As an Interior Designer, one of the frequently asked questions I receive from clients is, “which kitchen countertop material is right for me?” The reason for this is that there are so many different types on the market right now that it can be really overwhelming. Gone are the days when it was either laminate or granite!
That is why this week, I am going to take you through the main kitchen countertop materials and explain their unique differences, similarities, longevity for each, and any maintenance required. It’s really important that when you’re making a decision on a new kitchen countertop that you examine the pros and cons for each type, and make a decision based on how you and your family use your kitchen. This may seem quite obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people who use their kitchen regularly for scratch cooking find themselves with dents, scratches, and marks because they haven’t chosen a material that’s durable enough.
Let’s take a look at the materials available!
Undoubtedly one of the most common kitchen countertop materials on the market, laminate is known for its low price point. Laminate is great if you’re on a tight budget and wonderful for rental properties too.
Laminate is extremely hard-wearing, and perfect for those who regularly use their kitchen. This countertop material is highly resistant to scratches, cracks, and stains, and is inexpensive to replace. It is actually quite a hygienic material due to its plastic laminate coating which ensures it is fully sealed. Consequently, the countertop won’t grow any germs.
One of the great things about using Laminate in your kitchen is that it’s really low in maintenance. You can use most kitchen cleaners, unlike other materials that require a bit more looking after.
If you are mainly looking for durability in a countertop, Laminate should be top of the list. However, if you are looking for a particularly premium finish to your kitchen, the type, style, and color of the Laminate may not create the overall look you’re looking for. Laminate is known as a low-end material and won’t help you sell your home or increase your property value.
Another point to bear in mind is that it’s not recommended that hot saucepans or dishes are placed directly onto the work surface. Always use a protective mat or pot stand to protect the countertop.
$ Laminate is easy to install and has a low first-time cost.
Another very common Kitchen countertop material is Granite. It is a genuine natural material that is generally hard-wearing. These countertops can stand general wear and tear of daily life without the loss of its appearance. If the situation ever arose that a knife fell or slipped during food preparation, knives generally won’t scratch or chip a Granite countertop.
Granite countertops look fantastic in any space and really give a premium look to kitchens. While they used to be a luxury for many people, nowadays there are many suppliers and brands which offer budget Granite options which make them far more affordable.
As Granite is a natural material, it can withstand the heat from saucepans and dishes so brief encounters of this are generally okay. However, this can weaken the sealant on the worktop with excessive exposure to heat.
Granite is resistant to stains, but you should wipe any spills up as soon as possible to prevent staining. Even water can cause temporary discoloration if allowed to soak in. You should be particularly wary of oils, fruit juice, and wine on Granite countertops.
The only drawback to using Granite for your kitchen countertop is the maintenance. Whereas with Laminate countertops you could install and replace relatively easily yourself, with Granite you will need a professional to fit them. Chips need to be filled by a fabricator and Granite should be sealed regularly.
$$ Granite should be professionally installed. The material and labor costs have become more affordable over time, but cost more than laminate. Granite costs less than Marble.
Perhaps one of the most luxurious countertops is Marble. Well known for it’s beautiful and sometimes striking veins and natural patterns, this is a material that will really add a “wow factor” to your home. Marble is a metamorphic rock that has been formed over many years, more often than not, from limestone. The colors and veins of Marble are extremely natural because of this process.
This does, however, mean that Marble is much softer than Granite. And so it can be etched, scratched, and stained easier than Granite, if not sealed correctly by a professional. If the seal wears off or it hasn’t been sealed correctly, stains from oils, red wine, and acidic substances may occur. Particularly if you’re using white Carrara Marble, this may show on the countertop if it hasn’t been cleaned up thoroughly and quickly. Marble is also prone to watermarks if water is left on the surface after cleaning.
Generally speaking, Marble is slightly more expensive than Granite countertops. This is due to the high-value stone itself, and it will require sealing and professional installation. Many suppliers recommend that Marble and Granite countertops are resealed every few years, so you should bear this in mind when you’re considering the options.
These characteristics of Marble shouldn’t necessarily put you off though! There are some beautiful pieces of Marble that create a “wow factor” kitchen and makes the whole home really stand out.
