Your Burning Questions

The Best Surfaces for Kitchen Countertops

By • May 24, 2014 • 27 Comments

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: Your kitchen counter gets more of a workout than any appliance or gadget -- choose one that can stand up to what you dish out.

The Best Surfaces for Kitchen Countertops, from Food52

Whether you’re starting from scratch, revamping what you have, or just creating the ultimate Pinterest board for the day you have a kitchen of your own, countertops are a crucial part of the equation. With so many options, it can be challenging to look past surface-level information to find the option that will really stand up to what you dish out. And although it might seem counterintuitive, remember that it isn't necessary to limit yourself to only one type of material. You might remember from our kitchen tour that we used both Calacatta marble and John Boos black walnut for our countertops.

This week rldougherty told the community of a desire for new countertops, and received rock-solid advice:

The Best Surfaces for Kitchen Countertops, from Food52

Wood  

Pro:

  • Sonny bunny thinks wood works well in a kitchen: "I put mahogany counters in my remodeled 100 year old kitchen...the look is clean, modern and perfectly fitting in an old house. We simply apply USP grade mineral oil, which we buy at the local hardware store, every 5 to 6 weeks. They are beautiful and get loads of oohs & ahhhs!!! Wouldn't change a thing."

Con:

  • Heather Strain doesn't agree: "Wood counters are the absolute worst idea ever! I had them once in an apartment -- they were hard to keep clean, required a lot of work to keep them in adequate shape, and were just awful around the sink." 

Laminate 

Pros & Cons:

  • Amysarah cautions against choosing laminate designed to look like stone, saying: "I've never seen one that really does -- beyond maybe in small sample chip. I'd tend towards one that looks good as itself -- its color, texture -- rather than one trying to mimic stone." 

Tile

Pros:

  • OnionThief has a specific preference for "very lightly textured tile with medium-dark grout," explaining: "Tile is gentler on all my breakable things, there's no super obnoxious reflection, and no staining issues with darker grout. There's no problem with heat, and if you do crack a tile, it is a simple and inexpensive thing to replace." 
  • Irina agrees, finding tile "great to work on, especially good for kneading."

Cons:

  • SMSF isn't as much of a fan: "I had tile counters for many years in a rental. Over time, the tile texture (and it wasn't highly textured) abraded and made keeping it clean very difficult."

The Best Surfaces for Countertops, from Food52

Stone & Engineered Stone

Pros:

  • Mickle sticks with the classic, and favors granite, calling it "pricey -- but worth it."
  • Ebabb used white macaubas quartzite in a recent remodel and is thrilled with it: "It has a similar look to the white marble countertops, but is as sturdy as granite. We cook every day, and so far we haven't found a way to hurt it, despite lots of spills and hot pots."
  • Smslaw prefers soapstone, explaining: "It doesn't ever stain, doesn't need to be sealed, and doesn't get damaged by hot pots."
  • Stephaniesdirina, and mainecook61 are all fans of engineered quartz, noting: "It can handle anything, including hot pots, never stains, and looks 'softer' than granite does," and, "it requires no sealing, doesn't stain, and cleans up easily." 

Cons:

  • ChefJune isn't a fan of granite, explaing: "I know it's trendy, but it is not as durable as many folks think, and it does stain."
  • Lisina concurs: "I find granite (though very functional) very difficult to keep clean. The patterns in the stone are VERY effective at hiding mess."
  • Heather Strain cautioned against marble for countertops that will see heavy use: "It will crack/fracture and is prone to stain."
  • OnionThief won't be installing stone countertops anytime soon: "They murder my crystal and my canning jars, they are slick and shiny and impossible to decorate around, and most of them have patterns that look like various growths/infections."

Concrete

Pros:

  • Kristen W. has seen some really cool countertops done with poured concrete, adding: "It's less expensive than granite, and you can stain it and shape it any way you like." 
  • Kimhw used concrete in a 1910 farm house, and has found them to be durable: "No wine, acid, or hot pans have damaged my counters."

Metal 

Pros & Cons:

  • Lisina loves stainless steel, while acknowledging that it looks "very industrial," which might not be to everyone's taste. She also recently worked in a kitchen with copper countertops, exclaiming: "Talk about GORGEOUS. The owner had just had them polished, but she showed me a before picture and the patina was to die for," but adds that they were expensive. 

Tell us: What's your preferred countertop material and why? 

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Tags: how-to & diy, hotline, best question, kitchen renovation, kitchen design, countertops

Comments (27)

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about 1 month ago jfoureur

Anyone using Enameled Lava-Stone ???????

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about 1 month ago Tashipluto

I have to laugh when I read about the "trendiness" of granite -- I installed granite in my kitchen in 1986 and have never had to replace it. Still looks as good as day one and I use my kitchen extensively every single day. (I don't actually have any crystal, so maybe I would feel differently if I did.) I tend to break things by dropping them on the floor, not the countertops. I really love that I don't need to worry about hot pots and pans on it, and it's great for rolling out pastry.

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about 1 month ago Christine

Love the open shelf look, but is the owner REALLY using all of those items regularly to keep them dust- and grease- free?

Stringio

about 1 month ago Carlton Ashley

they should have broke out quartz and granite. all the Pros were for quartz and the cons were for granite

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about 1 month ago Honeylishuss

I love granite bench tops. I chop straight on it, roll out pastry or make pasta. I can put anything on it without the surface being affected. It cleans up brilliantly. Wood traps minute food particles and needs upkeep.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Hope Anderson

In my two previous kitchens, I had butcher block counters (except for around the sink.) They were great because I could cut anywhere; they also kept me from breaking glasses and dishes that would have shattered on a harder surface. People who complain about wood don't know how to maintain it: all it needs is cleaning with scalded water. If they're greasy, add salt or vinegar. If they're dry, condition with mineral oil, which you should do twice a year anyway. Now that I have concrete counters, which are low maintainence but useless for preparation, I really look forward to building another kitchen with butcher block counters.

