The kitchen is the heart of your home and a beautiful countertop is the perfect way to highlight this important room. The right countertop will fit your personal style, your lifestyle, and above all, your budget. Here’s how to get the perfect countertop for your kitchen.
Step 1: Decide How You will use Your Kitchen
Do you cook most nights? Host large family gatherings and holidays? Do you have children who will be seated at the countertop to eat, help cook or play?
If your answer to any of these questions is, “Yes,” then you likely want to steer towards a durable material that does not stain easily. You might also want to consider a material that’s heat resistant in the case someone places a hot pot or pan on the countertop.
Step 2: Decide on an Aesthetic
Most interior designers will recommend you figure out the type of look you’re going for (e.g. modern vs. country chic), your backsplash and the color of your cabinetry before shopping for your countertop. The reasons for this are twofold:
You want your countertop to complement the other features of your kitchen. Interior designers recommend taking small pieces of your backsplash and cabinetry with you when you go shopping for your material.
If you choose a natural material like granite or marble, the colors can vary depending on the types of veins present and the overall quality of the slab. A “cream” marble countertop at one supplier might look different than at another. So you want to make sure you’re getting the best color for your kitchen.
Step 3: Shop for Your Material
For updated kitchens, there’s typically seven choices for countertop materials:
1. Quartz. This countertop is stone-like in appearance and can go with most interior designs. The material is manufactured by mixing quartz particles with resin and since it’s manmade, it’s easy to get the exact color you want. Quartz countertops are also resistant to staining which is great if you’re an enthusiast of red wine, tomato sauce, orange juice, or any other acidic foods or beverages that could spill. The downside to quartz countertops is the resin makes them highly susceptible to heat damage.
2. Recycled Glass. Recycled glass countertops are made by embedding broken shards of glass into a resin or concrete base. They come in a wide range of glass and base colors and can give your kitchen a modern look. Some suppliers make their recycled glass countertops heat resistant, but others don’t, so if you decide on this look, it’s important to know which one you’re getting.
3. Solid Glass. If you choose a solid glass countertop, it will be manufactured specifically for your project. The glass itself is clear but comes with either a blue or greenish hue. The great thing about glass countertops is they can withstand high heat from pots and pans and can also be used as a cutting board. They’re easy to clean but they also show smudges and appear dirtier faster, so you might find yourself wiping this countertop down more than others. The other thing to note about solid glass countertops is, they can look stark so it’s important to see the glass used in a similar way (preferably a showroom) to make sure it’s exactly what you want.
4. Marble. Marble countertops can make any kitchen feel elegant. There are a lot of color options to choose from, ranging from cream and green, to darker hues. But since it’s a natural material, every slab you see will be unique. That means you could have asymmetrical veining or a discoloration in part of the slab, and the cream of one slab might not be the same cream of another. So if you’re going with marble, it’s especially important to bring your pieces of backsplash and cabinetry while shopping, so you can make sure the specific slab you buy matches the other elements in your kitchen. Another thing to note about marble is it’s a very porous material. That means it stains easily and can harbor bacteria and viruses if not cleaned properly. Marble is also resistant to heat.
5. Granite. Granite is perhaps the most popular choice for countertops because of its durability and attractiveness. It’s a natural product, so like marble, every slab is different. Also like marble, it’s a porous material so you’ll need to reseal your countertop every year to keep it protected from staining as well as harboring bacteria or viruses. Granite countertops are also heat resistant, they don’t scratch easily nor do they chip.
6. Concrete. A Concrete countertop will give your kitchen a modern, industrial look. The colors are typically on the darker side, so that’s another thing to keep in mind when envisioning your kitchen aesthetic. Concrete countertops are custom-made for each project, so you won’t be limited by what suppliers have in stock, and since it’s a smooth, manufactured material, it’s stain resistant and won’t be susceptible to bacteria or viruses. Concrete is also heat resistant.
7. Wood. Wood, also known as butcher block, countertops are a warm, natural choice for your kitchen. They are also affordable. Wood countertops are made by gluing together straight cuts of wood to make a large slab and they can come sealed or unsealed. Sealed wood countertops have a plastic coating over the wood which protects it from water damage, and would be ideal for areas around the sink or a bar area, but they’re not food prep or knife friendly so you can’t use them as a cutting board. Unsealed wood countertops are also referred to as oil-finished, and can be used as a cutting board and for food prep. They aren’t a good idea for the sink area because continued water damage can cause them to discolor and rot, but other areas should age well as long as you oil the surfaces every six months or as needed.
I know, it seems like there are a lot of choices out there. But as long as you know how you plan to use your kitchen and you decide on your aesthetic beforehand, you should be able to narrow down your options to find the most beautiful and functional countertop for the heart of your home.