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What are the pros and cons of various kitchen counter top materials?

  • Granite
  • Corian
  • Concrete
  • Laminate
  • Quartz
  • Silestone
  • Other
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4  
This should be community wiki. –  aphoria Aug 17 '10 at 11:29
    
interested to hear people's experiences with quartz –  msemack Oct 19 '10 at 21:56
    
Just want to make a comment as its not a full answer. I love granite; as others have said, durable, looks good and not super high expensive, but do be careful of soft granites. I have friends who installed granite that was on the "soft" side and the installer (a granite countertop cutting place) suggested against him putting hot pots and pans on it. We did a granite tile in our kitchen and i never think twice about putting a cast iron skillet on it strait out of a 475 degree oven or a pizza cooking sheet at 400 degrees. Even with the 1/8th inch grout lines. Good, properly installed is awesome –  lsiunsuex Feb 15 '12 at 18:57
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13 Answers 13

up vote 11 down vote accepted

We are happy with our Granite. The only drawback is that we have to watch out for stain's - from oil or red liquids like red wine. And even then, as long as you don't let it sit overnight, you are fine, just wipe it up. After living with Corian and Formica, the ability to place very hot pans on the surface it a must. I can't tell you how convenient that is.

depending on the style of granite and edge you use, it may actually be just as cheap as many of the other "cheaper" alternatives. We found that going to the local Granite supplier, was way cheaper than buying it from a kitchen place or major home improvement stores. In our case, we started at Home Depot, and we wanted to see larger samples. They told us to go look at their supplier's location. We went there, and they were like, just buy it from us directly, we not only supply it to Home Depot, but also install it for them, so we completely eliminated the middle man.

Corian is also soft, and can be scratched. They will tell you, "we can fix scratches, and buff it out", but that costs money. Why not just get something that can't scratch.

I am not 100% familiar with all the others listed. I would just recommend going with something that is heat resistant and scratch proof. If any other the other alternatives over granite are also less porous (resistant to stains) that would be a plus.

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I agree. Also if you are worried about spills you can seal it (though it does change color) once a year or so and you'll be fine. Even if you don't do that, and accidentally leave colored liquid for a long time there are products that let you "suck it out". –  Vitalik Aug 13 '10 at 13:11
    
The latest change is that the supplier can use a perm sealer that lasts a lifetime and you can avoid the yearly sealing. –  mohlsen Aug 13 '10 at 13:20
    
One issue with our granite countertops that surprised me was the fact that the pattern on the stone makes it difficult to tell how clean it is. This can be either a plus or a minus, I suppose. –  Tristan Aug 12 '13 at 1:29
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My experiences:

Caesarstone
+ Great to have a large cool surface for pastry, cooling confectionery
+ Can have funkier designs, like vertical faces for thick-looking countertops
- Stains very easily, constantly needed abrasive paste to remove. Hassle.
- Expensive
- Chips and expensive to repair.
- Limited heat resistance to pots despite new girlfriends thinking otherwise :) - Plates can chip or smash if dropped on it

Granite
+ Cool surface for pastry, confectionery,...
+ Great heat resistance, I've put glowing red woks on top with no fear.
- Not too badly priced but it hurts to cut out the sink and cooktop if you can't use the cutouts elsewhere.
- Limited patterns
- Plates can chip or smash if dropped on it

Laminate
+ Dirt cheap
+ Easy to transport for the DIY'er
+ Easy for DIY'er to cut out holes for faucet, sink and cooktop.
+ Scratches, however you can get reasonably scratch-proof high-gloss at a premium.
+ Amazing number of designs
+ Plates won't chip or smash if dropped on it
+ Can get doors/kickboards made with same design
- Doesn't ooze quality like denser surfaces.
- No hot pots/pans on top.

I'd go granite or laminate again, definitely not Caesarstone.

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Here's a countertop material comparison chart. It compares them by appearance, durability, sink options & value.

One thing it does not cover is how environmentally friendly the products are, both in production (raw material consumption and energy consumption) and ongoing maintenance. In that light, Quartz (aka engineered stone), wood (reclaimed or otherwise), glass, stainless steel, and products with a high recycled aggregate content (like glass chips) are the greenest choices.

The least green choices are Corian, and things that get taken out of the ground. (Unless you hang around another 4.5 billion years, granite/marble don't grow back :)

Here's another chart that covers greenness a bit better.

