Top 10 Materials for Kitchen Countertops

There are lots of options on the market for kitchen countertops, but 10 materials comprise the majority of countertops in residential kitchens. Consider the pros and cons of each type, and follow the links to learn more about each type when making your own decision. 

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Pros and Cons of the Top Kitchen Counter Surfaces

  • 01 of 10

    Granite

    Custom kitchen with granite slab counter tops
    David Papazian/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    For some time, granite has been the countertop material of choice when there are no other things to think about—such as money. Granite defines elegance in a kitchen. Even modest kitchens seem like luxury spaces when flavored by the beauty of granite countertops. 

    Historically, granite has been an expensive material, but its cost has come down somewhat as supplies have increased and engineered stone has become more common. 

    Pros

    • Almost impervious to heat

    • Very strong and durable

    • Adds real estate value to home

    • Nearly 3,000 different colors and types available

    • Nearly maintenance-free when treated with newer sealers

    Cons

    • Very expensive material

    • Not suitable for DIY installation

    • Slabs may have imperfections

    • Can crack if stressed or improperly installed

    • Knives are quickly dulled by cutting on granite

    • Stone is porous and requires sealing to avoid stains

  • 02 of 10

    Soapstone

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    For The Love Of A House

    Soapstone is another natural stone, usually dark gray in color with a smooth, silky feel. It has seen a recent resurgence as an alternative to granite. Soapstone is often seen in historic homes but is also used in modern homes as both a countertop and sink material. Over time, soapstone takes on an antique-like patina that can be very attractive in certain kitchen styles. 

    Contrary to expectations, the architectural soapstone used for countertops is actually quite hard and resistant to stain. However, it will scratch over time, although this can add to the antique patina of the stone.

    Pros

    • Deep, rich color

    • Somewhat stain resistant

    • Fairly impervious to heat

    • Damage can be sanded out

    • Offers antique, historic look to a kitchen

    Cons

    • May darken over time

    • DIY installation not possible

    • Must be treated with mineral oil

    • Surface can scratch and dent, though this can create an attractive antique look

  • 03 of 10

    Marble

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    Home Bunch

    Another natural stone commonly used in kitchen countertops is marble. Because no two sheets of marble are exactly the same, each marble countertop will be entirely unique.

    Because of its extremely high price tag, marble is not often seen on the countertops of whole kitchens. More often, its luxurious look is limited to use on an island or section of countertop reserved as a baking center.

    Although highly prized, marble may not be the best choice for kitchens, due to its penchant for staining and scratching. Newer sealers can reduce the upkeep on marble, but this is a considerably more temperamental stone than granite or soapstone.

    Pros

    • Waterproof and heatproof

    • Adds to real estate value of a home

    • Exceptionally beautiful stone, with unique veining

    Cons

    • Expensive

    • DIY installation not possible

    • Can be scratched; repairs are difficult

    • Stone is porous and stains easily unless sealed

  • 04 of 10

    Quartz (Engineered Stone)

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    Pinterest

    The countertop material known as "quartz" is actually an engineered stone product that contains as much as 93 percent quartz particles and other minerals, shaped into slabs and bound with resins. These are not solid quartz slabs produced by quarrying.

    Sold by companies such as DuPont Zodiaq, LG Viatera, Cambria, and Silestone, quartz was created as a more adaptable and better-performing alternative to granite and marble. It is available in a larger range of colors than granite and has a nonporous surface that resists both scratching and staining. Some types are convincing copies of natural marble, with similar veining. Unlike natural stone, engineered quartz requires no annual sealing.

    Similar technology is now being used in so-called glass countertops, which consist of particles of recycled glass blended with resins and shaped into countertop slabs. Consumers keen on being on the cutting edge may want to consider glass as well as quartz countertops. 

    Pros

    • DIY installation possible

    • Easy to maintain, no sealing required

    • Slabs are uniform, with no imperfections

    • Can be custom-fabricated in any size and shape

    • Resists stains and is impervious to heat and acid

    • More convincing, natural appearance than solid surface material

    Cons

    • Expensive

    • Countertops are very heavy

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Solid-Surface Material

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    Formica.com

    Solid-surface material, sold under brands including Avonite, Corian, and Swanstone, is a man-made material consisting of a blend of acrylic particles and resins that are pressed into sheets and other shapes. Solid-surface countertops and sinks have now been around for nearly 50 years, but at the time of introduction, they were regarded as space-age alternatives to natural stone, which they sought to mimic. 

