Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Countertop Materials Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Countertop Materials

Whether expanding your kitchen, adding an island, or building a new home, the right kitchen countertops are essential to bringing a space together. Not only do these materials make a huge difference in the value of your home, but also the right countertop can bring out the gourmet chef in you. You will want to consider style, beauty, durability, ease of installation (if installing one yourself), and price when selecting one. Here are a few options to consider.

Plastic Laminate

Laminate is the most widely used and cheapest countertop material in home improvement, and it is also easy to install yourself.

Advantages

It is inexpensive and low-maintenance. It resists grease and stains, and it comes in a vast array of colors and patterns. It also can come pre-fabricated with its own seamless backsplash. It is ideal for the do-it-yourselfer who loves to update the kitchen frequently. However, note that if you have allergies or asthma, the materials and glue in laminate could be problematic.

Disadvantages

Laminate does have its drawbacks. Because it is generally made in layers, the dark under layer, usually pressed wood, may be visible. The top is also susceptible to damage from sharp knives and hot pans. It easily melts at the touch of a hot cooking utensil, and once damaged, it cannot be easily repaired. To keep laminate looking new longer, reserve this countertop material for less-used areas of the kitchen and locate seams at corners to avoid wear and tear.

Approximate Cost

This material costs approximately $15-60 per running foot.

Ceramic Tile

Beautiful and durable, ceramic tile is the experienced do-it-yourselfer's dream come true. You can make a counter look however you want with a little creativity. Create your own mural, or decide on a sleek color palette. Designs can range from as simple or complex as you desire.

Advantages

Ceramic tile is heat-, scratch-, and stain-resistant. Damaged tiles are easily replaced. Plus, you can remove stains from regular grout with ordinary household bleach.

Disadvantages

Grout can stain or collect food particles, therefore giving way to bacterial infestation. Tiles can chip or crack, and if used for cutting, it can dull your knives. Scrubbing with abrasives can ruin a high-gloss finish.

Approximate Cost

This surface is $4-8 per tile. To cut costs, use solid-colored tiles and create your own patterns.

Solid Surface

A solid-surface countertop is a step up from plastic laminate. It comes in a larger variety of colors and patterns that are uniform throughout the piece. It can resemble glass, granite, and any other stone.

Advantages

Because the color goes through the entire counter, scratches and blemishes can easily be buffed out. It is strong and self-supporting, so it needs no underlayment. It is non-porous. It resists both mildew and stains. This countertop can also be ordered custom-formed to hide seams.

Disadvantages

It can be cut easily by sharp knives. Hot pans will leave a permanent discoloration, and installation is difficult for the average do-it-yourselfer.

Approximate Cost

It's more expensive than other options above, at about $125-200 per running foot when professionally installed.

Stone

Nothing beats stone for sheer beauty and durability. This high-end choice is for the serious cook. Marble and granite are the most popular choices.

Advantages

Granite is impervious, when properly sealed, to cuts, scrapes, burns, and stains. Marble must be frequently sealed with mineral oil. Its beauty is undeniable, and both surfaces are perfect for the serious gourmet cook. Plus, cleaning granite is easy with the right know-how.

Disadvantages

Both stones are expensive, heavy, and often difficult to cut. They are brittle, so they must come in thick slabs. Marble requires frequent resealing. Both are expensive to repair and require regular waxing and polishing to maintain sheen.

Approximate Cost

Expect to pay up to $200 a running foot, installed. However, you may be able to find suitable pieces at an antique salvage yard.

Stainless Steel

This tough surface is popular with the high-tech crowd. It is the counter of choice in most upscale restaurants.

Advantages

It is tough and impervious to stains and hot pans. It gives your kitchen a contemporary look.

Disadvantages

It shows nicks, and it scratches easily. Avoid scouring powders, and never use steel wool to clean it. It needs a solid, firm underlayment, or else it will dent. While beautiful, stainless steel is also cold to the touch.

Approximate Cost

This countertop is between $75-150 per square foot, so it’s for someone who’s serious about their kitchen.

Butcher Block

True butcher block uses end-grain hardwood for counters; however, many counters come in a lesser grade. You should make certain that you have a true hardwood.

Advantages

The warm, natural appearance of hardwood is an attractive choice for the homeowner. It is ideal for cutting and chopping. For the do-it-yourselfer, it's relatively simple to install and easy to repair. Surface scratches are easily sanded out.

Disadvantages

It must be sealed or frequently treated with mineral oil and cleaned immediately after food preparation or moisture exposure. And, protective surface sealers are not always food-safe. It is humidity sensitive, and it scorches and dents easily. If it becomes contaminated with meat juices or dirty vegetables, it must be disinfected and then resealed. Many cooks use olive oil to season the wood after each use; however this can also darken the wood.

Approximate Cost

Butcher-block countertops costs about $50 a running foot.

These are just a few of the counter choices available to the homeowner. Each material is suitable in the proper environment, however, the final choice is up to you.

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