It is tempting to choose a countertop based on looks alone, though a material's durability, maintenance and cost are also important factors to consider when making choices in your kitchen remodel.
Finding a good fit
Homeowners have to assess their lifestyle and how their kitchen is used on a day-to-day basis before choosing on a countertop. If you have kids and they're making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the countertops every day, you might not want to go with that white granite.
If homeowners are set on a certain look, but the material doesn't fit their lifestyle, odds are there's another material that does.
Granite, the top choice in countertops, is available in a variety of shades such as blacks, whites, greens, corals and beiges, and no two pieces are exactly the same. Granite is available in two finishes. A polished finish which is shiny and often darkens the look of the granite, while honing is more of a matte finish. Costs for granite depend on many variables, including color, finish and grade of the stone.
Other natural stone materials, like marble, limestone and soapstone, are softer than granite and require delicate use and greater care.
Engineered stone countertops come in a wider variety of colors than natural stone countertops, are more durable and are easy to maintain
Concrete countertops are gaining popularity. Concrete is available in several different finishes: trowel (smooth), ground (sanded to expose the sand aggregate) and pressed (a tool is used to reveal marblelike veining). Extreme or abrupt changes in temperature may cause concrete to warp or curl, damp sponges left on the counter can cause discoloration and acidic spills may etch the surface. To keep a concrete countertop looking its best, it's advisable to seal them up to four times per year and wax every two to three months.
Wood countertops, like butcher block, warm up a kitchen. They are easy to clean and any scratches can be sanded out. Water damages butcher block quite easily, though, so wood countertops must be oiled frequently to seal the surface.
Laminate is the most affordable countertop material on the market and comes in an array of colors and designs. Laminate can scorch if a hot pan touches the surface and has a reputation for scratching easily. However, the product has made strides in scratch-resistance in recent years, Jeff says.
Square edges are standard on most countertops, but decorative edges like radius, bullnose, bevel, egg and ogee — while a bit more expensive — are another way to customize a kitchen. Availability of edges varies based on countertop materials.
Mix it up
Can't decide on one material? Then mix and match surfaces. One idea would be to use a different material on islands than the rest of the countertops to differentiate the space. Another option is to inset another material into a countertop for specific tasks. Butcher block is common for chopping as is marble for baking.