Countertops choices have extended a long way beyond the basic Formica and laminates of several decades ago. Now, homeowners can select from a dizzying array of diverse surface materials, from wood to natural stone to stainless steel. The best countertop for your kitchen depends on the look, feel, and finish that will fit into your overall aesthetic.
The current trend for countertops is to use 2-2 ¼" thick rather than typical 1 ¼” thick counters, whether they are made out of marble, granite, or wood. If thicker counters prove price prohibitive for an entire kitchen, you can instead install them only in certain areas as centerpieces, such as an island or a breakfast bar. Europeans are also using much thinner countertops ( ½-1" thick), a style that will probably catch on soon here in the US.
In terms of the specific materials available, many people often start with stone. Rather than the spotted, granular look of granite, many people want a softly veined appearance in their stone. Also, polished stone is no longer as popular, and most counters are now honed, leathered, patina'ed, or antiqued. All of these treatments reduce the shine to a satin finish or to no shine at all.
There are several stones that offer a veined look. Marble, for one, has finally made its way here from Europe. Carrera was always a quintessential choice, and though is still very popular, but there are other marbles that have caramel veins as well as Carrera’s gray and black colors, such as Valley Gold (used in some of Washington DC's monuments) or Calacatta. Though people used to avoid marble due to its variances and tendency to stain, people are becoming more relaxed about perfection and the beauty of marble has overcome past reservations about the material—making marble often the preferred choice. Marble is also a favored choice for contemporary kitchens, especially when the rest of the house is a traditional style. The marble helps tone down a contemporary feel and bring a bit of classic elegance back to the kitchen.
In addition to marble, various types of soapstone are also desirable due to the dramatic veining that they offer. When oiled properly (every few months with a plain mineral oil until they become saturated), they are very durable. Soapstone comes in various shades of gray, dark grays, and greens, and it can have green or white or off-white veins.
Other options can solve performance questions. If you are concerned with the vulnerability of marble or the maintenance of soapstone, for example, a good choice is a lighter-toned granite called “Mother of Pearl.” It’s a grayish light green with dark gray and caramel veins running through it, giving it an appearance more like marble than granite. If you have decided on this or another light-colored granite, however, make sure to ask the supplier how dense it is, since the less dark the granite, the less dense it is—and therefore, the more prone it will be to staining.
Or perhaps you like the look of concrete but you are concerned about its durability? In this case, a smart way to get a dark gray/black concrete look is to use Absolute Black Granite with an antiqued finish. This granite is indestructible, so if you want the appearance of concrete with high performance, Absolute Black Granite is definitely the way to go.
Stepping away from stone, manufactured quartz countertops are wonderful for a contemporary style kitchen, whether polished or honed. These countertops are indestructible and come in a variety of colors. They are also a good choice for helping create a beautiful and balanced composition of shapes and color in any contemporary kitchen.
Stainless steel counters are becoming more desirable. Due to its tendency to scratch, however, most people prefer it with a patina to counteract any etching, rather than in a polished or satin finish. Stainless is great if you want a thinner counter than 1 ¼” thick.
Last but not least, don’t overlook wood. Butcher-block tops have made a big comeback in both traditional and contemporary kitchens. Rather than the maple butcher block that we all grew up with, more exotic woods are being used like wenge, jatoba, mahogany, and teak. It’s best to not have a top coat of varnish put on these counters; simple mineral oil will do the trick as far as keeping the top looking good and inhibiting stains or damage. Wood is also easily repaired: a light sanding will remove any scratches or light stains, and another coat of oil will then make it look new again. There is a coating called “Durata” that can make a wood top impervious to water damage, but it can scratch and cannot be repaired with sanding, so it’s best to use this finish on tops that are not in the main work area. (Glumber is Grothouse’s website where you can find more out about butcher-block tops).
There are numerous options available for your countertop; the fun is in finding the one that fits your look and lifestyle best.
We went with a "green" countertop composition....ECO by Cosentino....it is "non-pourous"....it will also change color and feel if a rubber mat is placed by the sink...something is wrong with the composition of this material....look elswhere!
I have to agree with you. These are the latest counter top trends as far as i can tell, but have you checked out the counter tops in Edmonton. Real quality, real stone. Hm. Hm. Hm! Now that's what I'm talking about! Total legitimacy and beyond, ya'know?
