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.
Pros and Cons of the Top Kitchen Counter Surfaces
01 of 10
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.
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
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 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.
Deep, rich color
Somewhat stain resistant
Fairly impervious to heat
Damage can be sanded out
Offers antique, historic look to a kitchen
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
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.
Waterproof and heatproof
Adds to real estate value of a home
Exceptionally beautiful stone, with unique veining
DIY installation not possible
Can be scratched; repairs are difficult
Stone is porous and stains easily unless sealed
04 of 10
Quartz (Engineered Stone)
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.
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
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
Countertops are very heavy
05 of 10
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.
Seams are virtually invisible
Damage can be easily sanded out
Available in many, many colors and patterns
Integrated sink/countertop units are available
Vulnerable to damage from hot pans
No DIY installation; must be fabricated by pros
06 of 10
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.
Easy to clean
Easy for DIYers to construct
Immune to heat damage from hot pans
An enormous range of colors and styles available
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
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.
Very easy to maintain
Thousands of options available
DIY installation is relatively easy
Very inexpensive countertop option
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
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.
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
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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
09 of 10
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.
Impervious to heat damage
Excellent for modern-style kitchens
Easiest of all countertop materials to clean
Regarded as "premium" countertop; adds real estate value
Very expensive to fabricate
Can be easily scratched; not a cutting surface
10 of 10
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.
Can be color-tinted
Heat and scratch resistant
Provides a look that is exotic and unusual
Decorative textures and colors are possible
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