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Kitchen Counters: A Materials Overview

by Guest on Feb 27, 2010

Kitchen countertops are available in an almost limitless array of materials and colors. Nothing beats granite for durability, stainless steel for a contemporary, functional look, or tile for timeless charm. Below are some of the more common counter surfaces with their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Material Advantages Disadvantages Care Approx. Cost
Laminate
  • Wide range of color and pattern
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Water-resistant
  • If cut or burned, needs replacement.
  • May crack or separate from its backing.
Clean with sponge and nonabrasive cleanser. $10-20 a linear ft.
Tile
  • Endless range of colors, textures, and designs
  • Available in stone, glass, ceramic, and metal.
  • Standard tile may be relatively inexpensive
  • Durable, scorch proof
  • Easy to clean
  • Grout may deteriorate or discolor
  • Tiles may crack
  • May harbor bacteria if not sealed
Sponge clean with household cleanser. To maintain glossy finish, avoid overusing harsh abrasives. $35-80 linear foot depending on tile selection
Marble
  • Beautiful
  • Traditionally used for pastry tables
  • Durable
  • Expensive
  • Stains easily
  • Porous
  • Acid foods may etch and discolor stone
  • Requires periodic resealing
Wipe clean.

Seal with salad oil if used for food preparation; otherwise seal with commercial sealant.
$40-70 sq. ft.
Granite
  • Many different colors and patterns of stone
  • Heat resistant
  • Hard
  • Durable
  • Beautiful
  • Expensive
  • Susceptible to grease stains
  • High maintenance
  • Requires periodic resealing
Wipe clean.

Reseal periodically.
$60+ sq. ft.
Synthetic stone
  • Handsome
  • Similar in look to granite, but many additional colors are available
  • Easy to maintain
  • Stain and acid resistant
  • Expensive
Clean with sponge and mild cleanser. $60+ sq. ft.
Solid surfacing (i.e., Corian)
  • Nonporus, seamless
  • Cleans easily
  • Good for custom applications
  • Low maintenance
  • Range of colors and textures including stone and wood
  • Expensive
  • Usually requires professional installation
  • Can be scorched or stained
Clean with mild cleanser.

Minor scratches can be removed by buffing with an abrasive pad.
$100-150 linear ft.
Concrete
  • Versatile
  • May be shaped and colored any number of ways
  • Material relatively inexpensive
  • Professional installation can be very expensive
  • Susceptible to cracking
  • Needs to be resealed periodically
  • Very heavy
  • Susceptible to staining
Wipe with sponge and mild cleanser.

Reseal regularly with wax or sealant.
$200-300 linear ft.
Stainless steel
  • Sleek modern appearance
  • Easy care
  • Patterns etched into finish available for custom look
  • Waterproof
  • Scorch proof
  • Can be noisy
  • May dent
  • Can be expensive
Wipe clean with a sponge and cleanser. Cost depends on fabrication and edge finish. Custom fabrication is $300-500 per linear foot.
Wood
  • Handsome, natural appearance
  • Can be sanded and refinished.
  • Unfinished maple is a traditional kitchen work surface
  • Susceptible to water damage
  • Stains easily
  • Hot pans can burn surfaces
  • Shouldn´t be used with raw meat or preparation of food susceptible to salmonella and other bacteria
For unfinished surfaces, use mineral oil weekly. Sand and refinish stains and burns.

For finished surfaces, clean with a damp cloth and a mild cleanser.
$50+ per linear foot
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