How to Pick Your Perfect Kitchen Countertop Material
For decades, granite has been the quintessential luxury stone in kitchens, but its popularity has waned in recent years (mostly due to the rise in engineered materials). Still, granite is a solid choice for those dead-set on natural stone and willing to spend some cash. Highly resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches, granite remains one of the most durable and visually diverse stones out there. It is porous, however, meaning that you’ll need to periodically reseal it to fend off stains and retain its beauty.
Popularized in the mid-20th century, laminate countertops can bring a nostalgic, vintage feel to a kitchen—or not. Unlike the laminates of yesteryear, options today can range drastically in appearance, from ‘50s diner-chic to knockoffs of natural wood and stone. The huge plus is price: Laminate tends to be one of the most inexpensive materials available for kitchen countertops. But that comes with a caveat, in that durability (though much hardier than earlier versions) can be lacking. Over time, the material can succumb to damage from water, heat, and scratching, and may eventually need to be replaced.
This vague term refers to a hard, engineered material that, unlike laminate, is uniform in texture and appearance from top to bottom. Introduced by its most popular name brand, Corian, in the mid-century, solid-surface countertops were created to bring together the best qualities of other countertop materials at a more modest price. Like pricier quartz, solid-surface is nearly non-porous, making it low-maintenance and resistant to bacteria. It’s also easy to repair, as its uniform appearance means scratches can be quickly buffed out. With a higher resin content than engineered quartz, however, some may prefer the aesthetics of its more expensive cousin.
If looks are your priority, this farmhouse favorite is certainly easy on the eyes. But butcher block—which refers to a surface of assembled wooden boards available in species from maple to oak—can have its drawbacks, too. While many love it for its ability to double as a prep surface, wood is susceptible to cuts and dings (perhaps that’s part of the charm?). The material, which tends to fall somewhere in the middle in terms of cost, will also need to be oiled or refinished regularly to keep it in tip-top shape.
Though it may be one of the highest priced commonly used countertop materials, quartz delivers a lot of benefits, particularly in heavily used or high-traffic kitchens. Considered the gold standard in durability, the material can stand up to virtually anything, from sharp knives to scalding pots. It can also be a bit of a chameleon, closely resembling natural stones like granite or marble while requiring close-to-no maintenance.
With its limitless array of color, size, and pattern possibilities, ceramic tile can often bring a unique, artistic aesthetic to a kitchen. For those hoping for a hardy, heat-resistant, non-porous stone, it can also run cheaper than its counterparts typically delivered as heavy slabs. Just beware of the grout: Unless properly cared for, heavily used surfaces are prone to buildup of grime and mildew.
There’s a reason this increasingly popular material is a favorite of Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. The “timeless, industrial feel” it imparts can fit right into kitchens of various styles, from modern to farmhouse. And concrete, as you’d expect of a material made for sidewalks, is durable—though it can crack. Another plus? Each installation is custom poured, so you can be sure the material is tailored to your space.
An elegant addition to any kitchen, marble is often the material of choice for baking enthusiasts, as its perfect for working with doughs. (Essentially, its high thermal mass allows it to retain its temperature better than other stones, resulting in a more stable dough-rolling surface.) Compared to granite, marble can be slightly more expensive, less durable, and prone to staining from acidic substances, but for homeowners who adore the dramatic veining of this natural stone, the extra cost and care might be well worth it.
Homeowners who choose this natural stone are often drawn first to its aesthetics: Typically found in moody, weathered shades of black and gray, soapstone is the perfect statement maker. But it also has other bonuses: Unlike marble and granite, it’s non-porous, so no staining required. It’s also resistant to heat and stains. Be mindful not to drop anything, however: As a softer stone, soapstone is prone to nicks and dings.
There are many reasons why stainless steel is the material of choice for commercial kitchens. It’s heat-resistant, durable, and super easy to clean (though scratch-prone, so be sure to use a cutting board). But the shiny, industrial surface can read as cold in a home, so make sure to balance it out with other textures.