When it comes to choosing the right countertop for your home, the selection can be a little overwhelming. Apart from the aesthetics element, you also have to select the kind of material your counter will be made of. This comes down to a question of function, budget, and personal taste. The four key types of countertops available today are granite, quartz, solid-surface, and laminate (also known as postform).
Granite is quarried in large blocks taken directly from the earth, and these blocks are then cut into slabs for your countertops. Because it is a naturally occurring stone, the design and colours will never be uniform (the aesthetics of this appeal to some homeowners, while others like a less varying look), meaning the sample you base your selection on in the store will not perfectly match the stone you receive for your countertops, and the seams where two parts of your counter meet up will be visible (matching the veins and patterns in two different pieces of granite is practically impossible). While you can get less costly pieces of granite, it is important that you get thick slabs as the thicker the piece, the stronger it is. Granite tends to be the more expensive choice for countertops, however you can recoup much of that cost in the re-sale value of your home. Barring any unusual occurrences, granite can stand up to normal countertop wear-and-tear for a lifetime and is completely heat-resistant and almost totally scratch-resistant. It is a naturally porous stone however, so it does need to be sealed once a year to prevent it from staining or absorbing bacteria which can then be transferred to you and your food. You must hire a trained professional to install granite countertops, so be sure to budget for this if you opt for granite.
Quartz is an extremely durable choice for countertops, being composed of approximately 93% crushed quartz (a hard mineral that forms in clusters), and 7% resin. It is one of the hardest materials there is, and it is scratch, heat, and bacteria-resistant. It's available in a wide selection of colours and patterns, which varies depending on the colourant and how coarsely the quartz is crushed. A non-porous surface, this countertop will never have to be sealed and can easily be cleaned with a cloth and soap. Because the design can be controlled during manufacturing, seams can be rendered almost invisible on a quartz countertop. Quartz is more flexible than granite, so while you will still need to hire a professional to install it, the installation process is easier than it is with granite. It is important to note that direct sunlight can cause discolouration in quartz countertops over time, so be aware of this when making your selection.
Man-made solid-surface countertops are less expensive than quartz, and the installation process is also easier. Though they lack the heat and scratch-resistance of granite and quartz, scratches can easily be sanded out and repaired. It's important that scratches are fixed, as they can provide a dangerous breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Completely seamless and non-porous, barring scratches these are totally bacteria-resistant, making them an extremely safe food prep surface. Available in countless styles and colours, you also have the option of bullnose edges, meaning the counter edges can be rounded in a variety of ways, depending on which design you prefer. These rounded finishes can increase visual appeal, help prevent bacteria growth, and are safer in terms of preventing injury if bumped into. Unlike the glossy surface of stone countertops, solid-surface is matte, with uniform colouring and design.
Laminate countertops are easy to clean, maintain, and install (a skilled DIYer can totally install these!). The least expensive of the four options we've discussed, these countertops are still a durable, man-made option and they are a very popular choice in many households. They are not heat resistant and scratches are not easy to repair, but they are non-porous, so undamaged laminate countertops provide a clean surface for cooking. Seams are visible, but the selection of colours, patterns, finishes, and designs are seemingly endless. Manufacturers can now even print wood and stone patterns into laminate, so the counters can look just about any way you want. Because of the budget-friendly pricing of laminate countertops, these can easily be updated if you want to refresh your kitchen without breaking the bank.
Whichever countertops you choose, make sure they are properly installed and follow user guidelines. This will greatly extend the life of your countertop and ensure that you get the best return on your investment. With the many options now available, the countertops that suit your style and budget are just waiting for you to bring them home.
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.