20 Kitchen Countertops: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

  • 01 of 20

    Kitchen Countertops - Ideas, Pictures

    Cambria Kitchen Countertop
    Cambria Kitchen Countertop. © Cambria

    Kitchen countertops are a huge decision, both in terms of cost and longevity of materials.

    Along with a synopsis of the material and pros and cons, I give a "Smart Idea or Not?" opinion relative to the suitability of the countertop for average residential kitchen use.

    For example, as unique and exciting as they are, slate, zinc, aluminum, stainless steel, and recycled glass slab are not feasible for the average homeowner.  They are too expensive and too hard to maintain for most people.

     More...MORE ordinary--and practical--offerings are engineered stone (quartz), solid surface, laminate, and slab granite.

    Continue to 2 of 20 below.
  • 02 of 20

    Slab Granite: The Safe Bet

    Modern kitchen
    Astronaut Images / Getty Images

    Briefly

    Large slabs of granite are quarried and fabricated by experienced installers.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Though a bit dated, of the 3 main types of granite countertops--slab, modular, and tile--the most highly valued type remains:  slab.  

    Pros

    • Proven by research to increase kitchen's value.
    • No or very few seams.
    • Install slab granite in your kitchen if you're certain you will selling later on; it's a safe bet that others will like it, too.

    Cons

    • High price.
    • Radon danger possible (the jury is still out on...MORE this).
    • Is granite's prestige beginning to wane?
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  • 03 of 20

    Modular Granite: Slab Without So Many Seams

    modular granite kitchen countertops
    © Artisan Granite

    Briefly

    Medium-sized granite sheets, larger than tiles but smaller than slabs, can be DIY-installed.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Modular granite sounds great, in theory.  But it just hasn't taken hold.  Supplies are limited and DIY-installation is more difficult than it seems.

    Pros

    • Possible to install by a homeowner. The hardest part is hefting the slabs around.
    • Inexpensive by granite countertop standards.

    Cons

    • Seams are found in modular granite countertops.

    Brand Names

    Pedra, Artisan Granite.

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  • 04 of 20

    Tile Granite: Stone You Can Install Yourself

    Tile Granite Counters
    © Cupan Custom Tile and Paint; Flicker

    Briefly

    Small, manageable tiles of granite that can be purchased from tile stores and DIY-installed. 

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.

    Pros

    • Some degree of prestige. But you may find that even good laminate works for you better than tile granite.
    • Can be installed by the homeowner in a weekend or two.  By far, tile granite counters are the cheapest and easiest type of granite to install.

    Cons

    • Considered by many homebuyers to be a far inferior type of countertop material.  Home buyers (and Realtors) will instantly...MORE see through this ultimate DIY granite installation.  Careful with this one.
    • Many seams in the granite to impede your cooking preparation.
    • Granite tiles are thinner than slab or modular.
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  • 05 of 20

    Quartz Countertops: Natural and Manmade Combined

    Worker Using a Level to Install Solid Surface Countertop
    BanksPhotos / Getty Images

    Briefly

    Quartz countertops are composed of pulverized waste rock, plus resins for hardness and binding. Many quartz counters have antibacterial agents added.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Very smart.  Quartz counters are the best of all worlds.  Imagine a counter with natural attributes (like granite) but with the predictability of solid surface (like Corain).

    Pros

    • Beautiful due to inclusion of quartz crystals.
    • High resale value.
    • More 3D and rich than solid surface counters.

    Cons

    • Exceedingly heavy.
    • Expensive. Quartz...MORE counters, while lovely, do come with as high a price tag as granite
    • Lacks the 3D depth and richness of real stone.
    • Must be installed only be experienced installers. No DIY option.

    Brand Names

    Cambria, DuPont Zodiaq, Silestone Quartz.

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  • 06 of 20

    Solid Surface: Mostly Manmade Countertops

    Solid Surface Kitchen Countertop
    Solid Surface Kitchen Countertop. © DuPont

    Briefly

    Solid surface is a largely acrylic polymer-based countertop material. Corian® is the most prominent example of solid surface kitchen countertop material.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Very smart.  Solid surface is durable, cost-effective, and looking better all the time.

    Pros

    • Cheaper than granite or quartz.
    • The appearance of solid-surface approaches that of granite/quartz.
    • Minor scratches can be sanded or buffed out with fine sandpaper.

    Cons

    • Prone to scorching and scratching.
    • While cheaper than organic...MORE materials, the solid surface should never be thought of as a bargain alternative.

    Brand Names

    Corian, Silestone, Avonite, Hanex.

    Continue to 7 of 20 below.
  • 07 of 20

    Laminate Counters: Good Looks, Hollow Feel

    Kitchen Countertop
    Laminate Kitchen Countertop. © Wilsonart

    Briefly

    Particle board base topped with laminate sheets. 

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Smart.  Long considered the black sheep of the countertop industry, laminate 

    Pros

    • Inexpensive.
    • Easily a DIY project when you install pre-fabricated laminate counter slabs.  If you're feeling especially creative, you can make laminate counters from scratch by laminating the material on particle board and routing off the waste.

