11 of our Favorite Countertop Surfaces

Wow, there are a lot of different types of countertops on the market! When shopping for a new countertop it is important to find the countertop material that works best for your family. After all, the countertop is usually the focal point of every kitchen and the kitchen is the heart of every home.

Types of Countertops

There are many considerations that go into making your selection:

  • How much maintenance are you willing to do on your countertops?
  • Do you have a certain style and color in mind?
  • How much will you use them?
  • Do you focus on eco-friendly, recycled materials?
  • Do you have children that might spill a lot or do you need heavy-duty materials to account for rough housing?
  • Are you on a budget?

Keep these questions in mind as you go through our top selections of countertop materials. It’s important to choose something that you love, that fits your budget and that will hold up under your family activities.

1. Granite

Granite is a very popular countertop choice in kitchen remodels for its mere distinguished class and elegance. It is a natural stone that comes in slabs or tiles. Granite comes in thousands of different colors and patterns with each stone being unique and unlike any other. It also offers a variety of finishes such as matte, polished and leathered.

Pros:

  • Beautiful, elegant and adds to the resale value of your home
  • Readily available
  • Strong and durable, having the 2nd highest hardness rating after diamonds
  • Stands up to everyday use—it’s scratch resistant, stain resistant, heat resistant, and waterproof when sealed correctly
  • And importantly, it lasts a lifetime!

Cons:

  • Comes at a higher cost compared to other materials
  • Heavy and needs more support
  • Usually needs to be installed by a professional
  • Porous and some need regular sealing to prevent stains
  • Can chip or crack (leave repair to the pros, but if you must DIY, they do sell granite repair kits).

Cost:

Depending on the thickness of the slab, where it came from, number of cuts required, edge treatments and more, granite can range anywhere from $25-200 per square foot installed or more. You can save a great deal by going with granite tiles, but the elegance is in the slab.

To see examples of granite countertops, click here.

2. Laminate

Laminate countertops have come a long way and now also rank high in popularity. They are manufactured with a blend of paper and resins fused to particle board under high heat and pressure (pretty much plastic on paper and particle board). Laminate can give you a look you love at an affordable price.

Pros:

  • Budget friendly, cost effective and easily available
  • Sturdy and easy to install
  • Comes in many colors, patterns, textures and edge treatments that can also mimic more expensive materials (there are also color-through options that avoid the dark edge seams.)
  • Nonporous, easy to clean, and the surface is water resistant
  • Durable enough to hold up to everyday use with reasonable care (there are new products such as surface treatments that lengthen the life of your countertop, or edge treatments that get rid of dark lines for a more finished appearance.)

Cons:

  • Not as durable as other surfaces, such as granite
  • Not heat or scratch resistant and overtime laminate can fade when exposed to the sun
  • Water can get in through cuts scratches or seams which causes warping
  • Can sometimes stain or can be damaged by harsh cleaning product, which is difficult to repair
  • Not good for resale (There are visible seams and edging that reveal that it’s not real stone.)

Cost:

Depending on materials used, thickness, finishes and edge treatment chosen, laminate countertops can cost anywhere from $5-40 per square foot or more.

To see examples of laminate countertops, click here.

3. Concrete

Concrete countertops are a growing trend as we gravitate towards more urban and industrial looks. They are either pre-casted on a template in a factory or poured on site. Concrete is made out of water, a binder and a filler. Due to cost, they are typically found in high-end kitchens.

Pros:

  • Beautiful, modern and elegant - and look more beautiful as time goes on as it develops patina (oxidation creating a green/brown film over time)
  • Can be pigmented or acid stained and then polished for a unique look
  • Come in many color and texture options and can often resemble natural stone, or you can easily create a look of your own
  • Can add glass or stones for a mosaic look
  • Since it can be poured on site, the counter can take any shape and form you need
  • Can install the countertop, sink and backsplash seamlessly, or if a seam is needed you can use a seam filler to make it unnoticeable
  • Very hard, tough, durable and practically indestructible
  • Scratch, stain and heat (depending on the sealer) resistant with proper sealing making it last virtually forever
  • Can also be fairly eco-friendly as long as the company you choose doesn’t add toxins
  • They are recyclable!

