Besides cabinets, flooring and backsplash, one of the major decisions about your dream kitchen is the countertops.
Your kitchen counters can make a strong design statement but they are also essential in making your use of the kitchen efficient and safe. Countertops need to look good and work hard. They have to be resistant to scratches and heat. They also need to be food-safe and easy to clean.
In this article we want to introduce some of the most common materials to you and touch on a few of the considerations that will be helpful in making a decision. Of course, we can’t cover all the details but we would love to discuss the options when we meet to plan your kitchen.
Granite is the first thing that comes to mind for most people as a desirable material for countertops. Like marble, granite is cut out of large blocks and polished. While marble usually has a more even look with contrasting veins granite has a more speckled look. Both come in a wide variety of colours.
In our article about tiles, we talked more about these materials.
Granite is very heat, stain and scratch resistant. Modern granite countertops are treated with a sealer that usually lasts about 10 to 15 years. It’s important to use a special stone cleaner on these counters rather than abrasive kitchen cleansers.
To keep the beautiful look of your granite, you should periodically apply a sealer.
Other beautiful natural stone options are soapstone and slate.
Soapstone is porous and has to be sealed with mineral oil to avoid staining.
Slate, on the other hand, is virtually maintenance free. Slate is relatively soft, so it scratches easy. These scratches can be buffed out with steel wool though.
Solid surface materials are moulded from 100% acrylic, 100% polyester or a mixture of 90% quartz and 10% epoxy binder. These counters can have any colour or shape. One nice feature is that the seams are fused together, creating a seamless surface.
Solid surface countertops are highly resistant to stains and scratches. They don’t handle heat as well, but if scratches or burns happen they can be sanded out, and deeper gouges can be filled.
Laminate countertops are usually the most economical solution. The hard-wearing top layer is glued to a carrier material. Laminates come in a wide variety of design options and edge treatment options.
In our article about tiles we covered this topic in more detail. Because of the typical grout lines in the tiles surface, tiles are usually only used for backsplashes or secondary work surfaces.
Many people love the rustic look of a wooden counter or a butcher block counter. Sometimes we hear concerns about the perception that wood harbours germs and bacteria. Interestingly, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin 99.9% of all bacteria died within 3 minutes on the wood surface.
The biggest challenge with solid wood counters is the maintenance. You can opt for a tough, modern polyutherane surface that will keep up with the wear for a number of years but most people opt for an oiled surface for their wooden counters. This solution requires re-applying the finish every four to six weeks.
Concrete countertops have become an increasingly popular choice, especially if you are aiming for a stylish “industrial look.”
Today’s concrete countertops come in pre-cast slabs similar to natural stone that can be polished and feature a wide variety of colours and designs. They can also be very thin. The surface treatment of the concrete makes it very durable.