13 Types of Countertops for Your Kitchen beyond the “Included Builder Laminate”
There are many types of countertops available to customize your kitchen. However, before selecting an ideal countertop material for your kitchen, it is important to consider the characteristics of each, including the durability, appearance, longevity, resistances, and maintenance requirements.
One of the top choices for kitchen countertops is granite. This material is a popular option that is durable and tough, allowing the granite to stand up to impact and abrasive damage. Additionally, this material is resistant to heat, making it an ideal choice for the kitchen.
Granite is a type of natural stone that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Select the color and undertone that suits your home aesthetic or opt for something that will stand out from the rest of the room. Just keep in mind that due to the weight of granite, this type of countertop is better installed by a professional, instead of trying to DIY the project.
If it is taken care of properly, a granite countertop can last for decades. Granite is easy to clean, but it is a porous natural stone, so you will need to apply a new sealant over the granite about once every three to five years.
I get asked the question time and again about alternatives to granite countertops. Not much is written on this topic that ties the information provided back to the pros/cons and relative cost of the alternatives compared to natural stone in the form of granite.
Quartz belongs at the top of the list as the customer preference for a lighter, whiter, non-porous countertop. Quartz has exceeded the demand for granite in the last 3 years running. If you haven’t heard about the latest rage in countertops, this is it. Quartz is a durable countertop that is an engineered stone, made from a mix of real quartz and rock-solid binders that make it the new face of kitchen luxury. And homeowners love the versatility it provides. It comes in both veined and non-veined varieties, which will cover any kitchen style.
The precursor to the granite industry taking the market by storm 20+ years ago, solid surface was the choice for premium countertops prior. With hygiene becoming an ever-increasing value proposition to the customer, solid surface is still the choice of hospitals and other food service industries because of its ability to have fused seams, backsplash and integrated bowls better suited for Health Dept inspections. Non-toxic, low-VOC and non-porous, solid-surface countertops are a great looking option for even the toughest wear and tear. Matte finish is standard as the surface is softer than granite or quartz, but completely repairable for the “boo-boos.” Its resurgence comes with an assortment of colors and patterns never available before. Price point is tied to oil prices, as methyl-acrylate and/or polyester resins are the main ingredients. Not all stone fabricators process solid surface, but this counter is easier to find than many of the others on the alternate list.
Historical, practical, this long-favored material needs no introduction. Found in butcher shops, restaurants and bars, wood is right at home in any residential kitchen or bathroom. Butcher Block is a wood countertop, about 1 ½-2” thick and made from domestic hardwood. Hard maple is the species of choice for its density and ‘tight grain’ making it less absorbent than soft maple, cherry, or walnut. Other species like oak, ash, poplar, and pine are not usually used because of the open grain or too soft. While scratches on most other surfaces mentioned are difficult or impossible to repair, wood can be sanded and refinished as necessary making it a long-lasting, inexpensive solution. Make sure you specify an FDA approved finish.
The original building product, marble countertops are a hot home trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, given its ability to coordinate with every color of cabinet and flooring. And whether you choose a gray-veined marble in a honed finish or a heavily veined marble in classic high-gloss, you will easily find a marble countertop to meet your needs. While quartz is a great maintenance product often made to look like marble, there is no substitute for nature’s beauty. It will develop a patina from use that is next to impossible to avoid unless being used for wall art (scratches, stains, etc.).
Though softer than other natural stones, soapstone is a timeless rustic patina that ages well and can be a long-lasting countertop solution for a home. Soapstone is naturally hydrophobic (repels water) with its high talc content, but also very oleophilic (readily absorbs oils). Another one of the advantages of soapstone is its repairability, ease of sealing with mineral oil and its rich history of being used in period homes for countertops and even the making of matching farm sinks.
Large format porcelain for countertops is the fastest growing sector within the countertop industry for the right customer. It is impervious to chemical attack, UV fading and staining, just like a superior quality floor tile. It is an excellent choice for outdoor grills, stair treads and building façade as well. The only downside to the product is that most are not full-bodied material, meaning there is a top pattern/color and a base color that will be evident at sink openings if undermounted. Mostly used with miter edges to eliminate the concern, it also means no curved work as it will not bend. Inside corners and openings will have to have a minimum radius, typically 3/8”.
Nowadays, live edge wood with epoxy seems to be the craze, or just a straight poured epoxy resin for that completely customizable option for countertops. The application is similar to applying epoxy flooring in your garage floor, and the result is a countertop that is durable, heat resistant and FDA food safe. I often see epoxy in bar tops and entertainment areas, sometimes opaque, sometimes translucent, sometimes clear with castings in it…. from coins to bullets.
Imagine the stamped concrete look on your counters. Concrete has many uses and can certainly be used to achieve a unique custom look. While concrete does require some sealing and maintenance, a little bit of attention will go a long way to ensuring this countertop choice stands the test of time. Concrete will have to be poured into a custom mold made for your project and can come in a variety of colors and sheen. Very heavy.
10. Recycled Glass ($$$-$$$$)
Recycled glass products come in a sheet like granite or quartz. Usually in a Cementous base, the color comes from colored glass. One of my favorites is made with recycled blue ‘Sky Vodka’ bottles. Others have mirror chips, some with transparent glass and so on. The base makes it naturally more absorbent and typically requires more maintenance than granite or quartz, but if you want an eco-friendly alternative that few others have.
11. Stainless Steel ($$$$)
Institutional kitchens come to mind; however, stainless steel countertop is an option for a residential kitchen especially if used for accent counters in the space that sees a lot of action (and it is great for backsplash behind the cooktop too). Lightweight and hygienic, stainless steel is a breeze to do food prep on and even easier to clean. It may be more difficult to find fabrication & installation services for countertops and plan to spend a bit more. There will be limits to design within the constraints of the material to turn a thin sheet into a 3-D countertop, including integration of a sink.
12. Recycled Paper ($$$$)
Recycled paper is blended with a hard polymer resin to create a beautiful, earthy surface that comes in a variety of colors and finishes. This is a unique product that never really took traction in this marketplace as it has some restrictions on how it is to be processed and used. Color pallet is earthy with a semi-gloss look to it. Paperstone is a branded product most often heard about.
Tile countertops are a trend that is back for the DIY and price conscious individual. It is a cheaper alternative to granite, while also providing endless options for color and pattern. One consideration coming from a countertop guy is just how difficult and expensive to remove a tile countertop because of the way it is usually constructed in place……screwing down the substrate then tiling over the screw heads. You need to be ready to deal with the many grout joints and the effort to keep clean over time.