Remember the days when laminate, a pressed plastic over particle board, was the only countertop option for the average American? Today more than a dozen products are available including pressed paper and recycled glass, but it is important to consider not only beauty and price but durability, maintenance, lifestyle, and return on investment before you choose.
It can be overwhelming, so I’ll focus on the six most popular (presented in alphabetical order) and highlight their pros and cons. Although not addressed in this column, butcher block, laminate, and stainless steel are great budget friendly choices which I have used in my own homes over the years in my design studio, wet bar, and kitchen islands, respectively.
Durability: if properly sealed and maintained, will last a lifetime; acidic food can etch the surface and damp sponges can discolor them
Maintenance: seal 4-6 times per year and use paste wax 2 times annually
Finishes available: trowel (smooth); ground (reveals sand aggregate); or pressed (exposes marble-like veining); can be customized with glass or seashell inserts
Other: many stain colors available
Price: $$/$$$, but varies by thickness (save money with ¾” compared to 1 1/2”); honed finish is more expensive
Durability: strong, almost impervious to heat
Maintenance: requires annual sealing; honed finish requires more frequent sealing
Finishes available: polished (glossy); honed (matte), or leather
Other: top choice for many; improves home resale value; nice splurge for a modest kitchen
Price: $$$$, Carrara is more budget friendly
Durability: Porous/tends to stain; heatproof and waterproof; easily scratches and expensive to repair
Maintenance: requires annual sealing; clean with mild liquid detergent and water
Other: elegant, timeless look that increases property value; each slab is unique; due to its high price, typically used in small amounts like a kitchen island; great cold surface for bakers rolling out dough
Durability: Non-porous; highly durable/one of the hardest materials in the world; heat, scratch, dent, mold, and bacteria resistant
Maintenance: easy to maintain; no sealing required
Finishes available: polished (glossy) and honed (matte)
Other: manmade/engineered from natural quartz and other minerals; great alternative to granite and marble
Durability: more durable than natural stone; stain resistant
Maintenance: easy to maintain; no sealing required, scratches can be buffed out
Other: blend of acrylic particles and resin pressed into sheets and layered; considered mid-tier countertop choice; mimics granite, marble, and offers an endless array of other designs and colors; seams are almost invisible
Price: $$$$ (30% more expensive than the average granite or quartz)
Durability: highly stain and heat resistant; relatively soft and therefore susceptible to cuts, scratches, and dents which can be sanded out
Maintenance: requires weekly treatment with mineral oil which will darken the color overtime
Other: smooth, silky look often in gray color but comes in many deep hues like blue and green (white soapstone is actually a marble); its antique look suits historic and older homes quite nicely
Countertops are the workhorse of the kitchen so treat them with kid gloves, or at least those yellow rubber ones; in other words, maintain them as needed to ensure your enjoyment and their proper lifespan.
Barbara Graceffa owns and operates Secretary of the Interior in Quincy, MA offering creative solutions at reasonable rates. Learn more about her decorating, downsizing, decluttering and home décor sewing services, decorating workshops, and quilt programs and shows at www.sec-interior.com, and enjoy her art quilts on Instagram @secretaryinteriordecorating. You can reach her at 617.921.6033.