Counter tops can be the centerpiece of all kitchen renovations bringing together the cabinets, floor, walls and back splash. This surface is one of the most prominent in the kitchen, especially, if there is an island, and can set the tone or the “feel” of your kitchen. Your counter top can offer drama, a crisp no-nonsense feel, or soothe the eye. There are many choices for kitchen counter tops and we will address a few.
Top choice in 2016 is Quartz. This engineered stone, made from a blend of stone chips, resins, and pigments with their primary ingredient being ground quartz (about 94 percent), combined with polyester resins to bind it and pigments to give it color has replaced granite for the top pick. Made from one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz counter tops are the most durable option for kitchens. They’re also some of the most eye-catching. Manufacturers have been coming up with new patterns for the versatile material, which can imitate the look of granite and marble or offer bold colors. Some designs include recycled glass or metallic flecks added to the mix. They are also stain and scratch resistant—and nonporous, so they never need to be sealed. Unlike natural-stone slabs, which are mined, these slabs are engineered in a factory.
Pros: Non-porous, so it’s stain, mildew, and germ-resistant; strong and easy to buff out scratches; can be installed seamless and made to imitate other high-end materials like marble and granite.
Cons: Vulnerable to heat, dents, and scratches; relatively expensive
Granite, battling for second choice, is a quarried rock which in its natural appearance has a medium to coarse grained texture and comes mostly in medium to dark colors. This surface can come highly polished or honed. Honed granite has a matte finish and is less impervious to staining than the highly polished finish.
Pros –Granite is a natural creation. One piece of rock is not like any other in the world. This quality is what makes granite so beautiful and desired. The individuality of each granite slab is what draws so many to choosing this surface. Granite can be easily cleaned with mild soap and a soft cloth.
Cons – The surface can have streaks of color and veining causing a difference in color range and tone between pieces. Requires proper sealing, some recommend twice a year to prevent staining. Over time cracks can appear, if it’s not properly sealed . Something to know; there is some granite that doesn’t require sealing, check with your dealer when choosing your slab.
The contender to granite tops is Wood. Constructed from pieces of hardwood laminated together with glue for strength and stability, they provide a warm, organic landing surface in a kitchen, one that is wonderfully forgiving, gentle on dishware, and able to absorb the noise of a busy household. The majority of wood counter tops are made from traditional butcher block, and while they may see some mild meal prep, they’re rarely used for chopping these days.
Pros – Wood can be revived if damaged; if it gets dinged, stained, or gouged, you can refinish it. The variety of woods available is impressive, from subtly grained maple to deep, rich walnut. Wood offers warmth to the stainless appliances found in many kitchens. It helps absorb the noise of a busy household.
Cons – Wood is a good choice, but it does require some care & attention like sealing to help keep it clean, since it is a very porous material. Wood counter tops are susceptible to stains, cuts and burns. Some other concerns of wood counter tops that owners have are bacteria contamination, and warping and cracking of the wood.
For many homeowners their preference is Engineered Stone. The term “engineered stone” is just a technical term that describes the combination of crushed natural stone and a resin binder. Engineered stone is typically stronger in flexibility and hardness, and less porous, than natural stone. It is more resistant to mold and mildew then traditional stone. Uniformity in structure gives it strength, whereas, natural stone may contain fissures, cracks, or weaknesses in structure. There are really not many negatives associated with engineered stone.
Pros – Non-porous and highly resistant to stains, looks and feels like stone, but doesn’t require all the upkeep, easy to clean and maintain, lots of colors and patterns and there is uniformity over the entire surface, resistant to heat and scratches.
Cons– Can be expensive.
Lastly, we will offer the option of Marble countertops. Marble is a rock that changes from its original, form (in this case, limestone or dolomite rock) to marble under severe pressure and heat. This distinctive aspect of marble–the veining–is the result of impurities in the original limestone. Under extreme pressure and heat, the original materials completely re-crystallize. The purest marble is white, the type that Renaissance artists carved into statues.
Pros– Fancy Details – Marble countertops can be fabricated to have fancy ogee edges due to the softness and overall workability of marble. Decent Durability – Even with marble’s inherent “softness,” it is still hard enough to withstand high traffic. Resists Heat – It’s an ideal work surface because it is heat resistance, lending itself well to kitchen use.
Cons – The cost, Scratches tend to be more of an issue with polished marble. Due to its softness or porosity, it’s also prone to staining, certain foods, especially on the acidic side, can result in permanent stains. Sealing the marble countertop and keeping up with sealing on a regular basis (usually annually) helps prevent staining.
The trend is returning for the kitchen as the heart of the home. High tech may be the order of the day for appliances, lighting etc… but now, we are seeing kitchens become the main gathering place for family and friends, as in days gone by. When considering your remodel, give it a “welcome feel” inviting your guests to settle in and share their lives as they share a meal.