    Cons

    • Considered "cheap" by some home buyers; may not fly if you're trying to sell your...MORE house.
    • Can peel up, chip, and scorch easily.
    • Because the base is particle board--and particle board is insubstantial--it makes the entire countertop feel hollow.  Laminate does not have the solid feel of natural stone or even solid surfaces.

    Brand Names

    Formica, WilsonArt.

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  • 08 of 20

    Ceramic Tile Counters: Easy DIY But Difficult To Use

    All things white
    Shannon Miller / Getty Images

    Briefly

    To install ceramic tile ranging from six inches to twelve inches square on top of the backer board.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Cheap and simple to install, but the multiplicity of tile seams holds many homeowners back from this option.

    Pros

    • Extremely cheap - cheapest kitchen countertop option available.
    • Very easy to install yourself.

    Cons

    • Many tile seams make this difficult for cooks to use.
    • Grout gets dirty.  You must clean dirty grout and, in some cases, replace the grout altogether.
    • Tiles prone...MORE to cracking.

    Brand Names

    N/A. Brand names of tile manufacturers only.

    Continue to 9 of 20 below.
  • 09 of 20

    Concrete Counters: Chic and Trendy...But Practical?

    Home of interior designer Selina van der Geest
    Andreas von Einsiedel / Getty Images

    Briefly

    Concrete poured into forms on-site.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Found mainly in high-end homes, these counters are expensive and require more maintenance than one might expect from concrete.

    Pros

    • A great conversation piece:  everyone who visits your home will comment on them.
    • Can be shaped to fit any size.

    Cons

    • Heavy materials require special bracing.
    • Expensive custom work.

    Brand Names

    No national brands; only local shops.

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  • 10 of 20

    Stainless Steel Counters: Serious Cooks Only

    Interiors of a kitchen
    Glow Decor / Getty Images

    Briefly

    Stainless steel kitchen countertops have now officially left the restaurant and entered the home. 

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Stainless steel, while a fine surface, is still prohibitively expensive for the average person remodeling a kitchen.

    Pros

    • Germ-resistant.
    • Beautiful.
    • Scratches can be polished out.

    Cons

    • Expensive..
    • Difficult to fabricate.

    Brand Names

    Advance Tabco, A-Line, John Boos, Frigo Design.

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  • 11 of 20

    Soapstone Counters: Lush-Feeling, Scratch-Prone

    Soapstone sink
    John Burke / Getty Images

    Briefly

    Not as soft as you might think, soapstone countertops are akin to marble, and impart a classic look to your kitchen.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Soapstone's rarity as a countertop material drives its price higher than most consumers are willing to go.

    Pros

    • Warm feeling, due to high amount of talc in material.
    • Give kitchen an antique look.
    • Distinctive conversation piece--soapstone is rarely used for kitchen counters anymore.

    Cons

    • While harder than you might think, soapstone still will gouge and...MORE scratch. This weathered patina is part of owning natural stone counters.
    • Rather expensive. Soapstone counters range from $70 to $120 per square foot.

    Brand Names

    Continue to 12 of 20 below.
  • 12 of 20

    Paper Composite: Green Option Sturdier Than You May Imagine

    Paperstone Paper Countertop
    Paperstone Paper Countertop. © Paperstone

    Briefly

    Paper countertops are actually composite countertops, made of paper impregnated with resins. 

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Because this is a special order item, prices are high, supplies are limited, and fabricators may be hesitant to work with this unique material.

    Pros

    • Considered a "green," eco-friendly alternative to that other composite countertops--laminate.
    • Even the resins are green (not petroleum-based).

    Cons

    • Not readily available at your local kitchen design center. Requires special order.

    Bra...MOREnd Names

    EcoTop, PaperStone, Richlite, ShetkaSTONE.

    Learn more about paper composite countertops.

    Continue to 13 of 20 below.
  • 13 of 20

    Recycled Glass Slab Counter: Feel-Good Product That Looks Good

    Recycled Glass Slab Countertop
    Recycled Glass Slab Countertop. © Vetrazzo

    Briefly

    Recycled glass melted down into glass slabs.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not so much.  Here's the funny thing.  If you believe that glass slab counters must look transparent or translucent, or embedded with little beer bottle-looking chips--in other words, like glass--you're mistaken.  Some slabs do look like this, yes.  But in many cases, glass slabs look like natural stone or altogether original creations.  Why not get quartz or engineered stone counters then?

    Pros

    • Uses recycled glass, so it's...MORE very green.  In the case of Vetrazzo, a major glass slab maker, they use 85% glass by volume to make the slabs, of which 100% is recycled glass.
    • Hard and non-absorbent.
    • Unique colors.

    Cons

    • A specialized material, often hard to obtain.
    • Few companies know how to fabricate glass slab counters; must be certified.
    • Costly.

    Brand Names

    Bottlestone, Enviroglass, TorZo, Vetrazzo.

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  • 14 of 20

    Recycled Glass Tile: Not On Kitchen Counters

    Recycled Glass Tile on Countertop
    Recycled Glass Tile on Countertop. © Bedrock Industries

    Briefly

    Individual glass tiles mounted on a backer board.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    No way.  Glass tile is not durable enough for kitchen use.

