• What Material Should I Choose for My Countertops?

  • Make the right choice for your kitchen or bathroom. // The Spruce

    You’re excited about custom-building or renovating your kitchen and bathroom. But you quickly realize how many materials for countertop materials you have to choose from. On top of all the other functional and design decisions you must make, this can be overwhelming. The good news is, we are here to help you make the right choice for your needs and budget. Read on to find out more about the top 6 most popular countertop materials! 

    1) Granite 

    Granite is a type of igneous rock that forms when magma crystallizes under the Earth’s surface. This natural stone material is primarily composed of a combination of quartz and feldspar, but can include other minerals such as mica. The different minerals is what creates an interesting array of colors on the surface.  

    Granite is acquired from quarries, many of which are in Brazil and India. Controlled explosions break the granite from the ground so that they can be transported. Using specialized machinery, this granite is then turned into slabs and can be polished until shiny.  

    Pros 

    Natural Beauty – There is novelty in the fact that it is a natural-occurring stone. Exotic granite options are available and can make your kitchen look one-of-a-kind.  

    Heat Resistance – Granite is very resistant to heat and hot pots can be directly placed on the surface without damaging it. However, a trivet is recommended if exposed to heat for extended periods of time (such as from slow cookers).  

    Scratch Resistance – It is a hard substance that scores a 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness and few minerals can scratch it.  

    Sustainability – Granite is very abundant and can last for centuries. Because it is natural, it requires minimal processing, requires less energy to fabricate and requires no harmful chemicals often used to create man-made stone.  

    Cons 

    Price – Although there are cheaper granite options, granite is on the higher end of pricing.  

    Stain Resistance – As it is a porous stone, granite countertops can stain from liquids spilled and left on the surface. Granite should be resealed periodically to prevent it from staining. Stains can be lifted and removed with specialty products.  

    Etching – When acidic liquids or harsh chemical eat away and physically damage the surface of the granite, etching will occur. When viewed at an angle, etching appears whitish or light in color. Unlike staining, etching cannot be lifted. It needs to be buffed and repolished. A professional is recommended for the job.  

    Difficult to Repair – Granite countertops are durable scratch-resistant and don’t need to be repaired often. However, it is not immune to damage. If it forms cracks, fissures, or chips, these repairs are often difficult (if not impossible) and costly. The results are often imperfect.  

    2) Marble 

    Marble is a metamorphic rock that is formed when limestone metamorphosizes under intense heat and pressure in the earth. It’s made of multiple materials and sediment including calcite, silt, sand, feldspar, iron oxide and pyrite. The layering of these minerals forms the veining of the marble. 

    Marble is mined by using a hard diamond wire or saw to cut it from the quarry. It is then cut into transportable blocks, filled, and polished to create the finished marble look that many people admire. 

    Half of the world’s marble comes from Italy, China, India, or Spain. The most luxurious marble types are Calacatta and Carrara, which come from Southern Italy. These types of marbles have distinctive veining on a white background.  
     

    Pros 

    It’s Beautiful and On-Trend – Most people choose marble because of its luxurious appearance. The distinct veining appeals to many. It’s been an extremely popular material in recent years and can easily give a home a modern touch.  

    Heat Resistance – Although less heat-resistant than granite, it still holds a good amount of heat resistance. Accidentally placing your pot on the surface occasionally will not damage it. As with granite, a trivet is recommended.  
     

    Cons 

    Relatively Easy to Damage– Marble is considered soft when it comes to natural stone. It is less-resistant to scratches, chips, dings, and cracks than its natural stone counterparts. You’ll need to clean, polish, and seal marble regularly to maintain its appearance.  

    Stain Resistance – Because marble is porous, it is easy to stain. Spills and residue should be removed as quickly as possible to best prevent this.  

    Price – Many people desire the pronounced veining of marble. However, the more veining a piece has, the higher the cost. Thick marble that is used in luxury homes is expensive. Cheaper options are available, but it may not achieve the desired look. 

    3) Soapstone 

    Soapstone, also called steatite, is another natural stone material. It formed by metamorphism and mostly contains talc with varying amounts of other minerals. Soapstone can be found all over the world, but most comes from Brazil, India, and China. Like granite and marble, it is quarried and formed into slabs. Because of talc, it retains a satiny, understated finish that many people like.  
     

