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Which Countertop Is The Best for Your Home?
Jan 13th, 2020
Which Countertop Is The Best for Your Home?
We weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each common countertop to make this choice simple.
by Alec Lower
Picking the right countertop for your kitchen or bathroom can be an overwhelming process. There are so many options and considerations. You want excellent durability and scratch resistance, but you also want beauty, but you'd also love not to spend too much money. So what's the right decision? Well, that's up to you, but we did the research and are here to help.
- Granite - Good option for all homes
- Marble - Beautiful but a look of work
- Soapstone - Unique alternative that won't stain
- Laminate - Cheap and easy
- Butcher Block - Rustic and easy to repair
- Concrete - Innovative and durable
- Quartz - Expensive but durable
- Slate - Excellent value countertop
- Durability: Granite is not going to wear on you. As long as you don’t do anything stupid to it, your granite countertop can be the last countertop you’ll ever buy if you want it to be.
- Appearance: This is more of a personal preference than a scientific advantage, but most people would agree that granite is a very pretty stone.
- Resistance to heat and scratch: Granite has a 7 out of 10 rating on the Mohs scale of hardness, which means that it is not easy to scratch. You can cut food with kitchen knives right on the granite and place hot pans directly on it as well without fear of damage. That doesn’t mean you should do these things, as they can cause other issues like whittling down your knives, but they serve to illustrate how scratch and heat resistant granite is.
Price:You get what you pay for. Granite is a high-quality option, so you’ll pay the high-price to match.
- Porous: The primary flaw of granite is that it is a porous material, which allows liquids to permeate and cause staining. This isn’t a bad thing by default, but it can become a problem if not treated properly. The good news is that granite comes pre-sealed with a treatment that can last around five to ten years. The bad news is five to ten years is not forever, so you will have to reseal your counters every so often. The other good news is that it isn’t a particularly difficult or expensive task. The other bad news is that liquids, especially acidic ones, can really dull the appearance of granite if it is poorly sealed. So make sure you do it right.
I should pick granite if . . .
- I like the way it looks
- It’s within my budget
- I plan on staying in my current home long enough to realize the value of its durability
- I’m not one for doing constant maintenance
- Appearance: Again, like granite, marble is widely regarded as one of the most, if not the most, visually appealing options for your countertops.
- Options: There are tons of different kinds of marble with varying appearances, and there is even a variety of different finishes that you can apply to marble. This gives you a lot more choice in what your countertop will look like than if you went with, say, granite.
- Porous: Marble demands more upkeep than granite. It’s much more vulnerable to permeation and staining and it requires resealing at least once a year, as opposed to every five or ten for granite. So while you shouldn’t spill lemon juice on your granite and just leave it there, you really really shouldn’t spill lemon juice on your marble and just leave it there.
- Not that durable: Marble is soft compared to other stone countertop options, and it will scratch easily. It’s a very high maintenance material that needs constant upkeep and attention to avoid scratching, staining, and “etching.” (Etching is the process by which the stone's appearance dulls after exposure to acidic materials.)
- Price: Really really expensive
I should pick marble if. . .
- I’m willing to conduct the upkeep
- I don’t spill stuff often (may not be great if you have young children)
- It’s within my price range
- I like the way it looks
- Not porous: Soapstone sets itself apart from the crowd here by being a countertop that does not stain easily. Many of the common countertop varieties are porous and require yearly to even more frequent resealing. Soapstone does not.
- Soft: While soapstone doesn’t stain, it does scratch easily. You should be careful with knives and utensils around this countertop, as you can mark up the surface by accident.
- Color selection: Soapstone is not available in many colors. You basically have a spectrum of white to dark grey. That’s about it.
I should pick soapstone if. . .
- I want a natural color
- I spill things a lot
- My price range is slightly below marble and granite
- Price: Laminate countertops are among the least expensive options for countertops. If you are on a budget, or you just don’t want to spend that much money on countertops, laminate is an option worth considering.
- Options: The color of laminate is artificially created since it’s not a rock you pull out of the ground. The outside covering is made of plastic, so you can install laminate countertops in just about any color you want. If you're going to accent your kitchen with electric green, you can do that. Not sure why you would want to, but you can. You can also get laminate in granite or marble patterns if you want to be sneaky.
- Cheap: Once again, you get what you pay for. Laminate countertops are very low quality relative to stone based options like granite and marble. They can be easily damaged by heat, certain liquids, and abrasive cleaners. Never ever clean with bleach. Laminate will last about a decade under maximum care. Still, most people aren’t likely to put that much effort into caring for such an inexpensive option, so they usually last not quite that long.
- Irreparable: Laminate cannot be repaired. If it incurs significant damage, like if you leave a scalding pan on it, or you punch it because your football team lost, you’ll need to replace the whole countertop. This isn’t as big of a problem as it may seem, because laminate is very inexpensive, but it’s still a significant inconvenience.
- Lower resale value on your home: This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but installing cheaper countertops is not a good idea if you’re putting your home on the market.
I should pick laminate if. . .
