Types of Kitchen Countertops: Selecting the Right Material for Your Home
Kitchen countertops play a vital role in setting the tone for your kitchen. Your countertops occupy significant visual space, so you’ll wish to select a material that suits your style.
But kitchen countertops also have many practical considerations. They are the surface on which you prepare food and drinks. They come in contact with sharp knives and hot pans. They accept wine spills and ice cream drips.
How do you select the best kitchen countertops for your aesthetic and lifestyle? It’s about finding the material that nestles perfectly in the matrix of your desired style, needed durability, and price point.
We sat down with Shannon Frappied, Senior Interior Designer here at Acampora Interiors, to learn more about her process for guiding each client to the perfect kitchen countertop for their home.
How Your Lifestyle Impacts Your Kitchen Countertop Selection
As we recommend with any design project, Frappied says finding the ideal kitchen countertop begins with assessing how you live.
“Are you a busy family? Is it a first home or a secondary or vacation home? If it is a primary home, maybe you’ll want to splurge on a unique piece. If you need to create a kid-friendly environment for your growing family, you may want one of the more durable or cost-effective materials,” Frappied says.
Here are some additional questions that can help you understand your needs before you undertake your kitchen countertop search:
- How many people use the kitchen, and how regularly?
- How often do you cook?
- How much time and effort are you willing to invest in countertop maintenance?
- Do you prefer a countertop that will look pristine for years to come or one that develops character over time?
- Are you comfortable spending on more costly material for your countertops, or would you rather splurge on other kitchen features, like custom cabinetry?
- What look and feel are you hoping to achieve in your kitchen? Is there a particular interior design style that appeals most to you?
Once you’ve answered those questions, you can begin to investigate various kitchen countertop materials with a clear set of criteria in mind.
Types of Kitchen Countertops
The range of colors and materials of kitchen countertops can make the search for your perfect one a thrilling experience. From natural stone to engineered styles, the variety is staggering.
Armed with a knowledge of your needs for the space, start by comparing your parameters against the attributes of the most popular kitchen countertop materials.
We asked Frappied to provide specific advice around the types of homes and lifestyles that are best suited to each kitchen countertop material.
Granite Kitchen Countertops
Granite is a solid option–literally and figuratively–for kitchen countertops.
Frappied notes, “Granite is very cost-effective, and you can get a lot of color variations.” This stone is an appealing option for those homeowners desiring a wide assortment of hues and styles.
When properly sealed, granite countertops are easy to care for. The stone is highly durable and resistant to both scratches and stains. This makes granite countertops ideal for busy families who spend a lot of time in the kitchen. There’s no need to worry about placing a scalding pan or splashing grease or oil on the stone.
Cleaning granite countertops is also simple. While most kitchen countertops do best with mild soap and warm water, granite is hardy enough that you can be less precious about your cleaning routine. A standard household cleaner or spray is safe for use on a properly-sealed granite countertop.
Quartz Kitchen Countertops
As an engineered slab created from a mix of resin and stone, quartz is unparalleled in the variety of styles available. It also benefits from greater strength and impermeability than natural stones.
As Frappied shares, this makes quartz an appealing alternative to more porous natural stone options.
“Quartz allows you to mimic the look of marble or soapstone. If you love the look of, say, a Carrara, but you don’t want to have a patina or have it stain, quartz is great,” she says. “Quartz is also going to be more durable so you can put hot plates on it or spill wine and clean it up a day later without worry.”
Unlike natural stones, quartz does not require sealing, although you may choose to seal it for additional protection. Its impermeability also means it does not require any ongoing special care or cleaning routines. You can safely use regular household surface cleaners on your quartz countertops.
Quartz is also one of the most cost-effective kitchen countertop options. Its combination of strength and affordability makes it well-suited for high-traffic spaces. Frappied also recommends quartz countertops to clients designing a secondary home or rental property.
Quartzite Kitchen Countertops
Despite its similar name, quartzite is an entirely different material from quartz. Quartzite is a natural stone, and as such carries a higher price tag than engineered quartz.
Similarly to quartz, however, quartzite is available in a wide variety of colors and styles. Slabs range from midnight-black stones dotted with constellations of dazzling quartz to milky white pieces with golden veining throughout.
Just as variable as its looks is the stone’s durability. While some quartzite is better equipped to resist stains and etching, other slabs exhibit a similar porosity to marble. In the end, any natural stone will stain and scratch and can etch.
Fortunately, there are ways to care for a natural stone that shows signs of wear and tear. Staining can typically be pulled out with a poultice stain remover, while scratching can be buffed out. In order to remove etching, a full resurfacing of the countertop is required.
Soapstone Kitchen Countertops
If you wish to create a space that feels welcoming and serene, soapstone may be your ideal kitchen countertop material.
Frappied loves the emotional pull soapstone creates in a kitchen. “It can take on that greener or bluer undertone and really helps to warm the space and give it a little bit more depth,” she says.
She also highlights its ability to create harmony with the surrounding environment. “It’s a lovely material to use anywhere,” she notes, “But I especially love it if you’re in a mountainous area. It’s really gorgeous because it bounces off of those natural wood tones and the greenery.”
Another natural stone option, soapstone is far more susceptible to wear and tear than quartzite or granite. The stone is soft, which means that soapstone countertops scratch easily.
Despite its softness, it does not require a tremendous amount of ongoing maintenance. You may choose to regularly treat soapstone with mineral oil to encourage its patina, though it is not required–the patina will develop on its own.
Marble Kitchen Countertops
Marble is a timeless option for your kitchen countertop. “This is the material that they were using in fireplaces hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” Frappied notes.
Because of its long history as a decorative material in homes, marble kitchen countertops will never go out of style. So while the stone is a more costly option, it will remain elegant for years to come.
Marble is a porous stone that is susceptible to scratches and stains. Acidic liquids such as tomato sauce, red wine and lemon juice quickly seep into the stone and can not only leave discolorations but also etching–the acid erodes the stone. If you opt for marble countertops, it’s essential you accept that the stone will show signs of wear and tear.
Frappied sees the poetry in selecting marble surfaces. “Marble is a natural stone, so it’s going to take on its environment,” she says. “It morphs, assuming your characteristics, reflecting the story of your home and your life.” Some people find this beautiful, while others prefer countertops that always look brand-new.
Because of its more delicate nature, the notable downside to marble countertops is their upkeep. Marble countertops must be sealed regularly, and any spills or drips should be tended to immediately to curb any damage. Similarly, harsh cleansers do not play well with marble countertops–a damp rag with mild soap and water is the best way to keep these kitchen countertops clean.
Other Kitchen Countertop Options
There are other countertop materials beyond these stone options, from butcher block to laminate to stainless steel. On the whole, Frappied says she typically steers clients away from using any of these options as the primary countertop in a space.
Stainless steel or butcher block, she suggests, might be used as an accent alongside a stone material. For those prolific home chefs, a stainless steel prep area might be practical. Butcher block can create a comforting space when paired with a warm-hued soapstone.
However, using these materials throughout the kitchen creates challenges. Frappied notes that butcher block is high-maintenance and easily marred, while stainless steel lends the kitchen a sterile, clinical feel.
Frappied recommends homeowners avoid laminate altogether. While it is certainly a cost-effective material, it does not withstand the test of time and often begins to peel and chip.
When asked for one final piece of advice to homeowners going through the process of selecting kitchen countertop materials, Frappied shares an important reminder: “Just have fun with it. This is a home and space that you want to grow in. Think about those characteristics you want to see.”