A durable countertop makes cooking more pleasurable and it enhances the value of the kitchen and home. Hot pans, spills, and scratches are just a few of the stresses applied to countertops every day, so durability is a major factor to consider when shopping for countertops.
What Countertop Durability Is
Countertop durability is a collection of qualities that help a countertop remain functional and attractive for as long as possible, under normal conditions. Durability qualities include hardness, heat resistance, crack resistance, warp resistance, and stain resistance.
A countertop can be highly durable in one way but not durable in another way. For example, granite, one of the hardest materials for countertops, falls short in the category of crack resistance. Yet solid surface material, which is softer than granite, is virtually impossible to crack.
So, countertop durability is about striking the right balance of durability qualities that work for the space and for your needs.
5 Durability Qualities to Look for in Countertops
- Hardness: Harder countertops are more resistant to chips, scratches, and gouges. Granite, tile, and quartz are among the hardest countertop materials.
- Heat resistance: Some countertop materials are better than others at resisting heat from pots and pans. Ceramic tile counters and stainless steel are virtually impervious to hot cookware.
- Crack resistance: Hardness does not necessarily confer crack resistance. Granite is hard, but it is prone to cracking. Laminate and solid surface will not crack under normal conditions.
- Warp resistance: Countertops that are less likely to become distorted or misshapen are more durable. Any countertop that incorporates wood—such as laminate or wood counters—may be subject to warping.
- Stain resistance: A countertop material that resists stains is more durable. Porosity is one factor. All materials are porous to some degree. But countertops that are less porous are less apt to absorb liquids and bacteria.
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Quartz is a synthetic countertop material made from natural quartz, other minerals, and binding resins. Quartz is resistant to scratches, stains, and heat, plus it's non-porous. This makes quartz one of the most durable countertops you can buy for your kitchen or bathroom.
Quartz is one of the more expensive countertop materials, with prices ranging from $60 to $120 per square foot, including installation.Pros
Will not delaminate
Typically requires professional installation
Scratches and repairs need to be addressed professionally
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Solid Surface Countertops
Solid surface countertop material is a synthetic mixture of acrylic or polyester resins with natural minerals and pigments. Solid surface is easy to clean, stain resistant, and hard enough to resist ordinary scratching. Corian, Avonite, and Swanstone are representative brands of solid surface countertop material.
Solid surface usually costs less than quartz or granite countertops, at about $50 to $80 per square foot, installed.Pros
Available in a wide range of styles
Easy to clean
Scratches can be sanded out
Not the most durable option
Can melt, warp, or burn under high heat
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Formed deep in the earth, granite is an igneous rock that is later quarried and fabricated into one of the hardest and most durable materials for kitchen countertops. Granite imparts style and value to any home. Though countertop trends come and go, slab granite countertops maintain a high level of popularity and buyer acceptance.
One of the most expensive countertops, granite costs about $50 to $120 per square foot, installed.Pros
Hard and durable
Won't absorb liquids or bacteria if treated with a sealer
Requires sealing every 1-3 years
Edges and corners can chip
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Tile countertops are notable for being one of few countertops that can easily be installed by a do-it-yourselfer. It's also one of the few countertops that are truly heat proof, not just heat resistant. When you consider that tiles are fired at temperatures up to 2,500 F, a hot pan from the stove will be no problem for the tile.
One of the least expensive durable countertops, tile counters range from $20 to $40 per square foot installed.Pros
Easy to clean
Not easily scratched
Glazed tile is almost 100% waterproof
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Seams and grout can be difficult to clean
Tiles are prone to chipping and cracking
Grout is not waterproof
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Laminate countertops are made by layering thin laminate material on top of a fiberboard base. Wrapped edges help avoid the distinctive black line common to laminate countertops of the past, plus they reduce edge-chipping. Laminate has seen a resurgence in recent years, with more homeowners attracted to tougher transparent wear layers and realistic imaging.
Laminate countertops are one of the most affordable options for durable countertops. Prices range from $20 to $60 per square foot installed.Pros
Resistant to scratches
Some layers are heat-resistant up to 275 degrees F
Delamination can occur
Typically not compatible with undermount sinks
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Maple, acacia, white oak, and black walnut are just a few of the hardwoods that are used to make wood countertops. All species rank high on the Janka scale, a hardness rating system much like the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Wood is a gorgeous, natural material for countertops—in fact, the only durable countertop that's sourced from organic, sustainable materials.
Wood countertops can cost as little as $15 per square foot, on up to as much as $150 per square foot, depending on the wood species you choose.Pros
Won't crack on impact
Gentle on cookware
Warm to the touch
Coatings like tung oil and mineral oil give it a soft appearance and help protect the surface.
Moisture can cause wood rot and warping
Need to be re-coated with oil twice a year
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Sleek and austere, concrete countertops are made from a mixture of cement, aggregate, and water. While simple concrete counters can be built by a DIYer, most concrete counters require professional fabrication and installation. Moderately durable, concrete countertops are not limited by the shape of the kitchens or cabinets: They can be custom-made to fit any kitchen.
With looks that resemble granite and quartz, concrete countertops are typically less expensive than granite or quartz. Prices of concrete counters in a kitchen range from $40 to $100 per square foot installed.Pros
Can be susceptible to scratching and staining
Requires frequent topical sealer application
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Stainless Steel Countertops
Long used in professional kitchens, stainless steel is a metal that is resistant to stains and scratches. It is completely heat proof. Non-porous and easy to clean, stainless steel countertops usually need to be professionally installed.
With installation costs ranging from $55 to $120 per square foot, stainless steel is one of the more expensive countertop options.Pros
Easy to clean
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Can dent easily
Will show fingerprints
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Like granite, marble is a natural stone created within the earth by high heat and pressure. Unlike granite, marble is a limestone. So, while marble is relatively durable and resistant to heat, it is prone to scratching and staining.
Marble countertops are typically more expensive than other materials but in line with granite and quartz, with prices ranging from $50 to $100 per square foot installed.Pros
Adds a luxurious appearance
Wide range of color and pattern options
Prone to scratching and staining
Must be sealed frequently
Easily chips or cracks
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Soapstone countertops are valued for their tactile qualities, often described as soft or velvety. Soapstone, a metamorphic rock, contains a high percentage of talcum, the material used to make baby powder. Chemically inert, soapstone has long been used for countertops in science laboratories. It's also notable among durable countertops for being heat proof and scorch proof.
Soapstone countertops are as expensive as granite or quartz countertops: around $75 to $120 per square foot installed.Pros
Not susceptible to cracking
Treating repels acidic liquids
Soft to the touch
Can be sanded smooth
Color-matching can be challenging
What is the best countertop for your money?
Ceramic, porcelain, or stone tiles tend to be the best countertop for your money, since they can be self-installed, saving on labor costs.
What is more durable: granite or quartz?
Overall, quartz countertops are more durable than granite countertops because binders in the engineered stone control cracking and scratching.
What is the least maintenance countertop material?
Smooth and mostly seam-free, laminate counters are one of the easiest to maintain countertop materials.
How Heat Resistant Is Quartz Countertop? Caesarstone
Mohs Hardness Scale. National Park Service (U.S.)
Granite and Granodiorite FAQ. National Park Service (U.S.)
Preserving Historic Ceramic Tile Floors. National Park Service (U.S.)