    Pros

    • Inexpensive way to get recycled glass on your kitchen countertops (vs. the more expensive recycled slab glass counters).
    • Can be installed by yourself.
    • Materials readily available.

    Cons

    • Seams between tiles make countertop surface less-than-desirable.
    • Too prone to breaking, chipping, cracking.
    • Not a viable countertop material.

    Brand Names

    Bedrock Industries, Sandhill,...MORE Fuez, Lightstreams

    Continue to 15 of 20 below.
  • 15 of 20

    Recycled Aluminum Countertops: Not What You Think

    Recycled Aluminum Kitchen Counters
    Recycled Aluminum Kitchen Counters. © Alkemi

    Briefly

    If you envision aluminum counters being solid metal surfaces like restaurants' stainless steel counters, you're wrong.  Aluminum counters are closer to quartz (engineered stone) or solid surface than to stainless steel.  They are made of waste aluminum flake, solid surface scrap, and recycled acrylic.  So, the aluminum is blended in for appearance, not to create a homogeneous surface.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Interesting, but it's an idea whose time has not yet arrived.

    Pros

    • Used up to 97% recycled...MORE content.
    • Creates a sleek, contemporary style.
    • Eco-friendly.  No VOCs.

    Cons

    • Expensive and still not widely used in residential applications.

    Brand Names

    Alkemi, Eleek

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  • 16 of 20

    Wood Kitchen Counters: New and Reclaimed

    Wood Countertop on Kitchen Island
    Wood Countertop on Kitchen Island. © Craft Art

     

    Briefly

    New or reclaimed sealed wood.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    So-so.  With wood being an organic material that does not mix well with water, most homeowners envision rotting, moldy wood that needs to be replaced after a few years of use.  That vision is partly true:  if you don't keep up on the constant maintenance, wood will rot quickly.  Are you willing to take on the upkeep?

    Reclaimed Wood

    You can take green remodeling a step further by installing reclaimed wood counters.  Barns, flooring, siding, and...MORE yes, even old wood counters, are repurposed and made into wood counters for an antique and truly unique look.  Look in architectural salvage yards for raw materials.

    Pros

    • Green and eco-friendly.
    • Highly distinctive.  Who else has wood counters?  Not many.
    • Imparts a classic look in your kitchen.

    Cons

    • Requires some research and legwork to find the right materials.
    • Does require significant sealing with tung oil.  Craft Art recommends that a certified service provider does this.

    Brand Names

    Continue to 17 of 20 below.
  • 17 of 20

    Zinc Kitchen Counters: From The Bar To The Home?

    zinc countertops
    © Brooks Custom

    Briefly

    Zinc sheets topping a base material.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not so much.  Zinc countertops are found frequently in fiction from Ernest Hemingway set in Paris bars. But high cost keeps them out of most residential kitchens.

    Pros

    • Easy to sand out scratches.
    • The ultimate conversation piece.
    • Beautiful patina achieved through age and wear.

    Cons

    • Softer than stainless steel.
    • Zinc countertops are a specialty item--require custom fabrication.
    Continue to 18 of 20 below.
  • 18 of 20

    Non-Recycled Glass Kitchen Counters: More Range

    Briefly

    High-tensile glass formed into slabs.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Unless you live in a major metro area, it's difficult to find fabricators who will deal with glass counters.

    Pros

    • Resists bacteria.
    • Heat-, scratch-, mold-, and stain-resistant.
    • Unusual and captivating look that cannot be duplicated by any other countertop material.

    Cons

    • While glass countertops do have high tensile strength, they are still glass--and can crack.
    • Few countertop fabricators are equipped to install this special material.

    Bran...MOREd Names

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  • 19 of 20

    Bamboo Kitchen Countertops: Counter-Level Green

    Bamboo Kitchen Countertops
    © Teragren

    Briefly

    Bamboo heavily impregnated with resins.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Bamboo gives your counters "green" cachet, but this material is difficult to find.

    Pros

    • Eco-friendly.
    • Attractive wood-like appearance.
    • Some types of bamboo kitchen counters are even harder than hardwood.

    Cons

    • The product still relies on a significant amount of adhesives to promote a solid surface.
    • Long lead-time for delivery and fabrication as bamboo counters are still a rare item.

    Brand Names

    Teragren

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  • 20 of 20

    Slate Countertops: Rustic and Down-To-Earth

    Slate Kitchen Countertops
    Van Dusen Architects; Designer Nicola Dowling Interiors LLC; Via Vermont Structural Slate Company

    Briefly

    Slate quarried straight from the earth, cut into slabs, and ground to a matte finish.

    Smart Idea or Not?

    Not.  Slate kitchen countertops are gorgeous--yet this is an idea that is still found in very few homes.

    Pros

    • Low absorption rate.
    • Resists stains.
    • Resists bacteria very well.

    Cons

    • Slate does have a gritty, matte texture that may not be well-suited for many kitchen preparation applications.

    Brand Names

    Vermont Structural Slate Company