The Triad's Top Kitchen Remodeling Professionals

Kitchen Express

Kitchen Counter Top Materials

Kitchen Counter Top Materials & Replacements

Advancements in technology and consumer demand have resulted in a wide selection of kitchen counter top materials and patterns. Man-made materials as well as those made by Mother Nature herself are widely available and at a price most everybody can afford.

Real estate ads and home improvement shows promote granite as the “must have” kitchen counter top. Why? Because granite is perceived as high quality and customers expect it. But, is it the best product for a kitchen counter top?

In today’s market, three kitchen counter top materials are the most popular: granite, quartz, and solid surface. Other less common materials, such as recycled glass, marble, slate, soap stone, wood, and metal have limited availability and can be pricey.

Let’s look at the top three kitchen counter top materials:

Granite Kitchen Counter Tops

Granite is a natural stone that is quarried from Mother Earth. The beauty of granite, as most people see it, is that no two slabs of granite are exactly alike. Each slab has its own distinct characteristics. The majority of granites are dark, so if you are looking for a light colored counter top you will have limited choices with granite.

Not all granites are priced the same. Pricing depends on where the granite is quarried and the demand and availability. Granites priced in the level one category are the most readily available and the least expensive. Exotic granites can be double and triple the cost of the level one granites.

Beware of home improvement stores promoting cheap prices for granite counter tops. Most often, these prices may not include delivery, installation, sink cutouts, sinks, or backsplashes. Be safe and get a quote for exactly what you want—delivered and installed.

Some granites such as Imperial Gold or Juparana Perisa have patterns with a lot of movement or swirling colors. These patterns make it challenging when joining or seaming two pieces together because the seam can be obvious. If you want granite with a lot of movement, you should always look at the slab before the fabrication begins. The fabricator can layout the counter tops so that any areas of the slab that are not appealing will not be used.

Other granites such as Absolute Black are pretty consistent and can be joined or seamed together so that the seam is hard to see. Chances are a small sample will be a good representation when looking at patterns that have little or no movement.

Granite can be fabricated with a smooth or glossy finish, a matte or honed finish, or a slightly rough or leather finish.

Advantages of granite counter tops:

• Natural beauty
• High perceived value
• Durable—Scratch and heat resistant
• Can be fabricated with different finishes

Disadvantages of granite counter tops:

• Porous—must be sealed periodically to avoid staining and bacteria build up.
• Can stain if not sealed properly

Quartz Kitchen Counter Tops

Quartz counter tops are man-made. They are manufactured from approximately 95% crushed Quartz stone and 5% resin. Since Quartz is manufactured in a controlled environment, unlike granite, patterns and colors are consistent. What you see in a small sample is what you’ll get. Quartz is also much stronger than granite, but rarely is this factor after installation.

Since both granite and Quartz are stone, they can be mistaken for one another, which can be good or bad. If a Realtor advertised that a house had Quartz counter tops, many people would not recognize Quartz even though Quartz is a superior product.

Quartz is available in lighter colors, so you have some options that you don’t have with granite.

Advantages of Quartz Counter Tops

• Patterns are consistent
• Does not require sealing
• Durable—scratch and heat resistant
• Stronger than granite
• Available in lighter colors

Disadvantages of Quartz Counter Tops

• Can be damaged by excessive heat
• Slightly higher cost

Solid Surface Kitchen Counter Tops

Solid surface is a loosely used term for man-made counter top materials manufactured from of a combination of marble dust, bauxite, acrylic, polyester resins and pigments. It is most frequently used for seamless countertop installations. DuPont first introduced solid surface in 1967 under the name of Corian.

Today, many different manufacturers offer solid surface counter top products.

The biggest advantage of solid surface is that it can be seamed together using a bonding adhesive that creates a joint as strong as the material itself. Close up, the seam can very difficult to detect and almost impossible to see from a distance. This holds true for most patterns, but some of the newer patterns that simulate stone will have a noticeable seam because of the change of the pattern at the joint.

The ability to seam enables solid surface sinks to be built into the counter tops almost seamlessly. An integral sink is aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean.

Solid surface can also be thermo formed (formed into different shapes by heating) for unique applications. So, the sky is the limit with solid surface. You can be as creative as your budget will allow.

Advantages of Solid Surface Counter Tops

• Unlimited fabrication possibilities—integral sinks
• Patterns are consistent
• Durable—scratch and heat resistant
• Non-porous and stain resistant

Disadvantages of Solid Surface Counter Tops

• Can scratch (scratches can be polished out)
• Can stain (removing stains requires work)

Solid surface can scratch easier than granite or quartz. Scratches show more on solid colors than on patterns. A matte finish is recommended because a gloss finish will show every little scratch. Scratches can be polished out.

Solid surface is non-porous and heat and stain resistant. If you spill red wine on a white counter top, it will stain, but you can remove the stain with a little work.

I did not mention laminate counter tops as a top choice of kitchen counter top materials because so few people use laminate anymore. Laminate is most commonly used in commercial and multi-unit housing. It’s not that laminate is a bad product; it’s actually a good option for counter tops, but it seems to have fallen out of favor with the American public. If you’re going to invest some money in a kitchen counter top, you might as well invest a little more and add value to your house.

Call Kitchen Express today or schedule a free in-home design consultation online.

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