10 Countertop Materials to Consider for Your Kitchen Remodel

by James Florence


Kitchen countertops come in a wide variety of materials and styles. Photo: Kitchens by Ken Ryan, Inc. ©2021

Are you planning to remodel your kitchen? One of the most important choices you’ll need to make is which type of material to use for your countertops. To help you decide, we’ve created a basic overview of 10 popular countertop materials and their key attributes. In this article, we’ll cover granite, quartz, marble, quartzite, soapstone, butcher block, tile, solid surface, stainless steel and concrete.

1. Granite

Granite is one of the toughest natural materials on Earth. This attribute, along with its innately beautiful colors and patterns, makes it an ideal material for kitchen countertops. However, this combination of beauty and durability comes at a high price point, reserving it for those who are willing and able to invest in the best.

Like any natural stone, granite is porous, so despite its strength, it still needs to be sealed to prevent stains. Fortunately, there are professionally applied sealers available that last up to 25 years, which minimizes maintenance. Additionally, keep in mind that there’s no way to customize the look of a granite slab—you’re limited to what nature provides.

2. Quartz

Quartz countertops are engineered products that combine loose quartz minerals with resins and pigments to create tough, nonporous slabs. Because it’s an engineered product, quartz is fully customizable in terms of colors and patterns. Also, since it’s nonporous, it doesn’t need to be sealed, which makes it a low-maintenance option.

If you’re considering quartz, you need to decide whether you prioritize the innate qualities of a natural stone or the customization afforded by an engineered product. Also, it’s important to note that while quartz is tough, it’s not completely impervious to damage. For example, it’s sensitive to extreme heat, and spills that aren’t cleaned up in a timely manner can potentially leave stains.

3. Marble

Marble may be a natural stone like granite, but it’s very soft, which leaves it vulnerable to staining or etching by acidic substances. Because of this, sealing and regular resealing is imperative with marble countertops. However, even when they’re properly sealed, marble countertops can still be susceptible to etching, which makes them risky options, especially for active culinary enthusiasts.

It’s also important to note that marble changes over time. Think of an older building with a marble façade—the marble has yellowed a bit, is no longer shiny and has developed a patina. A marble countertop will behave the same way. So, if you’re thinking of choosing marble, make sure you’re the kind of person who embraces natural change.

4. Quartzite

This material may have a similar name as quartz, but the similarities end there. As a naturally occurring material, quartzite actually has more in common with granite. First, it’s harder than quartz, so it boasts superior resistance to scratches, acids and heat. Moreover, quartzite possesses natural beauty, with a glassy appearance that sometimes resembles marble. Also like granite, quartzite is porous and requires sealing, and it’s pricier than manufactured countertop products. Keep in mind that some retailers sell a material called “soft quartzite,” which is actually marble, so check to ensure you’re purchasing true quartzite.

5. Soapstone

Soapstone is a natural stone comprised largely of the mineral talc (as in talcum powder), which makes it softer than most countertop products. At the same time, soapstone is also extremely dense—so much so that it doesn’t need to be sealed. This unique blend of softness and density creates a dichotomy of durability. On one hand, soapstone stands up well to heat (you can put a hot pan right on it), but on the other hand, it can be easily scratched by a knife. The good news is scratches can be sanded out if needed. In terms of aesthetics, soapstone countertops tend to be dark in hue, creating a dramatic effect that fits some design scenarios better than others.

6. Butcher block

In addition to its charming and inviting appearance, butcher block offers a host of functional benefits as a countertop material. It’s more affordable than natural stone, as well as easier to maintain and, if damaged, restore. Wood doesn’t chip or crack as easily as stone, and you can prepare food directly on the countertop surface.

However, butcher block countertops do have some drawbacks. Because unfinished wood is porous, moisture and bacteria can easily seep into it, and if the countertop absorbs too much water, it can cause warping. Additionally, a butcher block countertop can be scorched if it’s exposed to extreme heat. However, with proper care and precaution, butcher block countertops can provide long-lasting performance.

7. Tile

Tile is an affordable and versatile countertop option that also happens to be the most DIY-friendly. Many different types of tiles can be used for countertops, including ceramic and porcelain. Like many countertop materials, tile is a mixed bag when it comes to durability. It’s heat-resistant (you can set a hot pan right on it without risk of damage), but it can also be chipped or broken relatively easily. Furthermore, liquids like coffee and wine can stain the grout lines if the grout isn’t sealed regularly. Still, tile’s low cost and design versatility make it an option worthy of consideration for certain homeowners.

8. Solid surface

Formulated from a combination of acrylic particles and resins, a solid surface countertop is a good option for those who like the look and feel of natural stone but can’t afford it. As a manufactured product, it’s available in a variety of colors and patterns, which makes it easy to customize for your kitchen design. In terms of durability, solid surface countertops are resistant to staining but vulnerable to heat damage.

9. Stainless steel

If you’re designing your kitchen to have a contemporary, industrial look, stainless steel countertops just might fit the bill. Durability-wise, stainless steel countertops are heat- and stain-resistant, but they’re also susceptible to scratching, so cutting boards are a must. Stainless steel also doesn’t need to be sealed and is easy to clean and maintain, but it’s noisier than most countertop materials and expensive to fabricate.

10. Concrete

While less well-known than products like granite or quartz, concrete is a durable and versatile countertop material. It can be fabricated in a variety of colors and patterns, and you can even have small decorative items embedded in the countertop surface. While not completely scratch-proof, concrete resists scratching more than most materials and is completely impervious to heat.

In terms of drawbacks, concrete countertops are expensive and need to be resealed annually. Also, because concrete is heavier than most countertop materials, cabinets and flooring may need to be reinforced to bear the increased weight. 

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