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7 Countertop Options to Consider When Creating Your Perfect Kitchen

Countertop - Krista in front of cabinet holding quartz samples

 

If you’re reading this, you’re in the energizing space of imagining possibilities for your home. Each element deserves careful consideration and making so many choices may feel like too much of a good thing. Countertops can be quite costly, and they take up a great deal of design footprint in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. What makes a good countertop? A lot of that is up to your discretion. When making this selection, you must consider your lifestyle and the realistic expected use of this countertop. If you have young children, you may not wish to take on the maintenance of marble compared to other options. We’ve compiled a list of our top 7 countertop options. They are listed by material type and then we’ve offered general information, maintenance, cost, and environmental impact to help you make a countertop choice you’ll be happy with long-term.

1. Granite

Countertop - Granite

Granite is a strong, slightly porous, natural, mined stone. It provides a clean and glossy finish to any kitchen and comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns. Granite mined from India often has a tight pattern of stone flecks and reads as a solid colour from a distance, however there is variation in pattern. Granite mined from Italy often has strong veins running through it. Granite from Brazil offers a wide variety of patterns and colours which can be a statement piece in your kitchen or even your tabletop.

Maintenance: Granite requires minimal maintenance with resealing every two-to-three years. Though it is less porous than marble, it is still possible for it to stain and crack, so wipe up those spills and place pads underneath hot dishes. Cleaning granite is simple as its surface is smooth. Use hot soapy water or non-abrasive chemicals to clean counters quickly.

Cost: Granite is one of the mid to higher-cost options and is comparable to marble.

Environmental Impact: Marble and granite are both mined out of the earth and a great deal of energy is taken to retrieve and ship the slabs from overseas to North America.

2. Marble

Countertop - MarbleMarble is a smooth stone with a matte finish and exquisite lines through the stone. It is less durable than granite. It is porous and not resistant to acidic foods. It is not fully heat resistant. If you are in love with the look of marble, it may be a wonderful addition to your spa bathroom rather than your kitchen, unless you are comfortable living with what we call patina.

Maintenance: It’s important to note that marble requires resealing every six months and spills must be cleaned up immediately or it will stain. There have been developments recently in the sealing and protecting of marble, but if patina will make you crazy, then you are best to go with a quartz instead. Marble is softer, and can be susceptible to scratching, so care must be given to protect the surface. Placing a hot pot on a marble countertop may cause it to crack, so pads must always be used.

Cost: Marble and granite are very similar in price, but marble takes the higher price point when comparing high-end versions of the two.

Environmental Impact: Marble and granite are both mined out of the earth and a great deal of energy is taken to retrieve and ship the slabs from overseas to North America.

3. Soapstone/ Steatite

Countertops - SoapstoneSoapstone is soft to the touch and often has strong white talc veins running through it. Its finish is matte like marble and works well with modern looks. Architectural soapstone is retrieved from Brazil, India, and the United States, while it’s softer sister stone, artistic soapstone, is primarily quarried from Canada. The former is an excellent option for countertops as it can withstand almost anything and retain its carved shape. Soapstone has been used for centuries as its density makes it one of the most durable of the natural stone options. It will darken over time (patina) to tell the story of your family and this can be enhanced by using a mineral oil. This is not necessary for longevity but adds to the look of your soapstone.

Maintenance: Soapstone does not require a sealant and as its particles are so dense, it is not susceptible to bacterial growth. It is not likely to stain from acidic foods, but grease and oil will cause dark spots and should be wiped immediately. As it is heat resistant, a hot dish or pan being placed on the countertop will not harm it. A cutting board should always be used, or it will chip and show knife marks.

Cost: Soapstone is comparable to quartz and granite when including installation in the price.

Environmental Impact: Soapstone is a quarried stone and can have varying impacts depending on where it is quarried from. As most soapstone countertop materials come from overseas, the shipping impact is similar to that of granite and marble.

4. Quartz

Countertops - QuartzThough the name suggests quartz countertops are one solid slab of quartz, they are, in fact, an engineered stone countertop. Quartz countertops are comprised of a combination of only a small amount of quartz with the majority of the stone being crushed up granite, marble, and other recycled materials. As an engineered stone, quartz countertop can mimic granite and marble patterns.

Maintenance: Quartz does not require re-sealing as the base of the binder is a polymer resin or concrete blend. This makes it less porous than even granite. It is stain and heat resistant, but as with all other materials, it is best to be mindful of spills and hot dishes.

