Countertop surfaces are a core element of today’s homes and are being designed into many more rooms than only the kitchen and bath. They are now used in most every room of our home: wet bars, laundry rooms, crafting spaces, garden potting benches, electronic charging stations and more.
With so many surface options available today, countertops can be a tricky item to select, particularly for the rooms where they become a major design element, such as in the kitchen or master suite. Additionally, you may be tasked with selecting a few different types of countertops to create the look you want.
Let’s take a look at some of today’s popular countertop options:
Natural stone is a beautiful choice for any kitchen or bathroom and comes in a wide range of colors: whites, beiges, browns, grays, blues and nearly black. Because no piece of stone is the same as the next, this makes a natural stone countertop a unique focal point of any room. Many homeowners enjoy the experience of visiting the stone supplier and hand-selecting the slab that will eventually make its way into their home.
While natural stone is a more expensive countertop choice, it is durable, heat resistant and relatively low maintenance. Because resealing annually is recommended to help prevent stains and bacteria growth, most of our clients opt to add DuPont StoneTech Professional sealer, which comes with a 15-year residential warranty. A natural stone countertop can easily last the lifetime of your home and increase the overall home’s value, too. There are many forms of natural stone that are popular today, including granite, marble (rising in popularity in both kitchens and bathrooms), soapstone and limestone.
This attractive countertop alternative is giving granite a run for its money. Quartz is actually an engineered product made from approximately 94 percent ground quartz and 6 percent acrylic or epoxy binder. Natural quartz is a very hard material, which makes quartz composite an extremely durable, non-porous surface that is resistant to stains, scratches and heat.
Because quartz is manufactured, the color options are nearly limitless – from vibrant colors to soft, earthy tones. Until a few years ago, one of the biggest detractors of quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations, but no more. Today, quartz comes in multi-hued slabs with flecks, swirls and random patterning – making this engineered product look similar to natural stone. Recognizable brand names include Cambria, DuPont’s Zodiaq, and CaesarStone.
This manmade product is exceptionally durable, easy to maintain and has a clean, smooth feel to it. Homeowners who like the durability of stone, but don’t like the natural variations that come with it, often choose a solid surface countertop because the color and texture is consistent throughout. A recognizable brand name is Corian.
Today’s laminate countertops can mimic the look of pricey stone and solid surface countertops for a fraction of the cost. Laminate is manufactured from a combination of plastic and paper and formed into a thin layer that is laminated onto particle board.
Laminate is versatile and is often the go-to choice for countertops in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, workrooms and has even been used as the surface for shop or crafting tables. It comes in a wide range of colors and wood grains, is easy to keep clean (no special products or maintenance requirements), but – you need to know – is susceptible to chips and scratches. Formica is the most recognizable brand name.
Concrete is another countertop option that is growing in popularity for residential use. While shades of gray and earth tones are the typical choices, concrete can actually be mixed into a wide range of colors. What makes this surface so much fun is that it can be ground, polished or stained and embedded with items, such as stones, glass or seashells, to create a one-of-a-kind design.
While not generally used for an entire room, wood countertops are being integrated as a part of overall countertop design – the most common use is for kitchen island countertops. Wood comes in a nice variety of colors, species and finishes, and brings a natural, warm feeling into the space. The most popular wood choices are maple, bamboo, black walnut and cherry, but regional species, such as mesquite in the southwest, can also be a go-to choice.
Wood is less expensive than stone, is warmer to the touch, and is quieter and more “forgiving” if something falls onto its surface. However, it does require more maintenance than most surfaces, as it needs oiled a few times a year to preserve the color and finish; it does also need to be kept dry.
Long used in professional kitchens, metal countertops (stainless steel, zinc and copper) give a room a cutting-edge, sleek industrial look. Unlike stone, metal is nonporous (which means it is stain-resistant and antibacterial), doesn’t require sealing and can be cleaned easily with just soap and water.
Zinc and copper countertops will oxidize, forming a patina, and to keep them pristine require a significant dedication to polishing regularly. However, many homeowners enjoy the patina and even find ways to quicken this process to achieve this weathered look.
As you can see, many countertop options are available in today’s market, and each one comes with its pros and cons. What is most important is that you work with your design professional to select the right countertop to fit your lifestyle as well as your budget.