Pros and Cons: Countertop Options
Choosing countertops is a big decision. It is essential to understand what they can withstand and the type of maintenance they require. For example, some countertops require regular sealing. If you don’t, they could lose their beauty or become nonfunctional.
Understanding the pros and cons of countertops can help you determine which is best for your kitchen. Of course, the counters that fit your budget will be the top contenders, but many countertops are within the same price range.
Here’s what you should know.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Countertops
Your kitchen countertops are one of the most essential features of your kitchen. They add to the room’s ambiance but also provide function. Choosing the right countertops is vital to a fully-functioning kitchen.
Here’s what to consider.
First, of course, determine your budget. Countertops are a significant investment but can last many years. Depending on the material you choose, countertops can last from 20 – 100 years. If you’re on a tight budget, many more affordable options can mimic higher-end countertops, giving you the same look.
2. Ability to Withstand Normal Activities
Determine how you use your countertops, including frequency, and what you do in the kitchen. For example, if you do a lot of chopping, you may want part of your counter to be butcher block, or if you want a counter that can withstand heat, you may consider granite countertops.
3. Required Maintenance
Some countertops require extensive maintenance, including regular sealing. If you run a busy lifestyle and don’t have time for maintenance, choose a less maintenance-heavy countertop. Also, consider countertops resistant to water and stains. Some countertops stain instantly and wouldn’t be good for families with young kids.
4. Strength and Durability
Consider the supports you have for your countertops, some options are much heavier than others. Laminate countertops are the most likely to damage and the hardest to repair, usually requiring replacement. Granite and tile are traditionally the most durable, but they are also heavy and require regular maintenance.
What Countertop Options Are Available?
So now that you know what to look for in countertops, what options do you have? Most countertops mentioned below are available in various colors and styles and can match any décor.
Understanding the pros and cons of countertops can help you determine which will be best for your family.
1. Ceramic Countertops
Ceramic countertops are the middle-ground for most families. They are a step above laminate and a step below granite and other natural stone countertops. Ceramic is available in many styles and colors and is typically easy enough for DIY projects.
Ceramic has been used in households for generations and are typically low-cost, making them an affordable option for most kitchens.
- Affordability – It’s no doubt that countertops are an investment. But, the cost is on the lower end. On average, they cost $15 per square foot or more for elaborate designs.
- Easily replaced – If you crack or chip a ceramic tile, removing and replacing it is easy, even as a DIY project.
- Variety – Ceramic countertops can take on almost any design, so you can make them as elaborate or simple as you want.
- Non-durable – There’s a reason ceramic countertops are so easy to replace because they are easily damaged, especially cracks. The downside of these countertops is cracks or chips cannot be repaired, and the entire section must be replaced.
- Uneven – Ceramic countertops have grout between the tiles, making for a less-than-smooth surface. You cannot work directly on the countertop and must always have something underneath to stabilize it.
- Grout joints require sealing – The grout joints can easily stain, and if you don’t clean up spills quickly, they could ruin the grout joints. Not sealing them could put your countertop at risk of bacteria growth.
2. Laminate Countertops
Laminate countertops are the least expensive because they are made of plastic and particleboard. The surface is strong but not nearly as strong as some other countertop options. However, laminate can easily replicate other higher-end countertops, making them a viable option for families who can’t maintain higher-end countertops with young kids or busy lives.
- Affordability – Like ceramic countertops, laminate countertops are very affordable. Of course, you can add to the costs with elaborate designs or complicated installation, but overall, laminate countertops cost $15 per square foot on average.
- Easy to install – Laminate countertops are the most likely to be easy for a DIY project, which is good because they need to be replaced the most frequently.
- Easy to clean – Laminate countertops are great for young and busy families that don’t have time to worry about spills in grout lines or resealing countertops. You simply wipe up the spills and move on with laminate.
- Not heat or scratch resistant – Laminate countertops are the least sturdy out of the countertop options. They can be easily scratched or burned from heat and always require a barrier between the heat source and the counter.