    Pros 

    Natural appearance – Soapstone inherently has a very warm appearance that gives kitchens and bathrooms an organic appearance. It often comes in shades of white and gray. Because it is a velvety stone, it is also nice to the touch. Keep in mind that soapstone develops a patina and naturally darkens as it ages.  

    Stain Resistance – Unlike granite and marble, soapstone is non-porous, so it cleans up well with soap and water and is much less likely to stain.  
     

    Cons  

    Price – Soapstone is one of the more expensive countertop materials. In many cases, it is more expensive than granite and marble.  

    Scratch and Chip Resistance – Because soapstone is a soft material, it is easier to scratch and chip. Cutting food directly on top of the surface should be avoided. However, it is less likely to crack from pressure because it is soft and pliable.  

    4) Quartz  

    Quartz is an abundant mineral composed of silica, which is commonly found in sand. The majority of quartz forms when molten magma crystallizes. It is a very strong mineral and is resistant to erosion. Unlike granite and marble which are cut into slabs from blocks and then polished, mineral quartz is ground and then pressed into slabs, with resin as a binder. Thus, quartz countertops are man-made products.  

    Pros  

    Many Colors and Designs – Because quartz is an engineered material, there are virtually endless colors and finishes manufacturers can produce. You will likely find one that matches the look of your home.  

    Scratch Resistance – Quartz countertops are said to be twice as scratch-resistant as granite.  

    Stain Resistance – Quartz countertops are non-porous and are extremely resistant to staining, more so than natural stone. It is recommended for people who do not like to regularly clean and maintain their countertops.  

    Accurate Representation – Since quartz countertops are manufactured, any samples you see will be nearly identical to the actual product. This is less so with natural stone as there is a greater variation in color and pattern.  

    Cons 

    Heat Resistance – Quartz is not as resistant to heat as natural stone and thus should not be used outdoors and exposed to sunlight. Owners will need to be cautious of placing hot pans or hair tools on quartz surfaces as heat can damage it.  

    Seams – A piece of quartz has size limitations and most come in standard sizes…so multiple pieces will have to be used for larger projects. Natural stone materials are not restricted by size.  

    5) Laminate  

    Laminate is a manufactured material made from tightly compressed layers of paper and bonded with resin. It is formed into a rigid sheet and glued to a wooden material to create a hard surface. Formica is a popular brand name of laminate.  
     
    This countertop material is relatively new when compared to other materials.  Formica laminate was invented by Daniel J. O’Conor and Herbert A. Faber in 1912.  
     

    Pros 

    Cost – It is one of the cheapest options available and great for those on a tight budget.  

    Variety – There are now many colors and finishes of laminate available so you can get the look you want without breaking the bank.  

    Great for DIYers – Laminate is easier to work with than other materials and can be more easily cut into the right size and shape for your project.  
     

    Cons 

    Durability – Laminate is not as strong of a material than quartz or natural stone and will wear out more quickly. Visible damage is common as the product is produced in layers that may differ in appearance.  

    Heat Resistance – While laminate is now made much more heat-resistant than its earlier days, it is still a plastic material and can melt if exposed to high heat. 

    Difficult to Repair – Most forms of damage to laminate are difficult to repair or cannot be repaired. In this case, it is recommended to replace the entire countertop. 

    6) Solid Surface  

    Much like laminate and quartz countertops, solid surface countertops use resin as a binder. Solid surface countertops are made up of around 33% resin and 66% other natural minerals. The resulting finish is more matte and less glossy than quartz. Corian and Swanstone are the most popular brands of solid surface countertops.  

    Pros  

    Stain Resistance – Like quartz, the material is non-porous so it is stain-resistant and easy to maintain. Non-porous surfaces are also more sanitary and bacteria-resistant.  

    Hides Damage – If a chip occurs, it will appear less obvious than laminate because it is not created with layers of material and looks the same on the inside as it does on the surface.  

    Ease of Repair – If damage is done, the surface can likely be sanded down to restore its appearance.  

    Cons 

    Scratch Resistance – Being a relatively soft material, it is not as scratch-resistant as granite or quartz.  

    Heat Resistance – As with other engineered materials such as quartz and laminate, the surface can deform if left under high heat. 

    We Can Help You Choose the Right Material 

    We specialize in kitchen and bathroom renovations and are experts when it comes to countertops materials. We offer custom fabrication and installation of natural stone and quartz countertops with quality workmanship at affordable prices. Contact us or get an estimate today to see how we can help! 

    Photo credit for featured image above // The Spruce