- I have a small budget for countertops
- I want something that looks nice, but I don’t care that much how authentic it is
- I don’t plan to cut things on my countertop
- I don’t plan on leaving hot pans on my countertop
- Refreshing alternative: Butcher block is wood, which makes it a neat and different alternative to the myriad of stone countertop options (countertoptions, if you will). The wood finish offers a charming rustic or cabin-like feel to your kitchen.
- Easily repairable: While cutting on your butcher block won’t dull your knives like some stone options, it will mark up the wood. It is wood after all, so it is by nature softer than stone and liable to stain. The good news is that you can simply sand away imperfections. It’s straightforward to repair. You can use something as simple as sandpaper to sand away knicks and scratches and then apply a little bit of food-safe oil or butcher block conditioner to finish.
- Price to appearance: Butcher block can be made from several different types of wood and feature three different types of construction, so pricing can vary. But generally, it comes in a lower price per square foot than marble and granite while being well-regarded in its appearance, which is to say that it’s a nice countertop while still being a cheaper option.
- Can be high-maintenance: It’s wood, so it will scratch and mark easily. As mentioned above, it’s easy to fix, but you may have to do so more frequently. The type of wood will have a lot of say in just how high-maintenance it is.
- Susceptible to dinging and liquid damage: As you may have noticed from above, the pros and cons of butcher block fall in line with the properties of wood. Wood can warp, stain, and mold easily when exposed to liquids. You’ll need to reseal your butcher block relatively frequently to mitigate this risk.
I should buy butcher block if. . .
- I like the natural, rustic feel
- I don’t want to pay top dollar for countertops
- I don’t mind conducting the resealing maintenance
Butcher block is also by far the coolest sounding countertop name. Butcher block. It sounds like some sort of advanced fighting defense move. Anyway, onto concrete.
- Durability: Concrete is a very durable material. They wouldn’t make sidewalks out of it if that weren’t the case. It won’t ding, scrape, or scratch easily, if at all, and it’s heat-resistant.
- Innovative: Contrary to most people’s initial reaction after being exposed to the idea, concrete countertops are not ugly, and they don’t have to be plain. They can be a lot more than just a slab of sidewalk on top of your island. Because concrete is actually poured, you can embed things inside the material, such as lights or designs. It’s probably the most creative countertop option available.
- Price: Concrete countertops are among the more expensive varieties. This material can run a similar price per square foot to that of granite, which may catch some people off guard, given that concrete doesn’t sound like a high-quality material. We promise it is. The price can stretch even higher if you’re looking to add designs into the surface.
- It can crack: While it doesn’t really scratch, it can be prone to chipping and cracking. These are usually small cracks and are only dangerous to the aesthetic of the countertop. However, they can still be annoying and a hassle to repair.
- Susceptible to staining: Concrete requires yearly resealing to prevent staining. It’s a porous material and can absorb liquids that result in a stain. This is true to a degree for every single type of countertop, but concrete is among the most porous.
I should pick concrete if. . .
- I like the idea of embedding things in my countertop
- I can be careful with colored liquids around my countertops
- I like new and innovative things
- I’m not on a budget
- As durable as granite and then some: Quartz has the same durability of some of the most durable countertop stones available on the market. It is somehow even less scratch and chip resistant than granite.
- Non-porous: Unlike granite, it is very stain resistant as well. Quartz is not a porous material, unlike so many other countertops. If you spill red wine on it, it does not qualify as an emergency, unless it was really good wine.
- Price: Quartz is very expensive, sometimes costing around $200 per square foot.
- Lack of natural feel: Since quartz countertops are manufactured, they don’t have the same natural look as options that are simply cut from actual stone. This could be a big con for some, or it might not matter. Quality of appearance is largely subjective.
I should pick quartz if. . .
- I desire durability above all else
- Price is not a factor
- I like the appearance, or consider it sufficient
- I like to say “Quartz” because it is a fun word
- Price: Slate isn’t the cheapest option available, but it will almost always ring up easier on your wallet than things like granite, marble, or concrete. In some cases, you can even find slate countertops in price ranges more comparable to that of laminate.
- Heat-resistant: Hot pans won’t mar the surface, and it won’t scratch easily.
- Stain-resistance: Slate also joins the countertop group that is stain-resistant. It’s much less porous than many other choices, making it a good option if you have small children or are just extremely clumsy.
- Appearance: Slate is pretty cool looking. If you want a rustic, homey feel, this probably isn’t for you. If you want a sleek new age feel to your kitchen or bathroom, slate works great (hey that rhymes!)
- Chips: Slate chips easier than some other countertop varieties. This shouldn’t be a major concern, but it is worth noting. Don’t drop a pot on it, and you’re probably fine. That’s about it, though. We’ve said numerous times that you get what you pay for in countertops, but slate may be the exception. It’s a high quality, low maintenance countertop that will cost relatively little compared to other quality options.
I should pick slate if. . .
- I’m on a budget
- I think it looks cool
- I want some durability
- I don’t plan on dropping heavy things on it