Kitchen Countertop Material Guidelines

Kitchen Countertop Material Guidelines

Kitchen Countertop Material Guidelines

Contributed by Ravi & Minu

A Kitchen countertop usually refers to a horizontal worksurface in kitchens and food preparation areas. It is  installed above and supported by cabinets.When installed in a kitchen, countertops are usually about 24inches (600 mm) from front to back and are designed to slightly-overhang standard kitchen base cabinets. This allows one to conveniently reach objects at the back of the countertop. The face of the countertop may be decorated in ways ranging from plain to very elaborate. The countertop may be cut to accommodate sinks, stoves, ranges, and cooktops, or other accessories such as drain boards.

KITCHEN COUNTERTOP OPTIONS:
The Kitchen countertop needs to be extremely hard-wearing, sturdy and add to the beauty of the kitchen. There are several different types of materials available for Kitchen countertops and it can be very confusing for you, to make the right choice. As an Architect, I have listed the 10 best materials that I would recommend, along with their unique advantages and disadvantages, so that you can make the right choice when you do  up your Kitchen.
1. GRANITE: 
It is an igneous rock having crystals or grains of visible size and consists mainly of quartz, feldspar and mica or other coloured minerals.  It is the second hardest material after diamonds. Granite is one of the best options for Kitchen counter-top material as it is very durable, long-lasting and elegant in appearance.

 

Advantages: 
  • Holds up to heat; 
  • Comes in a range of almost 3000 colors; 
  • Looks beautiful, permanent and substantial; 
  • Easy to clean because it is as smooth as glass; 
  • Will last a lifetime;
  • Second highest hardness rating after diamonds; 
  • Resistant to scratches; 
  • Is waterproof and prevents the growth of fungus and bacteria;
  • Adds a high value to home buyers.
Disadavantages: 
  • Expensive, but becoming more affordable and granite tiles are considerably cheaper; 
  • Requires some maintenance - needs annual sealing; 
  • Some stones absorbs stains if not sealed; 
  • Knives can become dull if you cut on it; 
  • Can crack if stressed or improperly installed.
  • Replacement of a broken part will be difficult as each piece has a unique colouration and patterns.
2. ENGINEERED STONE
Engineered stone is composed of 95% quartz particles and 5% polymer resins. Engineered stone has all the advantages of granite but is easier to maintain, less porous and more scratch resistant than natural quartz surfaces.

Advantages: 
  • Enginneered stone is available in a wide range of colours and patterns;
  • It can be customised for your kitchen as it is a flexible material;
  • It is quite durable and can last for decades before you have to replace it;
  • It is scratch resistant but can knives wil be dullened if used on it;
  • It can withstand heat from hot objects;
  • It has a non-porous surface which is resistant to stains, acid and fungus and bacterial growth;
  • It is easy to maintain and care and does not need the periodic sealing required for natural stone.
Disadvantages:
  • It is expensive, sometimes even more than Granite.
  • It can be installed only with professional help;
  • An engineered stone countertop does not look natural;
  • The seams are usually visible along the front edge beacuse the stone is laid by the slab.
3.  SOLID SURFACE:  
Solid surface countertops get their name from the fact that they are solid throughout the entire thickness. Solid surfaces make use of heavy-duty plastic sheets (acrylic, polyester, or a combination of the two) that are laminated  onto a wood/plywood substrate. The countertops are very versatile and can be joined, shaped and finished to your specifications. Solid surface countertops are quite popular because of the wide range of colours and patterns, their simple yet stylish look, smooth feel and low maintenance.
Advantages:
  • Solid surfaces are quite durable;
  • They can be custom-made to any shape and size;
  • They are mostly non-porous and hence stain resistant and prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria;
  • Solid countertops are available in a wide range of colors and patterns;
  • Since they are usually installed as a single integrated piece, they do not have seams;
  • They are easy to maintain and can easily be repaired.
Disadvantages: 
  • They are vulnerable to hot pans as the heat can permanently damage the surface; 
  • They can crack below temperatures of 5 degrees celcius;
  • They are reasonably expensive.






4. CERAMIC TILE:
Ceramic tiles are made from pressed clay and fired at high temperatures to give the tile it’s hardness and it's matte finish. Some ceramic tiles may have a glaze of metallic oxides, which gives it an iridescent colour effect. They are a good choice for countertops for the average home because they are inexpensive, easy theat resistant and available in a wide range of colours and design.
Advantages:
  • Ceramic tiles are inexpensive and much more affordable than natural stone like granite and marble.
  • They are quite durable and can withstand more impact than solid and laminate countertops.
  • They can withstand heat;
  •  They are easy to clean;
  •  They are available in a wide range colours, textures and design.
Disadvantages:
  • Ceramic tiles can easily chip or crack under hard impact and extreme temeperatures;
  • The counter surface is uneven and not smooth because of the tiles and grout joints between;
  • The grout joints can easily stain and are not easy to maintain;
  • Tiles can be custom designed, but are very expensive.