Cost: Quartz countertops cost less than granite but are still very similar in price.

Environmental Impact: Though some resin binder ingredients are synthetic, many are now using organic resins derived from vegetable oils. As this is an engineered stone made from leftover materials, there is less physical environmental impact from the act of quarrying out of the earth. One could argue that quartz countertops could not exist without the by-products of quarrying granite and marble and so the environmental impact remains the same as solid natural stones.

5. Concrete

Countertop - ConcreteConcrete is a versatile, customizable countertop option. You can add flecks of stone to mimic natural stone surfaces, add colour pigments to match your home’s colours, or keep it solid grey, sleek and modern. As concrete is made by pouring a mold, it can be easily customizable with angled drainage for drying dishes by the sink or anything else that would suit the needs of the homeowner. As many manufacturers form concrete countertops by adding glass fibers, concrete can be incredibly strong and light. While natural stone countertops need to be well-reinforced if an overhang is desired, concrete can do so with little or no reinforcement. Best of all, no seams!

Maintenance: Concrete countertops are somewhat porous and can stain, so they need to be resealed and waxed regularly. Spills must be cleaned immediately.

Cost: While concrete materials are not as expensive as granite and marble, concrete countertops are a custom product and forming the moulds takes time and labour. This means that concrete has a high-end price-tag.

Environmental Impact: Cement production causes emissions to the environment and takes a lot of energy, but concrete can be recycled when it is no longer usable as its initial function. Concrete countertops use local ingredients and so they are not as impactful on a global scale.

6. Butcher Block

Countertop - Butcher BlockButcher block wood countertops add to the rustic feel of a kitchen. If well-maintained, they offer a long useful life. They are often made of maple, cherry, or red oak. Butcher block is formed by gluing long pieces of wood together and oiling them.

There are three primary options for butcher block styles to choose from.

  1. Edge grain has long wooden strips glued together with the narrow edge facing up and showcases the grains of the wood.
  2. Face grain has long wooden strips glued together with the wider edge facing up. It has fewer grains than edge grain and provides a more solid look.
  3. End grain is formed by square blocks of wood glued together in an almost checkerboard formation. It is the strongest and most expensive option due to its ability to hide knife marks and that it will not dull knives as easily as other options.

Maintenance: Butcher block requires some extra maintenance compared to other countertops. Every six months, you must oil your countertop. Wood sealants are not suggested for kitchen surfaces as they are not food safe. If using a butcher block countertop in another area of the home such as a bathroom or laundry room, a sealant may be an option and will allow for less strict maintenance.

Cost: Butcher block countertops are more expensive than granite and less expensive than marble or other natural stones.

Environmental Impact: As butcher block is comprised of wood, a renewable resource, it is less impactful than natural stone, but still has an energy impact through its manufacturing process and use of glues. If sustainability is a concern, butcher block countertops can also be created using bamboo which grows at a far faster rate than other wood options.

7. Stainless Steel

Countertop - Stainless SteelStainless steel is often seen in commercial kitchens due to its strength, long life, and resistance to bacteria. It creates an industrial loft look for your kitchen. It can be used as an accent piece for a chopping surface or on all countertops. Stainless steel does not stain and as it does not require a sealant, it will not peel.

Maintenance: No need for sealants, but occasional mineral oil will add to the sheen. Knives can leave scratches. Do not use harsh chemicals on stainless steel as it will damage it. It will not stain and is heat resistant, so you can put a hot pan down without fear of cracking it. However, like a cold cookie dish in your hot oven, stainless steel will pop and warp before it settles back down to its room temperature state.

Cost: The cost of stainless steel is similar to granite.

Environmental Impact: There are environmental impacts from the process of creating steel (iron ore mining namely), but stainless steel itself is recyclable and poses no additional risks to the environment upon disposal.

Conclusion

There are a great deal of considerations as you embark on the journey to prepare the heart of your home. I hope this blog helped you understand some of the key technical factors about countertop material options, so your countertop can facilitate the moments you want to experience in your kitchen. The countertop is the surface that you teach your children how to roll cookie dough and prepare your idyllic family meals. It’s where you place your glass after you toast to that momentous occasion with your loved ones. When you’re ready to experience the full breadth of a KHDC kitchen renovation, let’s talk.

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