One of the questions that comes up daily is giving clients a general rundown on the differences between the most common countertop options; there are lots of choices out there and it seems like it’s simply a game of pros and cons, everything has it’s advantages and disadvantages!
I’ll focus on a few of the most common options; there are other products such as Butcher Block, Concrete, Recycled Materials, Marble, Soapstone, Travertine, etc. that are available as well but a bit outside of my wheelhouse – the following items tend to be the most common, at least in my corner of the world!
In a lot of ways this is a fantastic option; it’s gotten a bad reputation and is commonly seen as something that has to be torn out rather than put in. But gone are the days of the matte finished “butcher block” tops of your childhood (mine at least… I remember sitting on our countertop talking on the old landline and doodling. On the countertop. Oops…. I’m still sorry mom!) HA!
1. Cheap; Most laminate is at least half the price of solid surface or stone products.
2. New edge options are available that can prevent the tell tale sign of laminate: because laminate is a sheet, you can’t bend it around four sides so you will always have a flat edge on the side exposed ends but there are now certain options are available to avoid this, ie: Formica IdealEdge.
3. Updated finishes; there are tons and tons and tons of options outside of the old matte finishes – the laminates can be textured and can mimic stone fairly convincingly (from afar at least)
4. Temperature. I know this sounds silly but stone is cold. Laminate is not. So, if you’re the type of person who has an opinion regarding warmth of your countertops – aka your countertops double as a couch – this may be an advantage!
1. Cheap. And perceived as such. I like to describe this as “HGTV Syndrome.” Everyone buying a new home expects stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Ugh, hearing that is like nails on a chalkboard. PS – have you ever tried to keep stainless steel clean?!? It sucks.
2. Hot pans can damage the surface. This may come as a surprise to some but hot pads truly do serve a purpose. While you can get away with heat on some tops, laminate is not one of them. You can also stain and scratch laminate fairly easily if you aren’t careful.
3. Sink Options; while there are companies out there that make undermount sinks for laminate, I’m still skeptical. The laminate material is so thin that mounting something to it and not ever having an issue with the seal seems far fetched to me…. I could be wrong but just personal opinion. I would always recommend a top mount sink with laminate.
ACRYLIC SOLID SURFACE:
One of the most common brand names out there is Corian, although there are many different companies that carry competing products. Acrylic Solid Surface is truly just another name for Plastic. These tops are sold by the slab which can dictate pricing – sometimes making this as expensive as granite or quartz depending on what you’re looking at.
1. Less expensive than stone products, but again – you may have a lot of waste which can potentially drive the cost up overall.
2. Available in a wide variety of colors. There are lots of options out there!
3. You can achieve a lot of different edge profiles with this material, definitely a perk.
4. Warm – again, if temperature is a concern, this product may be for you.
5. Integral Sinks; one really nice benefit to Acrylic Solid Surface is that you can do a totally seamless sink if you’d like. This truly makes cleanup a breeze. This is the only material I know of that has that option.
1. Scratches. This stuff is notorious for scratching and although you can buff them out in some cases, I don’t necessarily recommend them for a kitchen application unless you’re a very careful person or someone who rarely cooks.
2. Heat; as this is a Plastic product you can damage the surface by setting a hot pan on there without a barrier.
3. To be completely honest it’s not my favorite material. For bathrooms, yes, it can be extremely handy to have the integral sink and bathrooms don’t see nearly as much abuse as kitchen. It’s also almost as expensive as granite but the finishes can sometimes look a bit outdated depending on the pattern you select (again, just my opinion!).
1. The so-called gold standard in homes, this is by far the most popular or common countertop out there.
2. Tons of character; no one slab is exactly the same as another as this is the natural stone product, direct from the earth to your home! You can have beautiful swaths of veining or more consistent stone patterns. Totally depends on your preference.
3. Durable; scratch resistant and stain resistant as long as it’s sealed properly.
4. Can use either a top mount or undermount sink, although I’d absolutely recommend an undermount because who wants to clean that gunk on the rim…. I’ll answer that, no one!
5. Many different edge profile options available as well from very simple and contemporary to very decorative.
6. Great “WOW” factor, there are some absolutely stunning Granite colors out there and you truly cannot beat the character and patterns that mother nature herself had provided!