Equally, there are some drawbacks to using Marble if you’re often cooking up meals quite quickly, and have a busy family – the durability of the stone might not work as well with the lifestyle. But if you do have the time and patience that is involved with maintaining this countertop, it does add a real statement to any kitchen.
If you still love the look of Marble countertops but the maintenance puts you off, Quartz countertops may be the answer.
$$$ Mable should be professionally installed. Material and labor costs range depending on the region the Mable is harvested from, but generally, the cost is more than Granite and less than Quartz.
A relatively new material to the kitchen countertop world is Quartz. It is made of pieces of natural stone that have been bonded together, normally with resin. Quartz itself is one of the toughest materials and extremely versatile. Generally speaking, Quartz worktops contain 90-99% of Quartz, depending on the manufacturer and type.
Quartz is almost entirely scratch resistant as it’s one of the Earth’s hardest minerals. If you try to chop directly on a Quartz countertop you are actually more likely to blunt your knife than scratch the countertop surface! A really neat design feature if you opt for a Quartz countertop is to have a small piece made into a chopping board.
If you’re looking to create an ultra-sleek kitchen, Quartz countertops often come in extremely thin thicknesses. 20 or 30mm are popular choices.
Quartz is non-porous and non-bacterial which makes it almost impossible to stain. This makes Quartz countertops more practical than Granite as they can generally be more vulnerable to staining.
Similarly to Granite, Quartz countertops are relatively easy to keep clean. Warm water and a small amount of non-abrasive cleaner will do the job perfectly. However, with a Granite counter, you will need to wipe it dry to avoid any watermarks.
$$$$ Quartz needs to be installed by a professional. They will fabricate each piece specifically for your application and major cuts are handled off-site. The first time cost of Quartz is higher, but the lifetime cost is low due to excellent warranties and durability.
Porcelain slab countertops have recently been making a comeback! We typically source our porcelain slabs from Europe. Oversized porcelain slabs look like granite, marble, limestone, and solids are becoming more popular. These are particularly great because you can achieve the high-end look of granite or marble countertops but without the maintenance issues.
Porcelain is an extremely hard surface that won’t stain or damage easily. Similar to Quartz countertops, porcelain slabs are non-porous which makes them a safe option for food preparation.
However in contrast to Quartz, porcelain slab countertops can be installed outside (hello outdoor kitchen!) and is both heat- and frost-tolerant. If you do end up installing porcelain outside – don’t worry! – it’s also completely UV resistant.
Thanks to the amazing – and every developing – technology, Porcelain slabs can be manufactured with comparable beauty to that of natural marble. Due to the ink-jet production, you can choose almost any natural stone or textured imagery for your countertop and you can choose any veining of the stones to expand across a whole wall (in bathrooms for example) or backsplash with book-matched slabs.
Another amazing point to add on Porcelain slabs is that they can be relatively cost-effective. Generally, you will be able to achieve a high-end look, for a comparably lower cost. However, if you want to create an up-market and luxurious kitchen, we would strongly advise you to consider Quartz or Marble. Real natural stone is often one of a kind!
$$$ Porcelain prices vary greatly now that the material is making a comeback. We’ve seen Porcelain price the same as Granite and also as high as lower end Quartz. Porcelain Slab imported from Italy is the most expensive and Porcelain Slab from the U.S.A. is least expensive.
Should your kitchen see heavy-duty cooking, Quartz should be at the top of your list for its superior stain-resistance and effort-free shine finish. With Porcelain slabs coming in a very close second.
Should you decide to go down the natural stone countertop route, we would highly recommend avoiding any strong chemicals on your countertop. Such as bleaches, nail polish remover, or paint striper! These will all damage your natural stone countertop.
It’s really important to consider the individual practicalities to each option, and the overall look and feel you are trying to create.
We always recommend speaking to a manufacturer or professional directly before deciding on your countertop material because it will avoid mistakes and enable you to get any of your questions answered.
We wish you luck in finding the perfect countertop for your kitchen! And hope you have found this blog post informative and helpful in your decision-making process. If you have any questions or have made a material decision based on our information here, drop us a comment below! As always, we’re here to help, don’t hesitate to reach out for a mini design consultation!