What Countertop Material Is Right For You?

Kimberlee Marie ID- Bellevue Craftsman- Kitchen.jpg

It’s a tough and important decision to make in any home remodel or new build. Function, aesthetic, and location are probably the three most important factors to take into consideration when choosing a counter top. Oh, and you can’t forget budget..! Below is a helpful guide we’ve put together to help you learn about the most common counter top materials out there, their pros/cons, and how to determine which one is right for you.

GRANITE

A versatile, natural, and one of the most affordable options (in terms of stone), granite is used widely in residential and commercial applications. It’s variation in color and pattern is outstanding! You can find something as simple as matte black or as bold as a multicolored stone with swirls, specs, and sparkle. Granite is also very durable – stain and scratch resistant, less porous than marble, and has a higher heat resistance than quartz. So if you’re looking for an affordable natural stone that is as close to kid proof as you can get, granite is where it’s at. It’s recommended to seal your granite counter top every 1-3 years, which is less maintenance than other natural stones. Granite can go anywhere whether it’s your kitchen, bathroom, mudroom, outdoor kitchen, etc. If you are in the process or thinking of building an outdoor bar or kitchen area, granite is the one natural stone that will hold up best.

QUARTZ

Quartz seems to be our go-to material these days. Not to be confused with quartzite, quartz is a manmade material engineered out of ground quartzite (the natural stuff), resins, polymers, and pigments. This mixture delivers a hard, granite-like surface coming in all different colors and patterns. Quartz is ideal for any surface in your home – kitchens, bathrooms, tub surrounds, outdoor bars, you name it! It’s long lasting, requires little maintenance (no need to seal every year), is stain and scratch resistant, not porous, and has a higher heat resistance than most other counter top material (although we never recommend putting a hot pot straight on the counter regardless). Some of the disadvantages to quartz are it doesn’t have as high of a heat resistance compared to granite, and it can’t duplicate the look of real stone (but has come a long way!). Quartz price point varies by brand, manufacturer, and style but is typically a little more expensive than granite.

MARBLE

One word – gorgeous. Marble is a sought after material because of it’s beautiful veining and color. Fun fact: marble is geologically categorized as recrystallized limestone. It is a calcium based sedimentary and metamorphic stone. Being a natural stone it is on the pricier end of counter top material and requires a lot more maintenance than granite or quartz. It is sensitive to acidic foods and cleaners so you’ll need to pay extra attention to what you put on your counters (there are specific cleaners recommended for marble). To prevent staining it is recommended you seal your marble once a year. It is a favorite surface chefs or people that love to cook use because it naturally stays cold.

Bathrooms are among the most popular application locations for marble despite it’s high maintenance attributes. This is because in a bathroom you only need to worry about your toiletries and cleaning products rather than food and beverages. You will still want to reseal your marble every 1-2 years, but it will stay a lot cleaner because it’s not thought of as a high traffic area. If you want marble in your kitchen but are worried about the upkeep, get a polished marble countertop. It is easier to wipe than honed (matte) surfaces and is generally easier to maintain.

Now by no means are we trying to talk you out of marble.. If we could use it on all our projects we would! It’s beautiful, timeless, and increases the value of your home. We love recommending it to clients who understand that it’s higher maintenance and appreciate it’s natural beauty. After all, the Europeans have been using it for centuries and embrace it’s “lived in” look.

QUARTZITE

Another beautiful natural material is quartzite. A true quartzite is very hard and has a high resistance to heat, scratching, and acids - making it a lot more durable than marble. It’s not as high maintenance but is still recommended to be resealed bi-annually. Because of it’s beauty and durability, quartzite also comes with a higher price tag. When shopping for quartzite you do want to be careful that you don’t mistakenly get a marble. Some types of quartzite and marble look a lot alike and can be labelled differently depending on the slab showroom you talk to. You’ll want to ensure that the slab showroom you’re purchasing from guarantees what you are getting is a true hard quartzite and stands behind their product even after installation.

LIMESTONE

Categorized as a sedimentary rock, limestone is made mostly out of mineral calcite (calcium carbonate) and often has variable amounts of silica, clay, silt, and sand. It is one of the least common stones to use partly because not a lot of people know much about it and partly because it is probably the most high maintenance out of any of the other natural stones. It’s beautiful and has a high heat resistance, but is a lot more porous than other countertop options and since it’s usually lighter in color it stains easier. Limestone countertops vary in price point, depending on it’s rarity.

BUTCHER BLOCK

A non-stone alternative to counter tops is butcher block. It is also one of the least expensive counter top applications, a step up from laminate. Butcher block is stripes of wood bonded together – maple is the most common wood species however oak, cherry, walnut, and teak are also used. You will see butcher block mostly used as an accent counter or work surface. It is the only counter top surface you can cut on without having to grab a cutting board. You do have to be mindful of cleaning it after every use because wood is very porous and holds onto germs. Sealing is recommended to protect it from liquid and other spills.

Now that you have a better grasp on the different kinds of counter top materials we commonly use in our projects, here’s a little questionnaire to help you narrow down which counter top is best for you:

  1. Is durability important to you? If yes, quartz, quartzite, and granite are good options

  2. Is having a counter top that’s low maintenance important to you? If yes, marble is not recommended

  3. Are you on a tighter budget? If yes, a lower priced quartz, granite, or butcher block is recommended

  4. Do you prefer simple, solid colored counter tops or busier, multi-colored counter tops? Both quartz and granite have options for plain or busy material so either would work in your favor. Marble and quartzite typically have more variation in terms of color and pattern.

Choosing a counter top can be overwhelming at times so I hope this guide has brought you at ease! If you have any questions or want to let us know what you think – don’t hesitate to comment below!