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You’ve done your research and have read tons of articles about kitchen countertops. You looked at pictures to get inspired and then you stopped, took a break and started thinking that your very own tiny, huge, diagonal or open plan kitchen looks nothing like the ones you see on the internet. So, will the countertops displayed there will look equally nice in your own kitchen? That’s one hill to climb. And there is more. How about materials? We are talking about a bunch of choices. Countertops come in laminate, concrete, marble, granite, quartz, quartzite, butcher block, stainless steel and soapstone – and these are just some the most popular countertops.
Only one word can describe your endeavor to find the right kitchen countertop: nightmare. During your search of how to choose kitchen countertops, you most likely bumped in articles talking about materials, colors, and durability. You probably read about maintenance requirements, longevity and costs. Let me tell you, there is no easy way to get your thoughts organized. And there is no easy way to say this but finding the right countertop for your kitchen will be a tough call. Where should you start? Walk with me…
Kitchen countertops: why it’s soooo hard choosing the right one for you
It’s all about finding a nice design to match the kitchen décor but keeping the counter free of bacteria. The countertop must be easy to clean but the color must pair beautifully with the existing hues in the kitchen. If you think it’s easy to make all the above work for you, think again. Let me help you with that.
Kitchen countertops take a lot of beating but then again not all materials can take a lot of beating.
Stay with me here. You might decide to go for granite countertops to be sure they will withstand the daily stress but the color options might not match your kitchen interior or the kitchen cabinets or your style.
Following me so far? Good.
And then you say, heck with granite, I’ll go for marble countertops. You get a sample, check it in the kitchen…hm, that looks good. So classy, so elegant!!! But then your fabricator tells you that you cannot get the exact same slab simply because countertops made of natural stones are one-of-a-kind.
Just before you faint from exhaustion, you decide to buy wood countertops. Why not? Traditional kitchens, modern kitchens…they all look nice with wood counters but then you get the list of the maintenance requirements and simply scratch wood out.
Pfew…Final decision: you’ll buy quartz countertops. Excellent idea! So many color and design options. You can have them mimic marble. And then you find out the cost. Ooops.
Well, my friends. That’s the fact. Every single person who has gone through the torture of trying to select kitchen countertops has experienced a similar ordeal. They are expensive and thus you must make the right choice and shouldn’t have to replace it four years later. They must be available in the design and hue you like them and they must meet your aesthetics. Tired just thinking about it? I feel you.
How can I help you hunt down the right countertop for your kitchen?
It’s all about choosing the right countertop material that will best meet (most) of your needs. I think it’s important for you to know which ones need more maintenance, cost more, last longer, and are more durable. These are the main characteristics which define countertops. Once you choose the material, you can consider the aesthetic part.
Which one gets the maintenance-free Nobel? Quartz. It’s by far the more resistant countertop. Why? Because it’s engineered and thus non-porous, unlike its natural stones counterparts. You don’t have to seal it either – a task that cannot be avoided with natural stones.
Which materials are high-maintenance? I would say marble and wood. They are both porous and need sealing. As popular wood countertops, butcher block slabs are not very friendly. They can easily absorb liquids if they are not sealed (or not sealed correctly). As for marble, it requires a lot of attention. It needs sealing often because it won’t only stain but etch too.
Most durable countertops
Quartz is your winner once more. Engineered quartz, granite, and quartzite countertops are some of the most durable choices. Although engineered quartz countertops contain resins that make them susceptible to heat, they are the stronger of all due to their large (natural) quartz composition whereas quartzite is very durable (due to the quartz mineral too) but needs sealing and this means that you have to take it easy with the knife because sealers can be damaged. And if they do, the material becomes porous again. You will have the same problem with granite since this is a natural stone and the slab must be sealed. But don’t get me wrong. Granite is broadly used in kitchens because it’s very, very strong. Now, the interesting thing here is that it’s so strong that it might ruin your knife – and not the other way around.
The most budget-friendly countertops
Laminate. That’s the cheapest countertop material. But there’s a reason for the low price (or rather, plenty). Laminate countertops are not durable but prone to damage. They don’t hold well under heat due to their melamine resin and are definitely low-value countertops. To their defense, they are easy to clean, easy to install, waterproof, and stain resistant. This is a non-porous material and so it doesn’t need sealing. But wait a minute. If the surface is damaged for any reason, the material will absorb liquids and will swell. That’s not good.
Another cost-effective countertop option is getting tiles. And the good news is if one becomes damaged, you can easily replace it. But…the grout is absorbent and should be sealed. It usually darkens over time and will definitely not provide a cohesive appearance. In other words, tiles are not the best decorative option unless you like the style.
Which countertop will last longer?
The most durable and resistant ones. Don’t be frightened by the idea of having to seal the granite or quartzite slabs. You can even keep marble countertops for many, many years. All they need is good care and some attention. But it depends on your habits in the kitchen, if you have kids, if you have a cat that likes to sit on the counter when you prepare her meal…You get my point.
In order to keep the counter you choose for years, you need to pay attention to the vulnerabilities of the material you buy. For example, if you get granite, you know from the start that it can chip due to its hardness. So make the edges round – not sharp. And seal it.
Time to think countertop style
Before you make up your mind about the countertop material, think aesthetics. For example, if wood is not your style, scratch it out as an option from the start. Take into account that some materials come in specific styles. Take granite, for example. Some slabs have veins while most feature markings and specks. In any case, the patterns are busy – not smooth and elegant like marble, while the colors are usually dark. So if you are considering getting granite, make sure you like their style and dark colors.
Oh heck, I can’t for the life of me choose the right countertop color
In order to choose based on style & aesthetics, look around your kitchen. If you are in the process of a kitchen renovation, consider the colors and style you plan to incorporate. Stainless steel countertops don’t belong in traditional kitchens but match nicely with wood – if this is the only element that makes your kitchen traditional.
So, first consider the style of the kitchen – mid-century, transitional, contemporary…and then choose accordingly. And don’t be fooled by norms. Marble is a classic option but works equally well in most kitchen styles. And sometimes, the results are excellent when you mix & match styles – kind like eclectic homes – but this road is hard too. You need to be very careful how you match different styles. For example, granite might be very busy and will make your kitchen even busier if there are already many colors, textures, and mixed styles in the room. But it will look nice if it works as an accent – as the focal point in a kitchen where there is a cohesive interior style and color scheme and only the countertop stands out.
To recap. Start by considering the pros and cons of countertop materials and choose the one that seems to meet your home’s needs. Then, consider the style of the kitchen in order to choose the countertop colors and thus further narrow down your list. I am sure you will have a winner too. With my fingers crossed, I just wish you the best of luck…