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy, hard to install and labor intensive, which adds to the cost
  • Concrete may settle and crack when curing, although there are treatments that prevent cracking
  • Concrete is somewhat porous but can be sealed and waxed to reduce stains and water damage, and you can also use additives that reduce pores

Cost:

Depending on if it is casted on or off site, the colors, materials added, shape and features, the price can range from $60-150 or more a square foot, with most of the cost going into labor. It is equivalent in price to high end stone such as granite.

To see examples of concrete countertops, click here.

4. Stainless Steel

As the industrial look becomes the new trend, stainless steel is growing in popularity along with concrete. It can be pre-formed or custom created with elegance, beauty and practical use.

Pros:

  • Sleek, modern, elegant and goes well with the stainless-steel appliance trend
  • Very durable and easy to clean and maintain, making it very low maintenance
  • Heat-resistant, stain proof, waterproof and takes cleaning chemicals well
  • Nonporous, sterile and antimicrobial

Cons:

  • One color option
  • Shows fingerprints easily and needs cleaned often
  • Scratches and dents easily and it may eventually rust
  • A little on the expensive side

Cost:

Depending on size and thickness, the price can go for about $60-150 per square foot installed.

To see examples of stainless steel countertops, click here.

wood butcher block kitchen countertop

5. Wood or Butcher Block

As a renewable resource, wood makes a good eco-friendly option, especially if you go the reclaimed wood route. The most popular woods used for countertop include maple, cherry, oak, birch and teak. In the same family you could also look at bamboo, which is called hardwood but it’s technically a grass. Butcher block can also be made from repurposed wood or scrap pieces of wood, cut into strips and bonded together. Most homeowners choose wood for its natural beauty, allowing you to even get a live edge for an even more natural look.

Pros:

  • Natural, beautiful and charming
  • Affordable
  • Comes in different colors, stains and finishes, giving you many options
  • Looks good when combined with other materials
  • Great for chopping because it’s antibacterial, easy to clean, and if it gets scratched it can easily be sanded or buffed out

Cons:

  • Can burn, dent, scratch, stain and otherwise get damaged easily
  • Porous - if not sealed correctly can hide germs and bacteria. (It needs a protective sealant, oil and regular maintenance as water can leave marks and stains)
  • Because of these reasons, it’s classified as a more high-maintenance option (you can expect to have to refinish wood countertops every 10-20 years)

Cost:

Depending on the type of wood used, the thickness, the drying, the sorting and finishing process, you can expect to spend between $35-100 per square foot.

To see examples of stainless steel countertops, click here.

6. Marble/Limestone/Travertine

Marble, limestone and travertine belong to the same family of stone. They are composed of carbonate minerals, calcite and dolomite. Limestone is a sedimentary rock made from shells and fossils, shaped by sand and water. Travertine is a type of limestone formed on land, and marble is metamorphosed from limestone. They age beautifully, define style and class and are installed in slabs.

Pros:

  • Beautiful luxury stones
  • Come in a range of colors, have smooth surfaces, and are good for those who bake
  • Can choose a shiny or matte finish (As far as marble goes, honed marble with a matte finish is best; Dense limestones can be polished but will never be as shiny as say, granite)
  • If sealed correctly they clean up easily with just a mild cleanser and cloth
  • Waterproof, heat-proof and increase property value

Cons:

  • Expensive stones (marble is the most expensive of the three)
  • Not often seen in whole kitchens, but more-so as accents such as on the kitchen island
  • Porous and may stain or easily damaged by acidic foods and drinks
  • Susceptible to water damage so they must be sealed
  • Soft making them chip and scratch easily (nicks and scratches can be polished out)
  • High maintenance stones
  • They develop patina, which could be a pro or a con

Cost:

Marble costs will vary based on type of marble, thickness and where it came from, but typical costs range between $50-250 per square foot, while limestone and travertine are cheaper at around $50 per square foot.

To see examples of marble countertops, click here.

7. Quartz

Quartz is a man-made, engineered material created from resin, color and ground quartz pieces. It’s a very elegant choice. It’s easily customizable and equivalent to stone, mimicking many types of stone. It’s good for the eco-conscientious shopper and it’s rising in popularity.

