Countertops are a focal point in a kitchen or bathroom. You have many choices of material, each has advantages and disadvantages – learn which is best for you!
Figure 5 - Solid surface countertops
Some people confuse solid surface, as shown in Figure 5, with Quartz countertops. They are not the same. Solid surface countertops are totally synthetic. They are similar in appearance to natural stone but when installed properly are totally seamless including angles and nosing. Using chemicals to melt the edges of the material, the seams are in fact welded together and disappear. Common brand names are Gibraltar, Staron, Avonite, and Corian. The material comes in a variety of colors and finishes.
Sinks can be under-mount, surface mount or molded as a one-piece part of the countertop leaving no areas for the accumulation of dirt or bacteria. There is no need to protect the material from hot pots. These materials will scratch so a cutting board is recommended.
Maintenance: The manufacturers all have their own cleaning products, but in general, liquid detergent and warm water will clean the surface nicely. Stains and surface scratches can be removed with buffing.
Cost: $90-$150/lin. ft., installed
Figure 6 - Quartz countertop
Quartz countertops, as shown in Figure 6, are manufactured by mixing quartz dust with a resin to create a product that is easily molded into any shape and form. Quartz is one of the hardest materials and hence countertops are extremely durable, stain and scratch resistance. Quartz countertops come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Quartz countertops lend themselves well to under-mount or surface mount sinks. Edges can be finished in a variety of shapes. They are impervious to heat.
Maintenance: Use a non-abrasive cleaner with warm water and rinse. Should a scratch appear on the surface it can usually be buffed out. It is not necessary to seal a Quartz countertop.
Cost: From $110-$250/lin. ft., installed
Figure 7 - Stainless steel countertop
Impervious to bacteria and heat, stainless steel is the ultimate in countertop surfaces. Stainless steel, as shown in Figure 7, has become the “in” product for kitchen countertops by decorators and is now very popular as a finish for major and small kitchen appliances. Scratches and marks give the stainless steel the feel of a working kitchen, but does not decrease its aesthetic value. Stainless steel countertops have become popular in traditional and contemporary kitchens.
Sinks are generally surface mounted although they can be under-mount. It is also possible to have the sink pressed into the stainless steel as a one piece unit, although this is a very expensive process.
Maintenance: Use a specially formulated stainless steel cleaner. Scratches can be buffed with a fine steel wool or scouring pad.
Cost: $85-$150/sq. ft., installed
Figure 8 - Tile countertop
Designers cannot decide on whether tile countertops, as shown in Figure 8, are in or out of style. The most popular tiles used for countertops are granite, ceramic, and porcelain. Other tiles, which are not as common, include glass and natural stone. Tiled countertops have the inherent problem of grout. Grout discolors, stains, and is not easy to clean. As well, the surface is not flat. While countertops made of small tiles seems to be out of fashion, at the moment, countertops made of larger tiles appear to be “in”. Most home handymen can install a tile countertop and backsplash. The nosing is usually created by using a molded tile specifically shaped for that purpose. Some tile countertops are made by inlaying the tile into a wood frame and using the wood to provide the nosing and backsplash.
Sinks should be surface mount.
Maintenance: Granite tiles must be sealed (see section of granite countertops). All of the grout should be sealed. Ceramic, porcelain tile and the grout can be cleaned with liquid detergent and warm water.
Cost: $10-$90/sq. ft., installed
Figure 9 - Wood countertop
Hardwood countertops or butcher block, as they are known in the trade are timeless (Figure 9). Many species of hardwood make excellent countertops. The most common being maple. Other common materials are oak, cherry, and the very high-density woods such as zebra and wenge. It is recommended that a professional make the countertop in order that the boards do not eventually come apart or warp. Besides it’s beauty hardwood has the inherent quality that it can be refinished many times.
Sinks can be surface mount or under-mount.
Maintenance: Do not use polyurethane finishes on countertops because they do not stand up to heat or scratches. Use a mineral oil monthly or specially formulated food grade, finishing product (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Burn marks, scratches, and stains can be sanded out.
Cost: $30-$150/sq. ft., installed