Kitchen design trends come and go, but some countertop alternatives have aged well and remain popular even as cabinet styles change. While granite is still the most popular countertop material, other options deserve consideration. Here are a few alternatives to granite homeowners are now using.
Most homeowners don’t know much about porcelain countertops even though they’ve been around for quite a while. Porcelain is substantially harder than granite and comes close to quartz. That means damage from minor impacts is virtually non-existent. While porcelain countertops will crack with a strong enough impact, few kitchen incidents will cause cracking.
Besides its strength and durability, porcelain is heat resistant, which means hot pots and pans are no threat to these quality countertops. Placing hot pans directly on a porcelain countertop won’t damage the surface. Porcelain is also less porous than some materials, which means stains from liquids are unlikely.
Another issue homeowners face is maintaining countertops. Granite countertops require sealing to protect the look of the surface because the stone is porous. On the other hand, porcelain is non-porous, which means sealing is not required. Maintenance is limited to cleaning with soap and water.
Finally, since porcelain is an engineered stone, different pigments and patterns are introduced during manufacturing to create visual appeal to enhance any kitchen. In other words, homeowners can get the look and feel of marble without all the drawbacks.
Price is also a significant factor when shopping for countertops, and homeowners are often surprised to learn that porcelain is less expensive than marble, quartz, and granite. That means more money is available for other kitchen or bath remodeling needs.
Another option homeowners often choose is quartz. Quartz is a manufactured product using natural quartz plus a resin binder. Quartz countertops stand up to hard daily use by families, which means they’ll look good for years even when subjected to constant abuse. That’s an important consideration when investing in new countertops.
Like porcelain, quartz is non-porous and incredibly hard. Unlike granite, quartz never needs sealing, and that’s a big plus when busy families don’t have time to spend on countertop maintenance. Because quartz countertops are manufactured rather than natural stone, patterns and colors are created under controlled conditions, so matching countertops throughout the kitchen is easy.
Of course, money will enter the picture, and property owners will find that quartz is less expensive than granite, marble, and other options. In other words, quartz delivers a quality, attractive option that homeowners can count on for years of trouble-free service.
Many homeowners love the beauty of marble countertops, but they’re not suitable for everyone. Marble is a natural stone, so the color and patterns will vary from one slab to the next. That’s a significant drawback for some homeowners, but others like the variety and subtle differences between slabs. The color and pattern vary by the stone’s source, so make sure a supplier has enough similar material to create all the countertops for a kitchen.
One of the downsides of marble is its porosity. Marble will stain easily, with some stains being impossible to remove. While some homeowners see a few stains as adding character, others do not share that opinion. Sealing helps, but applying it a minimum of once per year is a must.
Marble countertops also tend to be expensive, and many property owners feel the cost isn’t justified. However, others feel no other countertop material can match the rich look of marble. If the budget allows it, explore how marble can add to your home kitchen or bathroom’s overall appeal.
A relatively new countertop option is concrete. While some homeowners love the industrial chic look of concrete, others shy away from the material. However, there are some solid reasons to consider concrete countertops.
First, concrete is incredibly durable. Concrete countertops are not susceptible to the types of damage that can cause serious mars on other materials. Feel free to place hot pots and pans on concrete countertops, as they won’t hurt anything.
Dropping pans on concrete is also unlikely to cause damage, but concrete counters can crack. As a rule, pre-cast concrete countertops are less likely to crack, but houses settle, and that settling can lead to a crack. The upside here is that those cracks are easily repairable and virtually invisible once the repair is made.
One downside is that concrete is somewhat porous, so owners must seal concrete countertops to prevent staining. That’s not a significant issue, and food-grade concrete sealants are readily available. If you’re considering an industrial look for your home’s kitchen, concrete countertops provide a great way to achieve that feel.
A major advantage of concrete is that it lends itself to custom colors and patterns if the right pigments and forms are used. Many designers love concrete and recommend it to clients.
As far as costs go, concrete can be quite expensive due to the labor involved. However, if you’re seeking an artisan look, concrete is a great option, as it can be formed into unusual shapes and sizes to meet the needs of any modern custom kitchen design.
Soapstone is a natural stone that’s been used for counters, sinks, tiles, and even griddles for years. In the U.S., most soapstone comes from the Appalachian Mountains, but importers also bring in stone from Brazil or Finland. Because it contains a high percentage of talc soapstone has a soft, soap-like feel that people love.
When compared to marble or granite, soapstone comes out on top when it comes to maintenance needs. Soapstone is non-porous and won’t stain the way marble and granite will. In addition, it’s bacteria and heat-resistant, which means there is no need to be apprehensive about placing hot pots and pans directly on the countertop. Remember, soapstone has been used for griddles for years, so there should be no need to fret over placing hot items on a soapstone countertop.
Soapstone has a unique look that creates a significant level of interest in a kitchen. It’s available in various gray shades and usually includes blue or green undertones. Since soapstone is a natural product, try to find enough from one source to ensure the color and undertones are the same throughout the kitchen. The stone develops an attractive patina over time, and owners are encouraged to oil the countertops monthly for the first year to help that attractive look develop to its fullest.
The cost of soapstone is generally lower than granite and may even be lower than porcelain, but the cost will vary depending on the source. Take the time to compare all costs when deciding which countertop material to select.
Butcher block countertops provide an exciting alternative when the goal is to create a warm, inviting feel on a budget. While maple and birch are common choices for butcher block countertops, oak, walnut, cherry, and maple are also common. Rubber trees that are beyond their useful life are now commonly harvested to create butcher block countertops, and reclaimed wood is also routinely used to create butcher block countertops.
The downside of butcher block countertops is the need to protect the wood from water damage. Kitchen experts recommend sealing wood countertops with food-safe mineral oil applied with a soft cloth. The process isn’t complicated, and applying two coats is quick and easy for homeowners. In most cases, the countertops should be sanded to remove old sealant and dings every ten years or so.
One upside of butcher block countertops is the ease of installation. A DIYer may have the skills needed to install these countertops, but even if a professional installer is used for the installation, the total cost will be lower than most other options.
Many designers spec wood countertops for the entire kitchen, but others will mix and match materials. For example, the designer may specify wood for an island and quartz for the remainder of the countertops. The choice is up to the homeowner, so weigh the pros and cons of different materials when making a choice.
These are only a few of the available options homeowners can consider when selecting new countertops. Stainless steel, tile, laminates, and several synthetic stone options are also available at various price points. The overall kitchen or bath design scheme will determine which materials homeowners should consider. In all cases, consider working with a design professional to avoid making mistakes when choosing countertop materials for kitchens and bathrooms.
Remember that even quality materials won’t provide the look and feel you’re looking for if they’re not installed correctly. That’s why many homeowners elect to work with countertop professionals when updating their kitchens. If you’re considering upgrading existing countertops or building a new home, take the time to discuss your needs with a design expert now.