Pros:

  • Elegant
  • Low maintenance with no need to seal it
  • Many color and pattern choices
  • Unusual and unique
  • Polished and smooth
  • Hard and durable
  • Antibacterial and easy to clean - quartz is non-porous so it’s sanitary and it doesn’t stain or scratch easily
  • Adds property value

Cons:

  • A bit costly
  • Less resistant to heat
  • May chip
  • May show visible seams where the different slabs meet
  • Heavy, requiring extra support and professional installation

Cost:

Quartz typically ranges from $50-200 per square foot installed.

To see examples of quartz countertops, click here.

Kitchen countertops options

8. Soapstone

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock made of talc, quartz and other minerals. It has been used for hundreds of years and is a popular, classic countertop.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Beautiful natural grey color (sometimes blue or green) that darkens over time
  • Smooth, matte and feels like soap
  • If there’s veining, it is created by the quartz in the stone
  • An alternative to other natural stones
  • Heat resistant (sometimes used for wood burning ovens)
  • Non-porous, antibacterial, water and stain resistant, though doesn’t require sealing
  • Durable and very dense
  • Scratches can be sanded and buffed out very easily

Cons:

  • Requires a bit of maintenance—oiling to prevent cracks
  • Soft and prone to scratching and wear and tear on the edges
  • Darkens over time (some consider this a pro)
  • Heavy, requiring professional installation and extra support
  • Develops patina which could be a pro or con.

Cost:

Soapstone typically ranges from $40-90 per square foot installed, making it one of the most affordable natural stone options.

To see examples of soapstone countertops, click here.

9. Tile

Tile countertops are a very popular choice, made from ceramic, glass or porcelain tile. It is versatile, comes in an endless variety of colors, styles, sizes and shapes, and can really alter a space.

Pros:

  • Can be cost effective (depending on which tile you like)
  • Beautiful and easy to create a custom look
  • Heat and moisture resistant
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Grout must be sealed correctly or it will stain
  • Can chip
  • Hard to replace if damaged
  • Makes counter surface uneven
  • Labor intensive installation, and it’s hard to install on uneven surfaces

Cost:

Tile typically costs $5-70 per square foot with installation, with most of the cost going to labor.

To see examples of tile countertops, click here.

10. Corian

Corian countertops are man made from a blend of acrylic or polyester resins, powdered fillers and pigments, which are then cast into slabs. Corian is fairly new but growing in popularity.

Pros:

  • Has a wide variety of colors with a beautiful smooth surface that can be shaped easily with heat
  • Easy to imitate other materials
  • Solid, durable, and nonporous
  • Resistant to stains, mildew and bacteria and it’s easy to clean
  • Buffing out scratches and stains is very easy, making installation seamless
  • Lightweight and easy to install
  • Adds to property value

Cons:

  • Somewhat expensive
  • Heat sensitive
  • Scratches, dents and stains easily

Cost:

Corian costs $40-100/sf with installation, with most of the cost being in labor.

To see examples of corian countertops, click here.

11. Lava

Lava countertops are unique, rare and elegant.

Pros:

  • Has a beautiful crackle finish with many colors to choose from
  • Non-porous
  • Resistant to heat, cold, stains, scratching, etc.
  • Low maintenance, strong and durable
  • The ultimate stone for a countertop

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Rare and hard to find

Cost:

Lava costs $225-300 per square foot with installation, with most of the cost being in labor.

To see examples of lava countertops, click here.

Final Thoughts

We have discussed quite a few different types of countertops but only you will know what is best for you and your family and for your space. Do your research. Think about how you use your space and create a checklist of your absolute musts. Then make sure your choice meets those expectations.

Order samples if necessary and ask questions--make sure at the very least it’s something that you love, that fits your budget, and will hold up under your family activities. And regardless of which countertop you go with you can extend the life of your countertop by following recommendations, using a cutting board for cutting and setting hot items on a trivet.

Want more home buying advice? Nestiny is a great place for homebuyer education and to help you gauge how ready you are to buy a home. Journey Homeward allows you to enter all of your wants and needs while the True Affordability Tool will break down your budget, showing what you can comfortably afford. You will also receive a free Ready Report that is personalized based upon the information that you entered. This report will give you a vital head start in the home buying journey, saving you valuable time and money.

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