Mistral worktops are made from non-porous material, which makes them easy to clean and hygienic to be used in kitchen areas. They are also capable of providing dazzling look to your home, without making heavy investments on home improvement crusade.
What is the countertop material in the top picture?
Still debating marble countertops versus the new marble-like Corian tops. Any comments appreciated.
Jennifer, what is the countertop material in the photo at the very top of this article? I'm considering, slate, concrete and soapstone but have two young kids and need durability. thoughts?
I prefer laminates because there is less breakage of utensils and glassware.
Our countertop in our Victorian home is actually a thick piece of wood (about 1.5 - 2") that is varnished with minwax. I have found that it is very durable, easy to clean, and if it starts to look dull, just clean it well and put on another coat of minwax. As I read all the maintenance, etc., of these other countertops, I'm thinking I need to stay with this one. I just use soap and water to clean it up.
The BEST way to polish stone countertops is a furniture polish like Pledge. It cleans and polish at the same time.
I swear I could have read this article 10 or more years ago and it would have been the same. How is ANY of this any different from what has been popular, as I mentioned, 10 or more years ago??
The wife and l are looking for a home and l have to say that the lighter granite looks amazing, especially with dark cabinets.
A word of caution about black granite: we have it in our kitchen, and wiping it off leaves some visible residue; we will be replacing it with "Fantasy" granite, which is much lighter and more colorful. The lighter colored granite will not show any residue when cleaned. The only way to make black granite look good is to apply granite cleaner or polish, which is a lot of trouble to use on a daily basis.
Is this a polshed, honed or antiqued (leathered) finish? If it's polished, that is a problem. I have honed absolute black and don't have that issue. If it's antiqued (textured), then, streaks shouldn't be a problem either.
On the honed stone countertops, it's best not to completely hone it, but, to take off the sheen enough to give it a satin appearance and feel. It is true that if it's honed too much, it can be more prone to stains and water absorption. An antique finish is great too, where they texture the stone without taking all of the polish off.
Mother of Pearl granite is a great choice for a light color. It is very, very dense, and, is difficult to damage or stain.
Hi JMC, You can replace the doors on your cabinets, but, people find that this isn't that inexpensive. It's best to wait if you can and do the whole kitchen. Maybe you can take some doors off, like the doors where you keep your dishes (which naturally stack neatly) and either leave the interior as is, or, paint the interior. Have you tried a handyman to tighten up the hinges? In the meantime, you can consider finding a furniture repair person to touch up the doors that are in the worst shape. This way, waiting to be able to redo the entire kitchen will be more tolerable.
I have white kitchen cabinets....some need replacing..some are still in great condition..... but at this time it is not affordable to do entire kitchen.....can I replace the fronts of the cabinets.....I also have a center countertop island.....thinking of replacing with a center butcher table.....your thoughts?
I'm getting ready to update my kitchen and I found replacing my doors, adding pull out shelves, changing my island entirely, adding molding to the ceiling, building one more floor to ceiling cabinet and basically turning my builder grade kitchen into a semi-custom is costing me less than half of what entirely new cabinets would cost me. I have seen my carpenter's work and it is excellent. I am a realtor and I see a lot of houses. The secret...be your own contractor. Ask around for carpenters specializing in cabinetry and bring any other tradesmen together to get the work done. This takes time and patience and lots of questions, but it's your home, so enjoy the discovery process. Good luck!
It's best to save up and redo the kitchen. You'd be surprised how much it can cost to do cabinet front replacements. Like the idea about the center butcher block table. Don't put any finish on it, just oil it with mineral oil.
will definitely explore the absolute black granite idea-
www.glumber.com (info on buther block tops)
Honed vs. polished. Any slab can be "honed", or stripped of it's polish, to create a matte look. When a stone is honed, the grain is actually raised, making the sealing process much less effective. Dark stone like Absolute Black, while being very dense, WILL pick up any oils that come in contact with the countertops, and these marks may not come out. Polished slabs are much more easily maintained. Mild soap and water will remove dirt and oil from properly sealed surfaces.
submitted by Beth E. Poll
Allied Member, A.S.I.D.
Cutting Edge Countertops
a good choice is a lighter-toned granite called “Mother of Pearl.” It’s a grayish light green with dark gray and caramel veins running through it, giving it an appearance more like marble than granite. If you have decided on this or another light-colored granite, however, make sure to ask the supplier how dense it is, since the less dark the granite, the less dense it is—and therefore, the more prone it will be to staining