Countertop Basics

Your Guide to selecting Countertops for the Kitchen or Bathroom

The countertop works hard. From food prep to casual dining to homework in the kitchen to the toiletry and make up covered bathroom vanity top, the countertop is the most highly used surface in the entire household, often times in the center of it all. So choosing the right material is critical and the right choice can make every day life a little bit easier.

Maybe you already have a countertop material or brand in mind.  If not, here is some guidance on countertop materials.

The main materials chosen most often for kitchen countertops includes quartz (engineered stone), granite, wood and laminate as well as other types such as solid surface, glass, soapstone, marble, concrete and stainless steel. In the bathroom quartz and granite countertops are popular too, as well as culture marble. In most cases, each offers their own unique look and characteristics to suit almost every look you could imagine in a countertop.

Granite and Quartz compete head on in terms of popularity, with granite’s long standing number one position being challenged by its’ quartz counterpart.

With improvements in both performance and appearance, laminate countertops continue to hang in there as well as a more budget friendly surface.

Another popular consideration is mixing countertop surfaces. Adding a wood or marble countertop can enhance the look and add another layer of flexibility or productivity to your space.

Along with the look of the countertop, function and durability are key considerations. All countertop materials will vary greatly in their durability, and there is no such thing as an indestructible countertop.

Some surfaces, such as solid surface material, concrete and granite will be more resistant to breakage, burns, scratches and discoloring than a laminate top. Any top with a high gloss finish will show scratches more than a matte finish.

With any countertop, regular cleaning is important. However, quartz , granite, solid surface material, concrete and stainless steel will have greater resistance to staining than wood and marble. Here are some quick reference points for some of the more popular countertop surface materials:

  • Granite is a natural stone and a beautiful and striking option for a top. It is highly resistant to breakage, scratching and burning. Granite is naturally porous and requires periodic sealing.
  • Quartz, or engineered stone as it is commonly referred to, is a ground quartz and resin bonded together under high pressure to create a non-porous and scratch resistant countertop material. It is fabricated with seams similar to granite. However, Quartz never has to be sealed.
  • Wood is available in wide variety of standard and exotic woods in either stained or oiled finishes. to give your kitchen countertop or any countertop a warm, unique look. A water resistant finish is essential for any wood countertop to reduce staining and water damage.
  • Laminate is typically the least expensive countertop option. Offered in a variety of colors, laminate tops are constructed on a particle board substrate and can be susceptible to water damage, scratches and stains.
  • Solid Surface is ½” thick solid material that is highly durable, long lasting and provides a nearly seamless appearance. Burns and cuts can often be repaired by refinishing the affected area.
  • Concrete is a contemporary, unique option for a countertop. Highly durable and available in a variety of stains, Concrete is sealed for protection and has an antibacterial option. Hairline cracks occur naturally over time.
  • Stainless Steel creates a modern and industrial looking countertop that is great for baking due to its naturally cool surface. It is also highly sanitary and easy to clean.
  • Marble is an extremely porous natural stone, highly susceptible to staining. It is an excellent choice for a baking center prep area but can also be used as an accent piece or bathroom vanity top.
  • Cultured Marble is an affordable, acrylic-based material used in bathrooms and available in a variety of colors that can give the appearance of marble, solid or stone.

These are just a few examples of countertop products to be considered. It is important to have a detailed conversation with your designers early on about countertops so that your kitchen or bathroom’s look, feel and design can be properly enhanced by your countertop selection.

Regardless of what material you select a field measure, after your base cabinets have been installed, should be completed in order to ensure an accurate fit of your countertop. In most cases today this is a requirement. Your designer will help create a timeline from field measure to installation so you know how long to expect to wait for your new countertop.

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