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Range Hood FAQ - Top 10 Kitchen Countertop Materials

Pros & cons of the most popular choices for kitchen countertops, from butcher block to stainless steel.

Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block countertops are made from assembled slabs of hardwood such as maple, teak, walnut, or cherry. It softens the overall look & feel of the kitchen by introducing an organic surface. This surface allows chopping and cutting directly on the counter, without the risk of dulling the knives.

End-grain butcher block is more expensive to manufacture, but withstands repeated damage from knives and cleavers, so it's best for the heavy-use work area, while the less expensive edge-grain butcher block is more suitable for countertops other than the work area.

  • Pros:
  • Ideal for cooking habits that involve a lot of cutting and chopping
  • Easy to install and repair
  • Easy to match to wood cabinetry and other kitchen elements made from wood
  • Easy to repair - scratches can be sanded out, sections can be replaced
  • Easy to mix & match with other materials - marble, concrete, granite (see example)
  • Cons:
  • Vulnerable to moisture and heat, may not be suitable for some climates
  • After food prep or spills, the surface should be cleaned immediately and thoroughly
  • Requires a food-friendly sealant, which must be re-applied eventually
Butcher Block Countertop Butcher Block & Marble Combination Countertop
Butcher Block Countertop Cherry Wood Butcher Block Countertop by Grothouse

Ceramic Tile Countertops

With resistance to water, stains, and heat, ceramic tile is a popular countertop finishing material. It's available in a variety of colors, textures, and styles, and it's virtually guaranteed that you'll find the perfect tile to match your kitchen design - whether traditional or contemporary.

Tile countertops can be inlaid with a decorative border, made out in a checkerboard pattern, or spiced up with contrasting inlays - the possibilities are endless!

  • Pros:
  • Easy to keep clean on a regular basis
  • Very resistant to stains, scratches, heat, and spills
  • Localized damage can be repaired by replacing individual tiles
  • Available in a wide variety of styles, textures, and colors
  • Easier to DIY, compared to single-slab marble or concrete countertops
  • Cons:
  • Relatively labor-intensive to install
  • Possible to crack or chip the tiles with heavy cookware
  • Grout between tiles may need periodic cleaning, bleaching, and/or regrouting
Blue-White Checkerboard Ceramic Tile Countertop Ceramic Tile Countertop - Blue & White Checkerboard
Rustic Style Ceramic Tile Countertop Rustic Style Ceramic Tile Countertop

Concrete Countertops

An extremely versatile material that can be prefabricated or even poured into molds right on site, concrete offers a wide variety of colors, edging, and textures that allow it to match almost any kitchen style. Additives and surface treatments let concrete countertops mimic many types of stone, giving the look and feel of stone at a much lower price.

Concrete countertops also allow experimentation with elements that aren't commonly found in countertops made from other materials. Sinks can be molded directly into the countertop; color-contrasting inserts or embedded glass mosaics can completely transform the look of the countertop; some designers even integrate illuminated areas into the surface.

  • Pros:
  • Very durable
  • Resists scratches, scuffs, and heat damage
  • Many colors, textures, edge shapes available
  • Can mimic other materials; various inserts/embeds available
  • Cons:
  • Requires heavy cabinetry that can support the weight of the slab
  • Requires periodic sealing
  • Can be damaged by acidic liquids if spills are not cleaned up immediately
Blue Concrete Countertop with Illuminated Inserts Blue Concrete Countertop w/Illuminated Inserts (image via DirectColors)
Imitation Wood Concrete Countertop Imitation Wood Concrete Countertop (image via SunWorks)

Glass Countertops

Glass is a relatively new material for countertops, but it's been steadily gaining in popularity. High-quality tempered glass can provide years of service - and look good doing it.

A wide variety of glass surfaces is available, from single-color glass panels custom-cut to the shape of the counter, to individual glass tiles or sections in a stunning array of colors & designs.

It's even possible to combine multiple layers of glass to achieve 3D effects and surface variations, or use back-paint techniques and built-in lighting to create truly spectacular designs.

  • Pros:
  • Resists heat, spills, and light scratches
  • Easy to clean with any window cleaner
  • Eco-friendly options in the form of recycled glass are available
  • Cons:
  • Requires frequent cleaning, spills/splatters are very obvious
  • Can chip or break from hard impacts
  • Usually better suited for an accent countertop or serving area, not the workspace
Minimalist Glass Countertop Minimalist Textured Glass Countertop
Striated Red Glass Countertop Striated Red Glass Countertop (image via InterStyle)

Laminate  Countertops

Laminate counters are available in a stunning variety of colors, patterns, edge treatments, and textures. Ranging from a simple, single-color panel with flat edges to multi-tone textured finish with sculpted edges, a laminate countertop brings a spectrum of choices to kitchen design. Laminate counters resist heat, scratches, and stains, and can be easily cleaned with soap and water.

  • Pros:
  • Easy to clean
  • Inexpensive
  • Many colors, patterns, textures, and edge treatments available
  • Resists damage from heat, minor scratches, and stains
  • Cons:
  • Difficult or impossible to repair if significantly damaged (deep scratch or scorch)
  • Can be damaged by sharp knives and extremely hot cookware
Wilsonart "Pearl Soapstone" Laminate Countertop Wilsonart "Pearl Soapstone" Laminate Countertop
Laminate Countertop - Options Sampler Laminate Countertop - Options Sampler (image via VT Industries)

Natural Stone (Granite, Quartz, Marble) Countertops

The material of choice for professional cooks, due to its unique good looks, durability, and heat resistance. Stone is the most expensive material for countertops, but its cost can be reduced by using sections or tiles instead of solid slabs (which may also add variety).

