The question today isn’t so much what’s on your countertop as what is your countertop made of? Right now my answer would be laminate, but I’m dreaming of the day when I can say marble. Or maybe even recycled glass—really!
If marble’s more your style than recycled glass, here are some traditional countertop choices. (The innovative ones are below, so keep reading!)
Laminate. One of the most affordable options, laminate is comprised of several layers of heated and compressed paper. The color or pattern you see on the countertop is just the top layer. Lucky you, when it comes to laminate countertops the colors, patterns, and design choices are almost endless, so you can emulate the traditional look of stone or go wild with color.
Ceramic Tile. Counters topped with vitreous tile can accept hot pots and pans without scorching and resist moisture from splashes around sinks. The variety of ceramic tile sizes, shapes, and colors makes it perfect for adding style to your kitchen. Just keep in mind that installing ceramic tile can be labor-intensive and pricey. And you’ll have to work to keep those grout lines clean.
Natural Stone. Granite, marble, and soapstone are the most popular stone countertop options. Natural stone gets major points because it’s tough yet elegant, and you can choose from polished, honed, flamed, or tumbled finishes. Keep in mind that most natural stone surfaces require regular sealing. Stone can be a particularly pricey option depending on the type you choose, however. To save money, you might want to consider stone tiles instead.
Solid Surfacing. Another option if you’re not quite ready to fork over the money for natural stone, synthetic surfacing resembles stone and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It’s nonporous and durable, but it can be scratched and burned (no setting hot pots directly on the countertop like you can with real stone!).
Stainless Steel. It doesn’t get much more contemporary than stainless steel countertops. This material is durable and easy to clean. But be careful—stainless steel scratches easily, and it’s not cheap to replace.
Concrete. Countertops made of concrete are durable and easy to clean if they’re sealed properly. Concrete can be colored any shade and, as a bonus, its pigmented finish is stain-resistant. Much like stainless steel, concrete is best suited for contemporary kitchens.
Butcher Block. Someday I’ll have a stretch butcher-block in my kitchen. But until then I’ll have to be content just writing about it. Butcher block is made from hardwood strips that are glued together. Common hardwoods used include oak, cherry, bamboo, and maple. Moisture will damage butcher block, so keep it away from sink areas. And if you finish your butcher block, make sure you choose a finish that’s safe for food contact—because what good is butcher block if you aren’t going to cut on it?
If you were intrigued when I mentioned countertops made from recycled glass, you’re in luck. Here are a few innovative choices worth considering next time you go countertop shopping. (And if you know of any other cool new countertop creations I missed, let me know!)
Squak Mountain Stone. These eco-friendly countertops are made from a fibrous-cement material comprised of recycled paper, recycled glass, coal fly-ash, and Portland cement. It’s a great alternative to natural or quarried stone and resembles soapstone or limestone.
Vetrazzo. These countertops are made of 85 percent recycled glass and come in a slew of fun colors. Recycled glass countertops sound breakable (or sharp!) but they’re not—in fact, Vetrazzo surfaces are so smooth, they’re comparable to granite. Bonus: The company sponsors a Recycle Vetrazzo program, where people can recycle their old recycled Vetrazzo countertops (yep, that’s a lot of recycling going on there).
Bamboo. These cool countertops are made of solid bamboo plywood and are laminated with a formaldehyde-free adhesive.
Fusionstone. It’s not eco-friendly like the other innovative countertops mentioned above, but Fusionstone is pretty cool. A layer of ultra-clear glass is fused to exotic stone slabs to protect the stone from scratching and stains while still showcasing its natural beauty.
Quartz Surfacing. This material combines 93 percent quartz with 7 percent resin to create a countertop that’s twice as strong as granite—can you believe that! It’s more maintenance-free than granite too because it’s nonabsorbent, easily wiped clean, and is insanely durable (no need to worry about scratches or stains). It is typically as expensive as the real deal though.
The Home Know-It-All