- Short lifespan – With proper care, these countertops last around 15 years, sometimes 20. This is much less than the lifeline of most other options, so in the long run, they can cost more.
3. Granite Slab Countertops
Granite slab countertops are one slab of granite custom cut to fit your kitchen. They don’t come in pieces and have continuous designs because there aren’t any cuts. Granite slabs are heavy but are easier to install than granite tiles because they come in one large piece.
- Non-engineered – Granite is about as close as you’d get to picking your stone from the quarry and putting it in your kitchen. Granite isn’t engineered, and there’s very little processing done to it before it gets installed in your home.
- Scratch resistant – Granite is mostly scratch-resistant but not scratch-proof. While cutting directly on it isn’t a good idea, it likely won’t scratch if someone accidentally does so.
- Easily repaired – Cracks or chips can be easily repaired by a professional with epoxy the same color as the countertop. Fortunately, cracks and chips are very rare on granite.
- Costly – Granite is one of the higher-end materials, making granite countertops more expensive. However, granite slabs are more affordable than granite tiles, costing homeowners around $40 – $60 per square foot.
- Custom order – Because slabs are cut to the exact specifications of your
Granite tile countertops have the same pros and cons as slabs, except they usually cost less than slabs because they aren’t custom-cut. However, tiles must be individually installed, which can mess with the countertop’s design, making it less seamless than a slab might look.
4. Quartz Countertops
Quartz countertops, unlike granite, are engineered. They are made of quartz and resin materials but are usually 90% quartz and 10% fillers. The materials are mixed and then blended to create slabs of countertops. Most countertops are then polished before getting installed.
- Highest durability – Quartz countertops are among the most durable materials available. They are scratch, heat, and chip resistant. They also resist most stains and are highly resistant to bacteria and other harmful materials.
- Versatile – Quartz countertops can have almost any appearance you want, making them a great option in any type of décor. Many people use quartz to resemble higher-end materials like marble and porcelain.
- Increase home value – You’ll usually see a good return on your investment with quartz countertops because they increase your home’s value. Most homebuyers rate quartz countertops as the most desirable.
- High cost – Quartz is among the most expensive countertop materials. The prices start at $55 per square foot and go as high as $150 per square foot. However, this is because of its unmatched durability.
- Not heat-proof – Quartz is heat resistant, but resin isn’t, making quartz countertops susceptible to heat damage. You always need a barrier between the heat and the countertop.
- Installation is expensive – Quartz is heavy and requires highly-detailed installation, making it a more expensive installation project that you cannot DIY.
5. Concrete Countertops
You might not think of concrete when choosing kitchen countertops, but they are among the strongest options and can take on the look of most higher-end materials. You won’t have a slab of grey concrete in your kitchen. They can be stained and sealed to mimic almost any look you want.
- Easily customized – Most concrete countertops are customized to take on the appearance of other countertop types. You can also have small items etched into the top of the countertop, such as glass pieces or stones, to give the look you desire.
- Scratch resistant – Most countertops aren’t scratch-proof, but concrete countertops are about as close as they come. They aren’t nearly as soft as other materials, making it a good option for busy families.
- May increase home value – Concrete countertops are about as valuable as quartz countertops because of their durability. Most homeowners see a good return on their investment with them.
- Frequent sealing – Concrete countertops must be sealed annually. So it’s not a good option for busy families who don’t have a lot of time for regular home maintenance.
- Heavy – You must have adequate support to have concrete countertops. Your existing cabinets may not be strong enough and require replacement to withstand concrete countertops.
6. Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone isn’t a widely known countertop material but it is relatively durable. Soapstone is a natural material, like quartz, giving your home a natural feel. Because it’s natural, you cannot dictate what it will look like since it isn’t manmade. The countertop may have natural imperfections, which are meant to enhance its beauty and value. However, in exchange for the natural beauty, you get a countertop with unmatched durability.