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about 1 month ago mpm6228

quartz composite, light colored with tiny flecks of glass and other stone, cheerful, very very easy to keep clean, no stains whatsoever, paired with a long butcher block bar height eating table/prep table. I love the quartz.

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about 1 month ago Elisa

I like granite. I have wood counters right now and I HATE them. They get stained and ruined with food, heat and water, all of which are ever-present in a kitchen! Worst idea ever.

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about 1 month ago jmspdx

"Stephaniesd, irina, and mainecook61 are all fans of engineered quartz, noting: "It can handle anything, including hot pots..."

Then why does the manufacturer of my pricey engineered quartz countertop tell me to never put a pan over 200 degrees on it?

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about 1 month ago susan v

Did you get any comments about soapstone? More beautiful than granite, has a softer feel. I am a fan of butcher block which warms up the look of a kitchen and requires cleaning and care . I love the look of mixed counter top materials: butcher block with concrete or Corian around the sink area.

Pieman

about 1 month ago KeylimeSteve

Planning a new kitchen, 16+- running feet of countertop, most likely poured concrete. Butcher-block (meat), cutting boards (produce), marble (baking) can be located anywhere at any time, not restricted to one specific place.

Pieman

about 1 month ago KeylimeSteve

add... form follows function, beauty follows form.

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about 1 month ago EatArt

I am totally passionate about marble. It's exceptionally beautiful, especially veined. And it is much easier to keep than expected. I marvel at the way it looks in my kitchen every day.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Peter Shelsky

As a chef, and one has had a stint for 7 years or so teaching folks to cook in their own home kitchens, I can say that without a doubt, end grain maple butcher block (or edge grain is great too) is the best. It's easy to keep it well maintained with mineral oil.. You can cut anywhere on it. You can get it custom made with aluminum rods laid into the wood so that you can put a hot pot or pan down... Without a doubt, it is the most user friendly.

Stringio

2 months ago Sharon Badian

Love my quartz composite. Needs no sealing, easy to clean, looks great. I don't put hot pots on it since I hear it can warp. That's fine since I'm used to using trivets after years of laminate countertops!

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2 months ago rachaelmr

I've seen some use with paperstone that is really fantastic. It likes love - so you do have to polish it, but all nicks/wear & tear add to the 'patina'. It's deceptive in its hardness (seems hard as stone) but I've had glass jars bounce off without breakage. As the added benefit of being sustainable, recycled and chemical free - it's a great choice for me! I'm buying a house soon and I hope to re-counter with paperstone.

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2 months ago samattes

OK, so my comment was posted before SPellCheck-how do you edit a post???

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2 months ago samattes

I have had quarry tile counter tops for over 30 years. The free was that things would be breaking anthem, due to their hardness. THIs has not been the case.
I use cutting boards + have a butcher block island, so I have plenty of chose for cutting and working dough. The tile is loved because it never stains, I can out to pots and pans and things from the oven on it and not worry. Maybe it is not trendy, but it is uber-practical and durable.

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2 months ago Sally Price

We used Silestone, which is a quartz composite. Very happy with it. It doesn't have "depth" like a slab of stone might, but it's durable, easy to clean, and still shiny after 6 years. I'll bet the newer versions are even better.

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2 months ago Jennifer

I live in an old 1913 house. It had a linoleum counter in the kitchen when we moved in that I thought I would replace as soon as possible. In our 7th year in the house and the red linoleum is still in place. Partly because things like wiring have been more important, but also because it is actually a marvelous countertop. I confess I treated it a bit cavalierly because I was planning on replacing it, but after reading your article I have reflected on its finer qualities. It has some give, so things don't shatter on it. It appears to be heat resistant - because I have put many hot pans directly on it. And it seems to be scratch-proof because I have cut many vegetables on it. And it comes in some pretty great colors.

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2 months ago Linda Marie Turner Collins

The kitchen in my last house had granite. Loved the way it looked but hated what it did to my crystal. Also when I put an extremely hot pan on it, it actually metamorphosized the granite. I have never wanted it again. Also it's way too trendy for me!

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2 months ago Linda Marie Turner Collins

The kitchen in my last house had granite. Loved the way it looked but hated what it did to my crystal. Also when I put an extremely pan on it, it actually metamorphosized the granite. I have never wanted it again. Also it's way too trendy for me!

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2 months ago Judith Roud

I used a mixture. Did it 9 years ago, and I still love it and still looks great. Granite in the areas around the sink and other wet-prep areas and end grain butcher block for the prep island and a baking counter. Why should you just use one material? I consider my kitchen a workspace first. Some cooking tasks require wood, and others water resistance. If your granite is sealed properly, it's a breeze to take care of, and butcher block just needs a good mineral oil bath every now and then. I don't need a load of little chopping boards and such, and I have knife slots along the back edges of all my wood counters, so no space is take-up by knife blocks. Nine years ago, there wasn't much to choose from in engineered quartz, but I'd certainly consider it now, just because of the odors available, and the sturdiness.

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2 months ago Judith Roud

Colors available...not odors, lol. Darned auto-correct!

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2 months ago Radish

The one thing about laminate that I will add, is that you can afford to change them when you either tire of the look or change color schemes.

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2 months ago jenniebgood

This is a great article, so helpful. I'm adding it to my "kitchen reno" file! Thank you so much (and thanks to all the contributors) for posting this!

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2 months ago Portland Williams

I'm interested in what the people who would not use granite would in fact use. I'm shopping for material now for a kitchen remodel. Thanks.