1. Granite is just that, natural stone. So if you are extremely particular about the pattern you should absolutely pick your slabs. We can’t dictate the ratio of the colors and pattern, it is what it is.
2. As this is a natural stone you can have pits and fissures on the surface. This is not a flaw. This is a characteristic of the stone. Some of the more unique and varied patterns can be notorious for these “problems”. If you want something that’s perfectly smooth, this is probably not the product for you.
3. Fill is often used to address some of the pits and this fill will be visible, it also has a tendency to yellow slightly when exposed to sunlight so again.
4. Cold. Stone is cold so if you think that’ll bother you, granite is not a good option for you. ( I’m talking to you again my countertop sitting friends!)
5. Maintenance: this is one I think is somewhat debatable, not that you have to maintain the stone but the extent to which this is actually a pain or a detriment overall. It sounds scary but it truly is an easy peezy process, simply a wipe on, wipe off application and something you only have to do once or twice a year (although this can vary depending on the stone). Lighter colors need to be sealed more often than dark colors, I’ve heard of people who have never even sealed their dark tops and been fine – not that I encourage that but just sayin!
6. One very important thing to keep in mind….and this can be extremely counter intuitive…when you pay for granite you pay for the pattern, meaning you pay more for larger scale patterns with veining and more character than those that are more consistent with a smaller scale pattern.
But with the character come “flaws”, more accurately a more complex stone composition which may include things like mica, etc. that have a tendency to flake off (creating a more uneven surface in the stone). So, even though you may be spending more money, you are not necessarily buying a more durable product. You are paying more for a more unique pattern.
Please remember, that Granite is truly stunning, and while it may seem like there are loads of cons, it really is one of the most common countertop options – you just have to remember that at the end of the day you are talking about a rock, from the earth, on your counters. It will not be perfect.
A few of the most common manufacturers:
N/A – See Granite Fabricators in your area for available selections
1. The “Big Sell” for quartz is the fact that you do not have to seal this product. Because Quartz is essentially natural Quartz ground down and bound together with a resin, it is non-porous, unlike granite. What this means is no sealing!!!!
2. It is stain resistant and scratch resistant (but bear in mind that you can have surface stains or marks).
3. There are many, many different brands of quartz out there so you’ve got lots of options. One of my favorite finishes would be the “Marble” patterns, the benefit to these are maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. Unlike true Marble which seems to be EVERYWHERE these days, on Pinterest, Houzz, etc. – Quartz is much more durable. Marble is very susceptible to staining, you can have surface etching when something acidic (lemon juice, etc.) is spilled on it and has to be carefully maintained. I am convinced that the majority of kitchens where Marble is used are owned by people who don’t cook. (Sorry for my rant there!!!)
4. Tons of different edge options, you’ll want to speak to your fabricator for details on what they can do.
5. Easily accessible; this may sound a bit odd but since quartz is much more consistent and can be selected off of small samples it is much easier to find in stores. Granite slabs are big – usually around 5′ x 10′ (although this varies) and as such, take up a ton of space. So you sometimes have to do a bit of driving from stone yard, to stone yard to find the slab you want. Quartz can be picked out off of a small sample with confidence it will look like that throughout.
6. Clean, contemporary look. Usually look will tip the scales more so than maintenance, Granite can appear more rustic in some cases while Quartz is usually used in more contemporary applications but obviously this is not a hard and fast rule.
1. Patterns – Sometimes the small, often granular patterns can be off putting if you’re not into that look. Quartz can vary from a completely solid color, to the granular patterns, to some form of veining (but remember that the veining is man made and will still be consistent throughout the slab) you will never get as much character from a Quartz if that’s what you’re going for.
2. More expensive, sometimes. Quartz tends to be more stable with pricing than Granite which can have a large range of pricing per/sf because of the variety of patterns. There isn’t as much of a difference from the high end to the low end as there is with Granite.
3. Cold – again the temperature thing, this stuff is chilly!
There really aren’t a whole lot of cons with Quartz, IF you like the look of the product and you appreciate the value you’re getting which sometimes comes with a higher price tag.
Long story short, HA! (Like that was a short post…..)
There is a lot of information out there but I hope you were able to gain a bit of insight for your next project!
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