Granite is the #1 favorite for stone countertops, since it's made from very hard minerals (quartz, feldspar, and mica) which resist scratching, chipping, and discoloration from high heat. Actually, granite can be used for nearly any application and surface - from bathroom to fireplace, from walkway to kitchen counter.

Besides granite, other types of stone such as marble, travertine, quartz, limestone, and soapstone, are available. Each offers a variety of colors, ranging from pure single color (marble without any impurities) to softly flowing shades, to random outcroppings and bursts of crystals against a different color background.

Make sure to discuss the pros and cons of each individual stone type with your countertop supplier, as well as the proper care and maintenance, that will ensure the countertop will last a long time.

  • Pros:
  • High-end, classy look
  • Highly resistant to heat and scratches
  • Easy to clean if sealed
  • Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Requires strong cabinetry to support its weight
  • Must be sealed and frequently re-sealed if porous (i.e. limestone & marble)
Costa Esmeralda Granite Countertop Costa Esmeralda Granite (image via SelectStone)
Saturnia Granite Countertop Saturnia Granite Countertop

Quartz Surface (Caesarstone, Quartzite) Countertops

Bridging the gap between natural stone (expensive and hard to work with) and completely artificial materials (Corian, etc) is the breed of countertop material known as "quartz surface". This is a blend of hard acrylic resin and crushed quartz, which adds a unique sparkle while adding strength and durability to the countertop.

Invented and made popular by CaesarStone, quartz-surface countertops are also available from DuPont's Zodiaq line, and other manufacturers. Quartz-surface countertops replace the look and feel of natural stone, without any of the maintenance headaches.

  • Pros:
  • Unlike natural stone, does not require refinishing
  • Available in more colors than traditional stone
  • Resists scratches, heat damage, and stains
  • Cons:
  • May cost almost as much as stone
  • Subtle differences between quartz-surface and natural stone are detectable
Caesarstone - Rugged Concrete style - Quartz Surface Countertop Caesarstone® "Rugged Concrete" Quartz Surface Countertop
Super White Quartz Surface Countertop "Super White" Quartzite (image via HomeBunch)

Solid Surface (Acrylic) Countertops

Made from a hard acrylic material, this type of countertop material can mimic the look of granite, marble, glass, and many other materials. It's relatively low-maintenance, and (depending on type and quality) can resist fading, as well as damage from heat and moisture. The most popular brands are Corian (DuPont) and Staron (Samsung), with alternatives available via HI-MACS (LG), Richlite (Richlite Company), TopLab (Trespa), and the environmentally-friendly 100 Percent (3Form).

Regardless of brand, solid-surface countertops offer a huge variety of color combinations, textures, and edge finishes. Since it's an artificial, made-to-order material, it can be molded into any shape - including matching kitchen sinks. However, while it's generally less expensive than real stone while offering a very similar look (as well as a softer, warmer feel), keep in mind that it's not as hard as stone, so it can be damaged by knives, and can discolor if a hot pot or pan is left in one place for too long.

  • Pros:
  • Versatile - wide variety of colors and design options
  • Moldable - curved shapes and specialty edges, as well as matching sinks, are possible
  • Nonporous - does not need to be sealed
  • Repairable - scratches and scuffs can be sanded or buffed out
  • Cons:
  • More expensive than other artificial materials
  • Softer than natural stone - damage from knives and hot pots is possible
Gray Solid Surface Countertop Gray Solid Surface Countertop (image via Distinctive Surfaces)
Light Gray Solid Surface Countertop Light Gray Solid Surface Countertop (image via Norfolk Kitchen and Bath)

Stainless Steel Countertops

Suitable for a variety of kitchen designs from the traditional to cutting-edge contemporary, stainless steel is a tough, versatile material that also matches many kitchen appliances, especially stainless-steel ranges and range hoods.

It can be worked into almost any shape, with smooth or textured surface, while bringing the kitchen style together by matching the stainless steel of high-end appliances located around the room. It's highly durable, making it ideal for heavy-use areas where hot pots are landing and knives are chopping.

  • Pros:
  • Stylish look that complements high-end appliances and electronics
  • Doesn't need to be coated or sealed
  • Extremely tough, heat and stain resistant
  • Can be formed into almost any shape
  • Cons:
  • Can show scratches and scuffs (which can be polished out, however)
  • Needs a solid underlayer, otherwise it may dent
  • Heat absorption from cooking areas can create dangerous invisible "hot spots"
Contemporary Stainless Steel Countertop Contemporary Stainless Steel Countertop (image via Arclinea New York)
Hammered Stainless Steel Countertop Stainless Steel Countertop with "Reverse Hammered" Finish

Wood Countertops

Although not a common material for covering the countertops in the entire kitchen, a wood countertop section used as a prep station or baking area can add instant charm and organic warmth to the kitchen.

It's somewhat susceptible to stains and scratches, but can be renewed by power-sanding or re-sealing/resurfacing. Eco-friendly options in the form of recovered (recycled) or sustainably-grown wood are available.

  • Pros:
  • Customizable and renewable surface
  • Eco-friendly options - recycled / sustainable
  • Long-lasting
  • Cons:
  • Can be stained by raw meat and highly acidic fruits
  • Requires a sealant that must be re-applied once in a while
  • Susceptible to moisture and heat
  • Better used as an accent counter than main workspace
Modern Wood Countertop Modern Style Wood Countertop with Natural Edge
Wood Countertop - Alder Edge Grain Wood Countertop - Alder Edge Grain (image via Grothouse)