5. LAMINATES:
Laminate counter tops are made out of plastic coated synthetics bonded to a bottom substrate. There are two types:
Postformed: Also referred to as "plastic laminate countertop", it is formed by bonding decorative papers and resins through high heat and pressure to the bottom substrate, a wood product.
Self/Wood-edge plastic laminate countertop: Here, the substrate for the countertop is made of MDF or particle board and laminate sheets are glued to it. The laminate is then finished on the edges. This method of laminating can't reproduce the curved contours of post-formed countertops. Laminate countertops are popular because they are inexpensive, easy to clean, hygienic and available in a wide range of colours and designs.
Advantages:
  • Laminates are available in the widest range of colours, patterns and textures;
  •  A laminate countertop is easy to clean;
  •  It does not harbor the growth of mold, mildew, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
  •  It is affordable compared to other materials. 
  • However, end finishing and front edge choices can be expensive.
Disadvantages:
  •  A laminate countertop is susceptible to scratching, chipping, cuts, and breakage especially along its edges.  
  •  It cannot resist heat and burns and can crack when exposed to heat;
  •  A damaged laminate countertop cannot be repaired.
  •   Laminates are not that durable as they cannot withstand cracks, scratches, heat and chipping.




6. WOODEN COUNTERTOPS:
Hardwoods such as maple and oak are most often used for wooden  countertops. The wood planks are arranged in a variety of designs like Butcher's Block, Joined Planks or Single Wide Stave. Wood is considered to be the most eco-friendly option for a kitchen countertop, as wood is a renewable resource.
Advantages:
  • Wood countertops can fit well into almost all kitchen designs - modern, sleek, and stylish, or roughed out for a rustic country theme;
  •  They are very easy to install;
  •  Wood has a natural mechanism that prevents the growth and buildup of bacteria;
  •  Wood is easy to clean as it is smooth;
  •  Wooden counters can be sanded to remove scratches and resealed.
  •  Wood comes in a variety of colours, finishes and types of wood.
Disadvantages:
  •  Wood can easily get damaged by impact, moisture, heat, and cold. It needs regular refinishing, cleaning with mineral oil, sanding and buffing;
  •  Wood can easily get burnt and is a fire hazard
  •   Wood countertops last about four to eight years at most, compared to stone countertops, which can last for decades.  This is beacause wood naturally oxidizes with age.



7. STAINLESS STEEL COUNTERS:
Stainless steel countertops are kitchen countertops made of stainless steel. Also known as corrosion resistant steel, stainless steel is a metal alloy that contains around 10% chromium which gives it its stainless look. For a really contemporary and industrial look for your kitchen, stainless steel is a good choice.
Advantages:
  • It is durable and is highly heat resistant;
  • It does not crack;
  • It is non-porous and hence, resistant to stains and corrosion, is waterproof and easy-to-clean;
  • Stainless steel is flexible which enables it to be installed in all kinds of unique spaces;
  • It is easy to install and is generally installed as one solid piece;
  • It does not have grouts or joints which trap food, grease, dirt;
  • It adds to the appearance of the kitchen by giving it a sleek and modern look; 
  • Stainless steel gently reflects light, which creates the illusion of a larger kitchen space;
  • Stainless steel sheets come in a variety of finishes, including quilted, non-directional, checkerboard, and a variety of diagonal designs.
Disadvantages:
  • It often shows scratches and can dent;
  • It can be quite noisy if not stabilized properly with a strong backing;
  • Food, grease and fingerprints all show very clearly, necessitating continual cleaning.
  • It is quite expensive.
8. SOAPSTONE COUNTERS:
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock that is made of talc, dolomite, magnesite, and chlorite. Talc gives soapstone a soft and soap-like texture. Soapstone is generally dark gray in color and is quite popular as a countertop  and sink material because it is durable, heat resistant and stain proof.
Advantages: 
  • It has a rich, deep, natural colour and a very smooth feel;
  • Soapstone is quite durable and does not crack easily; 
  • Soapstone is stain resistant to a large extent; 
  • Soapstone distributes the heat of hot pans evenly without causing burn marks.
Disadvantages:
  • Soapstone requires scheduled maintenance as it can crack and darken over time;
  • It needs to be coated with mineral oil several times a year to prevent discoloration and cracking;
  • Soapstone countertops may be difficult to replace if there are damages or cracks on the surface because each slab has its own unique pattern and shade;



9. MARBLE:  
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed largely of calcite or dolomite available in different colors that result from differences in mineral content. It can be highly polished to create a very shiny and elegant surface. Marble requires constant maintenance, as it easily stains. However, some new sealers retard staining. But it does give a luxurious look.
Advantages:
  • Marble is a strong and durable material that can last for decades if properly cared for;
  • It does not crack or break easily;
  • It does not catch fire or burn, but if very hot pots are placed on it,  the heat may change the colour of the marble permanently;
  • It looks beautiful and luxurious and can add elegance to the kitchen.
Disadvantages:
  • It is very expensive, though lower quality ones and marble tiles are cheaper;
  • It is quite porous and hence stains easily unless professionally sealed;
  • It can scratch;
  • It may need resealing periodically.



10. CONCRETE COUNTERS
If you have countertops in unusual shapes, concrete may be a good choice, as they're often cast right in your kitchen. Concrete  countertops are structurally sound and also provide a decorative finish that resembles polished stone but at a lesser cost.
Advantages:
  •  Concrete is heat resistant and will not burn if hot pots are placed on it. 
  • It can be colour-tinted and looks exotic and unusual;
  • It is quite durable and can last for around 20 years;
  •  Concrete is quite strong and can resist chipping, breaking and scratches; 
  •  Concrete is the best option for unusual shaped counters, since it is cast at site.
Disadvantages:
  • It can  be expensive due to custom work;
  •  It is porous but can be sealed.
  • Cracking is possible, but nowadays, new treatments eliminate cracking.
This post was about the 10 best materials for Kitchen Countertops. The vertical extension to a Kitchen countertop which protects the wall behind, from unintended splashes of water, oil and spills is called a  Kitchen backsplash. 

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