Finding the perfect countertop for the most active room in your home can be a challenge. The countertop that you choose must be durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean, attractive and fit your budget. This page will explain the types of countertops, including edging and examples of available textures, to help you choose the best surface for your kitchen.
Kitchen Countertop Materials
Today's kitchens feature a wide variety of cooking appliances. Cooktops are installed in a countertop opening and offer you a choice of porcelain coated, painted steel, stainless steel, brushed chrome or glass tops. Built-in ovens do not have exterior side panels, so they must be installed in a cabinet, in a wall opening or under a counter. Lastly, a freestanding range consists of an oven with a cooktop. Drop-in and slide-in ranges have up front controls and extend over the countertop. A new feature to ovens that you might be interested in is convection. A true convection cooking system utilizes both a rear element and a rear fan to circulate preheated air around the oven for faster and more even cooking results than conventional cooking. Some convection ovens allow you simply to enter your conventional cooking time and temperature, and the oven makes the precise conversion itself.
Granite is considered a premium countertop material. It is one of the hardest natural stones available. Granite countertops are impervious to scratches, resistant to heat and stains.
Solid surfaces are man-made materials, such as Corian, Meganite or Swanstone. They are non-porous countertops made from a solid material. Scratches and chips can often be sanded out.
Soapstone is a dark gray or green metamorphic rock composed of 40-50% talc and 40-50% magnetite that has a soapy texture. Soapstone, also called steatite, has been used in America since the early 19th century to make everything from sinks and washtubs to countertops.
Soapstone is inert, so alkalis and acids won't etch the material, as they will other types of stone surfaces.Soapstone is also non-porous and very dense. Soapstone is popular for its' ability to withstand intense heat and thermal shock, making it an ideal choice for fireplaces and cookware. This somewhat soft, but very strong material is resistant to splitting, stains, and water and it doesn't absorb germs or chemicals, making it a good choice for kitchen countertops.
If properly maintained, this unique material can last several lifetimes.
Quartz & Engineered Stone
For those who love the look of granite but are concerned about its drawbacks, quartz may be the answer. Unlike granite, which can be permanently stained by cooking oils and grease, or which can be etched by the acids in such common household products as hairspray and other toiletries, engineered stone is impervious to these hazards. And while granite is subject to unpredictable variations in color or pattern between slabs, making matching of sections of a countertop difficult, engineered stone is uniform in color, pattern, and texture. It provides nearly all of the benefits of natural stone but with few of the drawbacks.
Engineered stone is the most durable surface material, combining the hardness and durability of quartz with the exceptional low maintenance qualities of man-made materials (resin).
Quartz (Silica/Silicon Dioxide, SiO2) is the most common mineral on the earth's surface. It is present in nearly every geological environment and is a component of almost every rock type and exists in an impressive range of varieties and colors. Quartz ranks 7.0 on Moh's Hardness Scale, which is used to measure the scratch-resistance of a material. Only the diamond (at 10), topaz and sapphire (at 9) are harder than quartz. (Granite is ranked 6 on the scale).
Cultured stone does not contain quartz and is not recommended for Kitchens as it is much softer than engineered stone.
Stainless steel is the choice for countertops by professional cooks, restaurant and food service facilities. Above all other materials, it identifies the owner as someone who takes cooking seriously. Super-strong, hygienic and resistant to water and heat, stainless steel has long been considered an ideal surface for food preparation. Today's kitchen designers are pairing this cool classic with other materials, such as warm wood and hand-painted tile.
Stainless steel actually requires very little maintenance. Frequent cleaning actually keeps the surface looking new. Smooth stainless steel shows watermarks and fingerprints, and needs more cleaning than a brushed finish. When preparing food, use a cutting board rather than the top. Not only will the surface scratch, but the metal will dull knives. Minor scratches can be polished out.
Plastic laminate is the most widely used surfacing material for builders and remodelers, due to its durability, wide range of colors and patterns, and its moderate price.
Plastic laminates are produced in hundreds of colors and patterns including metal, granite, marble, wood, and even leather. Surface textures range from smooth or grained to shiny or matte. Your choices are almostunlimited.