What is the Best Countertop for Your Kitchen?
By Janna Epstein
In any home, the kitchen is the one room the sees the most activity – from preparing and cooking food, to dining, entertaining, and even working. It is obvious that your kitchen countertops should be able to withstand all that activity without having to compromise it’s aesthetic appeal. Since buying new countertops can be a rather large investment, you should know your options and their advantages and disadvantages before making any decisions.
The most common factors in choosing a type of countertop are aesthetic appeal and cost. However, there are many more factors that should be taken into account – things like durability, edging, easy maintenance, and resistance to heat, water, chemicals, scratches, and stains. Looking at each option available on the market today, we’ll see what materials stand out as the ideal countertop for your kitchen.
Formica is a laminate synthetic material composed of a thin layer of plastic joined to a particleboard or wood. It comes in attractive colors and designs, simulating materials like granite, and is relatively inexpensive. Being made of wood, or compressed particle board, it is fairly durable and has edging options. It’s easy to clean, has a smooth surface, and is stain resistant.
It meets a handful of the aforementioned criteria, but is that good enough? Few people find Formica aesthetically pleasing. Moreover, hot objects placed on it will melt the surface, and it is extremely susceptible to water damage. Cleaning materials used in the kitchen damage Formica, scratching it and leaving it dull. Knives will certainly leave marks. Be advised, Formica cannot be repaired. Additionally, it will fade and warp over time and with prolonged usage.
Ceramic tiles come in an array of designs and colors. Tiles are fairly common in the modern household. They are durable, stain, water and heat resistant and practically scratch-proof. Though they are slightly more expensive than laminates, they are attractively priced, and can even be repaired with little difficulty.
However, tiling needs frequent cleaning because grouting easily gathers dirt, a situation not desirable in a kitchen. Cleaning grouting is not only time-consuming, but can be very tiresome. Additionally, ceramic tiles are prone to chipping and cracking.
Ceramic tile counters fare well on most counts, but its major drawback –that of maintenance –makes it an impractical solution for kitchen use.
Corian is made using acrylic and/or polyester plastic. It comes in many colors and designs, including granite look-alikes, and is available in a matte or glossy finish. It is water resistant, does not usually stain and is easy to clean. It is unaffected by chemical use in cleaning agents and is repairable.
However, Corian is not heat resistant. Placing hot pans on it damages the surface beyond repair. It is expensive, and scratches easily, though the scratches can be removed through repair. Additionally, being manmade, Corian is not eco-friendly. But most of all, Corian is not aesthetically appealing to the discerning consumer. Corian is essentially synthetic, and its finish cannot match the timbre and antiquity of natural stone.
Corian meets some of the criteria of a good counter top, but its lack of resistance to heat and scratching, and its synthetic finish do not offer a conscious customer a justified purchase.
Wood counter tops, made using strips of thick wood joined together, are durable with care, attractive and functional, especially if you chop a lot. They are easy to clean as well and you can remove scratches with sandpaper.
However, wood counters do not offer much scope in color or design and need a lot of care. Compared to other counters, they do not last as long. They are neither heat nor water resistant and scratch easily. Additionally, their edges warp over time and need treatment. Wood is not environmentally friendly either.
Furthermore, wooden tops are expensive. The question facing consumers is, “is the extra care and drawbacks worth the extra money?”
A natural stone of immense beauty, granite is available in many colors and finishing styles, from polished to matte and textured. It is strong, very durable, easy to clean and doesn’t gather dirt. It won’t stain or scratch and is resistant to heat, water, and chemicals. Granite is one of the hardest materials in existence, it does not usually chip or crack, but is repaired with little difficulty in the event of a mishap.
Granite is expensive but offers many benefits in a high usage area like a kitchen. Additionally, its aesthetic appeal is unmatched by any alternative.
Marble is also aesthetically pleasing and hygienic, but can stain and scratch more easily. It is not as hard as granite and therefore not as durable and does not react well with chemical cleaning agents.
Considering the facts at hand, granite provides the best option for a kitchen countertop. The cost of granite is an investment, which more than pays off over the decades, in terms of ease, cleanliness, low maintenance costs, durability and aesthetics.