We’re excited about this week’s post because we’re discussing building materials for some of our favorite rooms in the house to design: kitchens and baths! This post is going to be a bit more technical than most. We’re really getting into the nitty gritty of selecting counter top materials, including the pros and cons of each. First, let’s talk about tile:
When considering what tile to choose for a countertop, you’ll want to think about hardness and thickness. Look for tile that’s a Class 3 hardness rating on the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) scale. Generally, standard countertop tile thickness is 5/16 inch, though sometimes you’ll see quarter inch tile used.
Two Most Popular Tile Types:
- Ceramic is the most common and least expensive countertop option. Ceramic tile is crafted from pressed clays and finished with a glaze to protect the porous material from water and stains. This can look dated when using 4×4 tiles, op’t for large slab Porcelain tile without seams instead.
- The second most popular tile type is porcelain. We love Porcelain! Composed of clays and minerals fired at higher temperatures, porcelain is a more durable surface, but is pricier and more difficult to install than ceramic. You’ll want to make sure you have a great general contractor on the job!
Design Details to Consider When Choosing a Tile Countertop
- Size. Choose from a variety of sizes: from tiny mosaics up to 48-inch squares.
- Finish. Smooth-glazed, matte, hand-painted, crackled and printed. Less glossy finishes help mask damage overtime.
- Grout. Grout can be tinted to match or contrast.
- Accents. Tiles can be inlayed near the range as an integrated trivet or seamlessly installed up the wall for a matching backsplash.
Solid Surfaces/Quartz Countertops
Solid surfaces and quartz are a popular selection because of their durability and how low-maintenance they are. Engineered quartz countertops are stain, acid, scratch, heat and impact resistant and, because of their non-porous surfaces, quartz doesn’t need to be sealed like natural stone countertops do, and any scratches can be easily sanded out. Made from resin-bound crystals, quartz gives the illusion of its natural counterparts, but without the same demand for upkeep. Quartz is also available in a range of colors and patterns, and ranks close in popularity to the perennial top choice: granite.
Granite & Marble
Granite, of course, is a popular choice, but it’s a surefire way to date your kitchen! We hope in reading this guide, you’ll be open to less popular, but more timeless countertop options. Marble and granite surfaces are popular for their tough-as-rocks durability, but they do need to be resealed regularly to protect them from stains. (Granite, once a year; Marble, every few months)
Soap Stone Countertops
Highly stain and bacteria resistant, soapstone is a non-porous natural stone that’s available in a range of gray tones with subtle veining. Unlike other natural stones, soapstone doesn’t require yearly sealing but regular applications of mineral oil will mend surface scratches, deepen the stone’s color, and add sheen.
You’ll recognize soapstone from historic homes’ countertops, but is being used more frequently today in modern homes as countertops and sink materials.
Travertine stone has a pitted surface that needs to be filled and sealed so it doesn’t trap food and bacteria and absorb liquids. This makes it more high maintenance than other countertop surface options.
Concrete countertops are highly customizable: They can be stained any color and even the texture can be customized. Concrete countertops also mix well with a variety of other finish materials, such as glass, tile. Because of its customizability, concrete counters can be on the pricy end. Concrete is heat and scratch resistant; it captures the heat as the temperature in your home rises and releases it when it cools.
For a cottage, woodland look, consider butcher-block style wooded countertops. Popular wood types include maple and oak. In the kitchen, wood countertops are both decorative and functional: they’re great surfaces for meal prep. Wood countertops are also an economical option for your kitchen, and unlike other less-expensive options, wood countertops are heat resistant. That said, wood countertops need to be properly sealed because they’re susceptible to cracking and and warping from water damage.
Stainless Steel Countertops
Modern and easy to clean, stainless steel is a sleek, low-maintenance choice for a modern kitchen. The reason you see stainless steel in industrial kitchens all the time is because they don’t need to be sealed or filled and never require more maintenance than a simple wipe-down, making them one of the most hygienic choices. Stainless steel also pairs well with numerous other styles and materials. Unless you’re opposed to stainless steel aesthetically or because of it’s often-high price point, we really can’t recommend it enough! The only other con is that you can’t cut on it the way you can with wood.
Formica / Laminate Countertops
As the most budget-friendly option, we’re seeing a resurgence of laminate countertops. They’re also increasing in popularity thanks to new patterns resembling natural stone, wood, and quartz for a fraction of the cost. Laminate is popular in retro, mid-century looks homes, but are highly stylized and trendy. They’re fairly low-maintenance and practical, but if chipped or damage, it’s nearly impossible to repair without complete replacement.
Glass countertops are pricey, but are increasingly popular because of it’s sleek modern aesthetic. Glass countertops are easy to keep clean, and its non-porous surface makes it stain-resistant. It’s one of the most hygienic countertop materials. Not just any glass will do, however; for durability, choose glass that’s at least 1 inch thick and tempered.
The Bottom Line on Kitchen Countertops
Tile complements a variety of styles, whether traditional, contemporary or Southwestern. The heat-resistant material is ideal around ranges and cooktops, but its uneven surface isn’t ideal for baking centers.