Kitchen countertops are one of the most-used surfaces in a home. With so many options available, selecting the right one for both lifestyle & budget can be challenging.

Kitchen countertop surfaces need to be durable, as well as beautiful. They also need to fit the lifestyle needs of the homeowners, and stay within the budget set for the kitchen remodeling project. By educating themselves on the pros and cons of various countertop materials, homeowners are better able to make an informed decision on the best products for their home.

Inexpensive Kitchen Countertop Materials

The least expensive kitchen countertop material is plastic laminate. Better known by the brand names Formica, Wilsonart and Nevamar, laminate is a multi-layered plastic surface made in hundreds of colors and patterns. Several different edge details are available, including a beveled wood edge or a rounded bullnose edge.

Laminate will last many years, even in a high-traffic area such as the kitchen. It will scratch, however, and is not heat-resistant. Care must be taken not to chip, burn or scratch the surface, as these problems cannot be corrected in most cases without replace the countertop. Using a laminate with a matte finish and with a pattern, instead of a solid color, will help to hide scratches.

Another countertop which is both durable and relatively inexpensive is the tile countertop. Countertops can be tiled with both ceramic and stone tiles in any number of sizes. Just as tile is durable on the floor, it is also durable on the countertop. However, unlike the smooth surface of laminate, grout joints are very noticeable on tile countertops. Some homeowners may object to the cleaning required to keep the grout looking new.

Durable Kitchen Countertop Upgrades

Solid surface countertops are the next step up in kitchen countertops, in both durability and price. These solid acrylic and polyester products are best known by their brand names, including Corian. Because the color runs all the way through the product, solid surface countertops can be buffed and refinished when lightly scratched.

They are not heat resistant, however, so caution should be used with hot pans. This countertop is available in many colors and patterns, and it can also have a sink seamlessly built right in.

Most consumers are aware of the beauty of granite countertops. This is the most requested countertop upgrade for many kitchen and interior designers. Granite countertops are very hard, scratch resistant and heat resistant. They are, however, porous; most granites should be sealed periodically to prevent stains. Available in a wide range of colors and patterns, from the very solid India Black to the wildly veined Juparana Gold, there is a granite for every décor.

Granite is on the high-end of pricing, although there is a range of price points available. Pricing is based upon the location of the stone quarry, the stone’s rarity and other factors. Granite is usually used in a polished finish, but is also available in a honed, or matte, finish. The honed finish is more likely to stain, and can look blotchy when it comes in contact with oily residues from cooking.

Similar to granite, are the new quartz countertops. Known by brand names such as Silestone, Cambria and Zodiac, these products are man-made from mostly natural materials. With 93% quartz as the main ingredient, these countertops are very durable and heat and scratch resistant.

They are also harder than granite, making them able to span larger distances without supports beneath the countertop. Some quartz products are available in a matte finish, but most are installed with a glossy look.

Quartz products, although they try to mimic the look of natural granite, do not look like real stone. They are generally more consistent in their patterning, and the colors offered are not necessarily found in nature.

Further, these man-made materials can be more expensive than natural granite. However, they are essentially maintenance-free once they are installed, making them a fantastic choice for any homeowner.

Each type of kitchen countertop material has good qualities and bad. Depending upon the budget and the lifestyle of the homeowners, one type of countertop may be better suited for one family than it would be for another.

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