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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

How To Choose the Right Countertop for Your Renovation Project

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 11 July 2017 12:30

There are so many options for countertops nowadays that it can be overwhelming for many people to select the right one. A countertop can really set the tone for your new kitchen or bathroom, so it is important to select a material that will reflect your design style as well as your lifestyle.

Not only do the different materials each have a distinctive look, but they also have varying maintenance and pricing issues. So make sure to consider the functionality of the counter top as well.

One of the most popular options these days is still granite. Granite, is available in a variety of shades and colors and no two pieces are exactly the same. Some stones have a lot of movement (the unique pattern of crystals and patterns) in the slab while others are more consistent. Granite is available in several finishes. A polished finish results in a shiny look and often darkens the appearance of the stone. Gaining popularity if the honed stone, which has a soft, matte look to it. Another finish is the leatherized finish, which is an unpolished granite slab and has a soft sheen to it, but is much less shiny than the glossy look of a polished slab. Leathered granite retains more of the natural roughness of the stone than a more refined polished slab. If you are going for a rustic look then the leathered granite is a great option. But if you prefer a more traditional or clean line look then you should probably consider going with a polished or matte finish. A polished finish will also make your countertop much easier to clean because there aren’t dips or divots for dirt to hide in. Plus, the polish will act to seal more pores on the surface protecting against stains. Costs for granite depend on many variables, including color, finish and origin of the stone.

Other Natural Stones
Other natural stone materials such as marble, limestone and soapstone are softer than granite and typically require more maintenance. I typically would recommend marble, limestone or soapstone for a bathroom, but not necessarily a kitchen. All stone countertops must be sealed periodically.

Engineered stone countertops or quartz counter tops are fabricated from natural quartz, which is one of the hardest materials found in the earth. They come in a wider variety of colors than natural stone countertops, are more durable and are virtually maintenance free. Quartz is a non-porous material, so its surface does not allow bacteria to grow on it and it resists stains, so they don’t need to be sealed and they are resistant to stains.  Quartz is a great way to incorporate your personality into your home. Engineered counter tops are not good for outdoor uses as the resin that is in the material does not wear well outside. Also, engineered stone and granite cost roughly the same.

Concrete countertops, which can be completely customized with colored pigments, are gaining popularity. Changes in temperature may cause concrete to warp. And the concrete can discolor if water or a damp sponge is left on the counter. To keep a concrete countertop looking its best, it's recommended to seal them up to four times per year and wax with a paste every two to three months.

Wood countertops, like butcher block, can add warmth to a kitchen. However you cannot put hot items on top of the wood and water damages butcher block quite easily, so wood countertops must be oiled frequently.

Metal surfaces, including stainless steel, copper or pewter are heat tolerant, non-porous and sanitary. Like wood, though, they also can scratch and dent easily. But for the right project they can make a great statement.

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. Recent technology innovations have made strides in making laminate more scratch-resistance.

Recycled products
Eco-friendly and similar to natural stone, recycled products are warmer to the touch than other options. Because they’re naturally made, they may fade over time.

Making your choice
With all of the options on the market today, it can be tough to make your decision. Rely on your interior designer to help you look at options that focus on style, design, and aesthetics. The good news is that if you educate yourself on the pros and cons of the selections, and you choose a counter top that you love, you really can’t go wrong. 

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Deborah Gordon

Deborah Gordon is an award-winning designer, with a full-service interior design firm specializing in residential kitchens, bathrooms, built-ins, home offices, home theaters and fireplace surrounds.  Deborah is based in San Diego, CA and her work has been featured in countless publications and award shows.
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