- Rustic, unique beauty – No other countertop can mimic soapstone since it’s a natural material, and no two countertops of this material look the same. It gives the home a rustic, natural look without any engineering.
- Good for the environment – Because soapstone doesn’t use chemicals or fillers, it’s better for the environment.
- Stain-proof – Not too many countertops can claim to be strain-proof like soapstone. It’s non-porous, so the liquids won’t seep through the surface, staining the counter.
- Limited colors and patterns – Because soapstone is completely natural, you cannot control its color or pattern. You may have to give up the design you had in mind in exchange for a natural, durable countertop.
- Can’t resist oil – If you cook with many oils, you may want to avoid soapstone as oil can darken its surface, and there’s no way to repair it.
- Scratches easily – Despite being heat and crack-proof, soapstone scratches easily. Just tossing a piece of silverware across the table could be enough to scratch it.
7. Marble Countertops
Marble countertops are an acquired taste. They are another countertop made of natural materials, so there aren’t two identical countertops. They have an unmatched beauty that people either love or hate. It’s a higher-end look that can look amazing in a home or look out of place if the rest of the home is more relaxed.
- Exquisite look – If you’re looking for countertops with a rich look that oozes luxury, you’ve found it in marble. Its beauty is unrivaled, and no one will have the same look as each is one of a kind.
- Heat resistant – Like most countertops, marble is heat resistant but not heat-proof, so you should put something between hot plates and the counter, but they aren’t as likely to get heat damage.
- Long-lasting – Marble countertops can last as long as 100 years, so you definitely get a return on your investment.
- Easily stained – Marble countertops are porous and stain easily. If you have young kids or a busy lifestyle, you may want to look at another material that won’t stain as easily.
- Costly – Marble countertops start at $75 per square foot and up. They are among the most expensive countertop materials.
- Scratches easily – Marble is a soft material, so again, if you have young kids or a bustling lifestyle that doesn’t allow much time for home maintenance, you may want to look at a stronger material.
8. Butcher Block Countertops
Butcher block countertops are wooden countertops that you can cut on without anything underneath the food you’re chopping. They are made of many different types of wood and come in various price ranges depending on the look and style you desire.
- Low cost – Butcher block countertops are lower cost than natural stone counters but more expensive than laminate. They average around $30 per square foot but sometimes cost more for higher-end wood.
- Long life – Butcher block counters last for 20+ years with regular care. They are stronger than laminate countertops and usually outlive them.
- Cleans easy – You don’t need special products or techniques to clean these countertops. Soap and water are all you need, and they are highly resistant to bacteria.
- Not heat resistant – You must use a barrier between the hot plate and the countertop, as the butcher block isn’t heat resistant. If it burns, it will leave a burn mark on your counter.
- Drying – Wood can dry out, giving you less life out of the countertop than anticipated.
- Easily stained – You must be quick with the cleaning if there are spills because wood stains easily.
Knowing the pros and cons of countertops is important, especially when you have so many options. Here are common questions about the types of countertops.
Which countertops hold up best?
Quartz countertops are the most durable yet also higher priced. Quartz itself is highly indestructible, but the resins mixed with quartz aren’t, so quartz countertops have some risks. Next to quartz, granite is the next most durable countertop. However, they are porous and vulnerable to stains.
What are the negatives of quartz countertops?
Quartz countertops are not heat-proof, and some aren’t even heat-resistant. This is due to the resin added to quartz countertops. Many quartz countertops have heat damage because of it. In addition, they often have seams and are difficult to install, which results in higher labor charges.
What are the hardest countertops to maintain?
Porous materials, such as granite or marble, are the hardest to maintain because they require regular sealing. If you don’t keep up with the sealing, they could stain, which could shorten their lifespan.
There are many pros and cons of countertops that you should consider. In addition, consider what is within your budget and the look you want in your home. Your kitchen countertops will be one of the most used parts of your home, so choose a material you can maintain, that can withstand the work you’ll do on it and give you the look you desire.