Professional Advice On Choosing Kitchen Countertop Materials

Choosing the right countertop is a complicated decision. Learn your options.

Choosing the right countertop material for a new kitchen design depends on style, maintenance, durability, and price. Here's a breakdown on countertop choice.

Whether you've decided to remodel your kitchen, are building a custom home, or giving your existing kitchen a facelift, countertops can set the tone and style of this most important room in your home. Countertops are almost as important as the layout of your kitchen. Today, the choices can be overwhelming! With a wealth of manmade and natural materials in every possible color and pattern available, you have more options than ever before.

While it's tempting to choose a countertop based solely on aesthetics, you need to consider a material's durability, maintenance needs, and cost before making a final choice.

Finding The Right Fit For Your Countertop Material

Start by defining a few parameters. First, how do you live? If you've got small children who love making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all by themselves when they come home from school, imported white Carrera marble might not be the best choice!

Do you love to cook? Are you always chopping, and preparing food? Maybe a maple butcher block is the answer. Looking for an eco-friendly option? solid surface composites like Paperstone, IceStone and Richlite are sustainable and releases no VOCs. Love to bake? Marble stays cool and is the perfect surface to knead your bread dough.

Deciding Which Countertop Materials Fit Your Lifestyle

The good news is that with so many choices available, even if you have your heart set on a particular look, but the material doesn't match your needs or lifestyle, there's probably a similar material that can fit your needs.

Natural Stone - Stone surfaces are a top choice, and granite is the most popular, comes in a wide variety of colors and each slab is unique. Granite is available in several different finishes. A polished surface is shiny and almost luminescent, while honed granite is softer and offers a matte finish. Brushed and antiqued  Granite's cost can vary widely. Common stone like Ubatuba will be more affordable than an exotic choice like Labradorite. If your choice ranges to the unique, an imported stone that only ships once a year, for example, onyx can be very pricey!

Granite - Granite is by far the most popular option for low to mid-priced kitchen design, but it is not the only choice in natural stone. Marble, limestone, quartzite, and soapstone are great options but they are softer than granite and require occasional care like sealing. Even truly exotic stone onyx is available if money's no object!

Engineered Stone - Another alternative comes in the form of engineered stone. Countertops in quartz are made by using chips of stone and resin. They offer the feel of natural stone, are practically bullet proof and come in every imaginable color. Regarding cost, manufactured stone countertops twice the roughly the cost of least expensive granite.

Solid Surface - If you're looking for practicality, consider solid surface countertops such as Corian which is acrylic or eco versions like Paperstone or Richlite which is recycled paper and resin. Solid surface Corian is value priced. It was very popular in the late 1980's and 90's. Solid surface Eco countertop materials like Paperstone, Richlite are manufactured using paper and resin. These are more popular than Corian because they are perceived as less dated and some homeowners have an interest in using recycled materials. Solid surface materials are not our go to choice for our clients kitchen countertops.

Solid surface is available in a wide range of colors and like most countertop materials it is custom cut to fit your kitchen and any scratches can be easily buffed out returning your counters to like new condition! The one major drawback is that solid surfaces can be damaged by hot pots or pans over 350 degrees Fahrenheit. We occasionally use Corian for laundry rooms, utility rooms and locations where value and practicality are important.

Custom-Made Concrete - Concrete countertops were quite popular just a few years ago but it's a material we no longer recommended. Concrete countertops can be customized with pigment, water-based stained, acid stained and washed and polished for a unique look. It comes in several different finishes. Concrete countertops are made to order and can be trowel finished for a smooth surface, ground to expose the sand aggregate or pressed with a tool that reveals a marble like veining. It takes a special client who values the inconsistancies in color and the hairline cracks that often comes with concrete countertops. Like the patina on copper or stainless steel countertops, they will often look distressed quickly.

Concrete needs to be carefully maintained. Extreme or abrupt changes in temperature can cause warping or curling, a damp sponge left on the countertop can cause staining, and acids like vinegar can etch the surface. For best results, concrete needs to be sealed four times a year, and a paste wax should be applied every couple of months.

Wood Countertops - Wood is a traditional countertop material that can immediately warm up your kitchen. Wooden countertops like maple or walnut butcher block are easy to clean, and small scratches can be sanded out. Water can damage wooden countertops so to keep them in pristine condition requires frequent oiling to seal the surface.

Laminate Countertops - The most affordable countertop material on the market is laminate. It comes in a wide variety of colors and designs. Unfortunately, while it is extremely affordable, it's easily scorched if a hot pan comes in contact, and it's easily scratched. That being said, newer laminate countertops are being made with highly scratch resistant surfaces and if your new kitchen design is in keeping with a mid-century style, a laminate countertop is in keeping with that style.

Finishing Touches - Edges, Mixed Materials and Specialty Items

While square or eased edges are standard, a variety of choices for decorative edging is available. Edge styles include radius, bullnose, bevel, dupont, toulmin, and ogee cost a bit more but are a great way to customize your kitchen. Edge styles available depend on the countertop material.

Today, many designers are customizing kitchen counters to meet the specific needs of clients by combining different materials to create a truly custom kitchen. For example, granite countertops throughout the kitchen with a walnut countertop on the island. Have a budding chef in the family? Try custom inserts like a compost cute or an integrated drain board with runnels. Love to bake? Consider an inlaid marble section for rolling dough, or a butcher block cutting station for preparing those rich winter soups on a cold day! 

Before you make a final decision, try to see and touch the surfaces in person. The best option is to discuss your choices with your designer by arranging a visit to our showroom. With all of the choices available today, with a little research, you're sure to find the perfect countertop to match your stylistic and lifestyle needs!


About Toulmin Kitchen & Bath Design - We're West Alabama's award-winning, premier kitchen and bath showroom. We're experts who are known for a design-build process that makes the construction process stress-free. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a design consultation