    Once regarded as premium, luxury countertops, solid-surface material is now considered somewhat mid-tier, but it is still an excellent choice for mid-range kitchens. It can also be a good material in high-end kitchens with a lot of countertop space that would be prohibitively expensive to cover with granite or quartz. 

    Pros

    • Resists staining

    • Seams are virtually invisible

    • Damage can be easily sanded out

    • Available in many, many colors and patterns

    • Integrated sink/countertop units are available

    Cons

    • Moderately expensive

    • Vulnerable to damage from hot pans

    • No DIY installation; must be fabricated by pros

  • 06 of 10

    Ceramic Tile

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    Pinterest

    Ceramic tile is durable and easy to clean, and it is considerably less expensive than natural stone, quartz, or solid-surface countertops, especially for DIYers willing to do their own work.

    Recent innovations in porcelain tiles offer many more design options than ever before, including tiles that look like wood, marble, or even leather or cork. Ceramic and porcelain tiles offer more design options than nearly any other countertop material. 

    Pros

    • Easy to clean

    • Usually affordable

    • Easy for DIYers to construct

    • Immune to heat damage from hot pans

    • An enormous range of colors and styles available

    Cons

    • Custom tiles can be very expensive

    • Tile are brittle and may crack under impact

    • Grout lines can stain and are difficult to clean

    • Does not carry the same prestige as granite or quartz

  • 07 of 10

    Laminates

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    Lemon Thistle

    Laminate counters bear trademarks such as Formica, Nevamar, and Wilsonart. The laminates are plastic-coated synthetics with a smooth surface that's easy to clean. Countertops are made by bonding the laminate sheets to a particleboard (MDF) core. Laminate countertops can be purchased as pre-formed segments (called post-form countertops), or custom-fabricated to specifications, either on-site or in a fabrication shop. 

    Although for many years regarded as ​a poor cousin to more premium countertop materials, laminates have seen a recent surge in popularity, thanks in part to the thousands of colors, patterns, and styles now available. Laminates are especially popular in retro designs, particular mid-century modern kitchens.

    Pros

    • Very easy to maintain

    • Thousands of options available

    • DIY installation is relatively easy​

    • Very inexpensive countertop option

    Cons

    • Seams are always visible

    • May be viewed as "low-end" by potential home buyers

    • Custom edging and backsplash treatments can add expense

    • Surfaces can be scratched and chipped; damage is almost impossible to repair

  • 08 of 10

    Wood or Butcher Block

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    Apartment Therapy

    Wood countertops offer a beautiful warm look and are available in a wide range of colors and finishes. Hardwoods such as maple and oak are the species most often used as countertop woods.

    Pros

    • Relatively easy to clean

    • Very long-lasting when properly cared for

    • Can be sanded and resealed, as needed

    • Offers a quaint, country look in most kitchens

    Cons

    • Fairly expensive countertop material

    • Surfaces can be scratched and cut by knives

    • Can be damaged by water and stains over time

    • Bacteria can be a problem if not properly maintained

    • Wood is subject to cracking if not maintained; must be oiled and sealed frequently

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Stainless Steel

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    House Plans Blog

    For a really contemporary and industrial look for your kitchen, stainless steel is a good choice. Stainless steel countertops are heat resistant and durable. Because they're constructed to your specifications, you can have a seamless countertop.

    Pros

    • Impervious to heat damage

    • Excellent for modern-style kitchens

    • Easiest of all countertop materials to clean

    • Regarded as "premium" countertop; adds real estate value

    Cons

    • Noisy

    • Very expensive to fabricate

    • Can be easily scratched; not a cutting surface

  • 10 of 10

    Concrete

    Top 10 Kitchen Countertops
    One Kind Design

    If you have countertops in unusual shapes, or if you want a truly unique kitchen, concrete may be a good choice for your countertops. Due to their heavy weight, concrete countertops are usually cast in forms right in your kitchen. These are not the same kind of concrete slabs used in sidewalks, but highly polished slabs that may even be textured or acid-stained to produce colors. 

    Although concrete can be subject to cracking, new treatments can reduce this tendency. The porousness of concrete can be reduced with additives. 

    Pros

    • Can be color-tinted

    • Heat and scratch resistant

    • Provides a look that is exotic and unusual

    • Decorative textures and colors are possible

    Cons

    • No DIY installation possible

    • Cracking may occur over time

    • Costs are high due to custom work

    • Surface is porous unless regularly sealed

    • Appearance may seem "industrial'; may be viewed negatively by future home buyers