If your kitchen is the (heart of your home) then countertops are the left ventricle…or maybe the aorta? Either way, what matters is that countertops are an important part of your kitchen. Countertops are your main work surface and temporary staging spot for meal prep items like ingredients, cookware, and plating. It’s very important to keep this in mind when selecting countertops as it is easy to lose sight that it is a work surface.
There are really just 3 factors to consider when selecting countertops: price, visual appeal, and durability/maintenance. You will have to balance these factors in the way that makes the most sense to you. Countertop price variance may be one of the largest in a home with plastic laminates as low as $5/sq.ft. all the way to $150+/sq.ft. marble. Visual appeal is truly in the eye-of-the-beholder since a “beautiful grain” to one person may look like a “cracked rock” to another. The durability/maintenance factor for countertops is the oddity because some of the cheaper options are often the more durable and easier to maintain options.
Countertops come in a myriad of options, but we’ll focus on the 5 main categories most people choose from: Plastic Laminate, Solid Surface, Engineered Stone, Granite, and Marble.
Plastic laminate (sometimes referred to by the brand name Formica) will almost always be your most budget conscious option. These countertops are made by applying plastic laminate sheeting to a composite wood surface. Where these countertops may lack physical texture, they make up in variety of patterns and colors. Since the colors/patterns are basically printed, it opens the door for lots of creativity. Maybe you need a pattern to match your Disney motif (we won’t judge)? Plastic laminate can chip/scratch and be susceptible to water damage but is moderately durable and has no real maintenance.
Solid Surface (sometimes referred to by the brand name Corian) is the next step up in pricing. It’s a solid acrylic material cut and formed into the shape of your countertop. It also comes in a variety of colors and patterns but not quite to the level of plastic laminate. One of the big perks of solid surface is the ability to have seamless transitions. Installers can use an attachment method that virtually eliminates seams between countertop pieces, and you can even have integrated sinks. This makes cleaning a breeze and keeps dirt and grime from being trapped in seams. Solid surface is a durable scratch/nick resistance surface; but its repairability is the ace up its sleve. Because the material is a consistent color/pattern all-the-way-through, a quick sand and polish of a scratch can bring you back to a like new surface. If you are germaphobe that knows you will be hard on your countertops this may be your best option.
You can think of Engineered Stone (or Quartz) as Solid Surface on steroids. It is created by mixing crushed rocks/quartz with plastic resins and pigments to create a solid sheet. Much of its positive attributes are like solid surface, but it has the added benefit of texture and hardness created by the real rocks/quartz pieces. It is available in a 2cm and 3cm thickness. Pricing for quartz can vary and may even exceed granite depending on the style. It has great durability and low maintenance.
Granite is next up the pricing ladder even though Engineered Stone can exceed it. It’s likely the most popular current choice and for good reason. Granite is a real solid rock cut out of the ground in slices that can be made into countertops. It offers natural grain, texture, and colors that are difficult to achieve with synthetic surfaces. While seams will be visible, a good installer can minimize the gaps for a clean appearance. As you would imagine, granite is very hard and impervious to most scratches and abrasions. There is some debate about the need to use a sealer on granite, but most use it to make cleaning easier.
Finally, marble is your deluxe option for the big spender. It has beautiful texture and…well marbling. Like granite your color options are limited to what occurs naturally but there are still plenty to choose from. The main downside to marble is maintenance. It has a porous surface that absolutely must be sealed to avoid staining and etching. Otherwise that spilled glass of red wine will haunt you for years to come…looking at you Britney. Most installers will recommend sealing every year.
As mentioned before, there are more options out there – wood, tile, concrete, etc. but most people will be selecting from one of these 5. If you are honest with yourself about how you plan to use and maintain the countertops while staying in budget, you should be on fast track to selecting a countertop you can be proud of for years.
At SCS we can help you when selecting countertops! Talk to our experts today and they can help answer all of your questions!
Blog written by Colby Malone