thanks to technology, laminate made today is inexpensive, easier to install, and seldom shows seams. New laminate products can imitate anything from granite to wood. It does not need special finishes or sealers, but laminate can stain or burn and is susceptible to cuts. The price is right, but durability is sacrificed for affordability. Except for cost benefits, most home buyers avoid laminate.
Corian, a recognizable manufacturer, is just one of the producers of solid surface countertops made of resin, acrylic, and possibly marble dust. Solid surfacing comes in many colors, is nonporous, and does not require a sealant. It can be installed for the counter, sink, and backsplash with almost no seams as the joints are invisible. Unfortunately, it is made of non-renewable resources, so it is not a “green” choice. It scratches easily, but can be buffed out with steel wool.
Quite durable, stain proof, heat resistant, and scratch resistant, glass countertops are a viable choice for a fashionable, different alternative to any other selection on the market. Custom edges and color patterns can create a unique style element and when lighting is incorporated, the end product is dramatic.
Prior to selecting a countertop for your kitchen or bath, consider how you live. Do not discriminate on looks alone, but consider cost, maintenance, and durability. You most certainly can find a product that will work with your pocketbook and lifestyle. Do your due diligence by looking through magazines and inquiring of your neighbors’ choices. Research the options in the Columbia area and enjoy the process. There are so many great countertop selections available!