Choices, choices, choices… having too many of these is what daunts many homeowners when they are considering a home remodel. While our designers are always here to help, this week we begin a series of articles focused on helping homeowners wade through some common remodeling options. Interior countertop material is our topic for today, whether for kitchens, baths or lower level areas.
Natural Stone – Granite, marble, onyx, and soapstone are some examples of natural stones used for countertops. Each has its own set of pros and cons, so understanding how the stone will function in the space is very important. Granite, once it is sealed, is quite hearty. Some homeowners shy away from granite due to the need to reseal it every so often. However, most quality installers use long-lasting sealants, so that characteristic should not really be of concern. Wiping up spills quickly and using specially formulated cleaners is the extent of daily maintenance. Marble is a favorite with bakers, though we suggest it be used sparingly as a countertop as it is porous and can stain or chip easily. Soapstone is a beautiful option, though it can dent and scratch, and requires regular oiling with mineral oil. Onyx is a striking, rare stone. It is very soft and prone to etching from acidic substances, so it requires special care in countertop settings. It is also quite fragile, so its use as a countertop requires careful inspection of the slab.
Quartz – Brands such a Cambria, Silestone and Zodiac offer this material with over 90% quartz. The rest is resins and pigments. Often more expensive than granite countertops, many homeowners choose to install quartz due to its durability, and consistent colorings and patterns. Although heat-resistance, the manufacturers still suggest using trivets for hot pans. Manufacturers are now offering colorings and patterns that mimic the look of natural stone.
Solid Surface – Around since 1960s and still popular today, solid surface countertops are made of durable, man-made acrylic. Benefits of using this material are that the installed slabs seem almost seamless and they are non-porous. Particularly attractive to many homeowners is the option of a fully integrated sink, eliminating gaps that can collect bacteria. Common brands include Corian and Staron, and each offers a large assortment of colors and styles. Solid surface countertops are heat resistant, but refrain from placing hot pans directly on the material.
Laminate – Made by brands such as Wilsonart and Formica, laminate is making a comeback as manufacturers are getting better at creating colors and patterns that look like natural stone. Affordable and easy to maintain, homeowners can now choose from many edge designs normally seen on natural stone and quartz. Manufacturers are also offering integrated sinks, so no there are no gaps to trap bacteria. Locally, we see laminate being used mostly in lower level wet bars/kitchens and bathrooms, as well as laundry rooms.
Ceramic Tile – Not as prevalent these days, ceramic tile is still an option for those going a different style. Tile options seem to be limited only by the creativity of the tile makers. Benefits of tile countertops include its affordability, its availability in a range of sizes, patterns and colors, and its resistance to heat and scratching. The largest downside is the need to maintain a good seal on the grout to keep it from staining.
Wood – Many homeowners love the warm look and natural feel of wood countertops. This material does have maintenance considerations, particularly for those people who dislike a worn look. As wood is susceptible to burns, water rings and scratches, we suggest always using cutting boards and trivets, and wiping up spills immediately. Vinegar is particularly hard on wood countertops. Treating your wood countertop with mineral oil on a regular basis will help keep it looking rich and beautiful, as well as create a lovely patina over time. There are also waterproof sealants available. As wood expands and contracts with heat and moisture, it is best to keep your wood countertops away from direct heat and to wipe up standing liquids quickly.
Concrete – The versatility and uniqueness of concrete is attracting homeowners who are looking to put a personal stamp on their countertops. Concrete can be molded to any shape. Many designers will add other materials to concrete, such as metals, aggregates, and pigments, to add texture and interest. Concrete countertops are always sealed, but the sheen can be manipulated. Untreated, concrete is highly porous and will stain. One downside is the possibility of hairline cracks in these types of countertops. Though not usually a problem structurally, homeowners not desiring a distressed look may not appreciate the flaws. Care and maintenance for concrete is similar to granite, in that it is based more around protecting the sealant over the material. Manufacturers suggest using cutting boards and trivets, and wiping up spills immediately.
Terrazzo – Made from a mixture of aggregates and epoxy, terrazzo makes for a very unique countertop. Typically, bits of marble or glass are combined with the epoxy, left to harden, and then sanded to bring out the color and texture of the aggregates. Like granite and marble, terrazzo requires a sealant. Though quite durable, care and maintenance should follow that of granite and marble countertops.
Although the plethora of options may be daunting, the design opportunities offered by the many kinds of countertop materials are exciting! Our interior designers would be happy to help you make the best choice for your home. Click here to schedule a free, in-home consultation, or give us a call at 317-846-2600.