Top 10 Materials for Kitchen Countertops
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 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.
- 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
- Vulnerable to moisture and heat, may not be suitable for some climates
- Requires an immediate and thorough cleanup after food prep or spills
- Requires a food-friendly sealing, which must be re-applied eventually
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.
- Easy to keep clean on a regular basis
- Very resistant to stains, scratches, heat, and spills
- Available in a wide variety of styles, textures, and colors
- 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
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.
- Very durable
- Resists scratches, scuffs, and heat damage
- Many colors, textures, edge shapes available
- Cabinetry must withstand the weight
- Requires periodic sealing
- Can be damaged by acidic liquids if spills are not cleaned up immediately
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.
- Resists heat, spills, and light scratches
- Easy to clean with any window cleaner
- Eco-friendly options in the form of recycled glass are available
- 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
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.
- Easy to clean
- Many colors, patterns, textures, and edge treatments available
- Resists damage from heat, minor scratches, and stains
- Difficult or impossible to repair if significantly damaged (deep scratch or scorch)
- Can be damaged by sharp knives and extremely hot cookware
Natural Stone 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 to the decor.
Granite is the #1 favorite for stone countertops, since it's made from very hard minerals (quartz, feldspar, 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.
- High-end, classy look
- Highly resistant to heat and scratches
- Easy to clean if sealed
- Requires strong cabinetry to support its weight
- Must be sealed and frequently re-sealed if porous (i.e. limestone & marble)
Quartz Surface 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 add 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. Quartz-surface countertops replace the look and feel of natural stone, without any of the maintenance headaches.
- Unlike natural stone, does not require refinishing
- Available in more colors than traditional stone
- Resists scratches, heat damage, and stains
- May cost almost as much as stone
- Subtle differences between quartz-surface and natural stone are detectable
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.
- 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
- More expensive than other artificial materials
- Softer than natural stone - damage from knives and hot pots is possible
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.
- 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
- 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 invisible dangerous "hot spots"
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. 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.
- Customizable and renewable surface
- Eco-friendly options - recycled / sustainable
- 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