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Laminate. It's incredibly versatile, easy to install, and cheap. So easy to replace every few years to 'stay in style'.

Otherwise, I love concrete and slate. But that's just personal aesthetics.

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We chose caesarstone. We're too lazy to use natural stones - you've got to keep them sealed and they stain. We did not like Corian, too plasticy. We had considered a hardwood bench but figured to would visually dominate the room too much.

We've had the caesarstone for about 6 months now. It's pretty good but coffee can stain it and it has a small chip where we've bumped it with something hard. We also had it installed in our bathrooms - works well for there too.

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We have a concrete counter top, which is actually an amazing material when done correctly. It can be molded into almost any shape and thickness. It can be very fluid and doesn't have to have any seams. There are also a variety of finishes and colors.

Ours is sealed with an epoxy, which makes it very durable and low maintenance. If I were to do it again I might go with a more natural sealant like oil and wax.

One word of caution is that concrete is still a relatively new material for countertops. Make sure that you find an experienced contractor and beware of anyone who tells you it's going to come out exactly as expected.

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We used granite and it was quite a bit less than man made material alike quartz or silestone. We like it and haven't had a problem with stains yet (6 months). Our is a dark colored granite (ubatuba). I don't like how Corian can scratch.

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Did anyone who went the granite route investgate using granite tiles? I know they're less expensive, but of course more labor intensive. I've seen this done a couple of times on DIY network and they always claim there's a huge cost savings.

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we have matching granite tiles for a backsplash, but thin tiles for a countertop may look weird where it would 'wrap' around the endge –  mohlsen Dec 20 '10 at 19:10
    
A friend of ours used granite tiles. They make bullnose tiles for the edges, so the countertop looks like a, well, countertop. They had a bit of trouble around one corner of the sink - they kept breaking tiles when they tried to cut it to the appropriate shape. They finally ended up doing it out of two pieces there. Other than that, it looks and behaves pretty much like solid granite, for a very small fraction of the cost. –  Martha Feb 15 '12 at 15:10
    
Functionally it makes a lot of sense. Aesthetically, I think opinions differ. For me, ANY tiled counter top just feels extremely dated--circa late 70s/early80s. But maybe that's just me. I also tended to watch all those house flipping shows that were big before the crash and I'd say 90% of the kitchens were redone with granite tiles, so there may be a bit of a stigma there too (trying to look high end on the cheap). If cost is the issue, I always go with laminate. Easy to change later--either yourself or the next homeowner. –  DA01 Apr 18 '12 at 16:37
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We totally remodeled our kitchen about six months ago, on a fairly small budget. We went with laminate counter tops because...

  1. Very affordable. Our whole kitchen was $500, custom fit, with the edges rolled the way we like them, and no backsplash, to accommodate my tiling (Lowes).
  2. The visual quality of today's laminate is excellent. We ended up getting the Formica brand 180fx, which actually uses "high definition" photos of real granite. The pattern of the photo doesn't repeat on any one stretch of our counters. That, combined with the nice finish on the laminate, makes for a really sharp look. It does actually look like granite.
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+1 on the quality of laminate these days - It's pretty amazing how much better laminates have gotten over the last few years (much like vinyl flooring) –  Eric Petroelje Oct 19 '10 at 20:19
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We used Corian for our new apartment. Mostly because of the ability to have a thin looking layer of the counter top and the ability to have the sink molded with the rest of the counter. So it's mostly because of the appearance. Otherwise it has some other really nice benefits like easily repairable, resilient etc. The only drawback would be the price compared to some other materials.

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The best argument I heard of for laminate is the cost. It is much cheaper to change out the countertop when trends and taste change. For the most part it is low maintenace as well.

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And a second argument -- if you're redoing the whole kitchen, it lets you splurge on the cabinets, and you can replace the laminate (and appliances) later. –  Joe Aug 14 '10 at 14:25
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+1 much cheaper. It was a couple of hundred for the whole kitchen as opposed to thousands of dollars. Where we live, we can get engineered stone put on top later, too, if we like. No brainer. –  MGOwen Oct 19 '10 at 0:26
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You left out butcherblock -- it can be cheaper than stone or 'solid surface' products (Lumber Liquidators sells both Cherry and Maple edge grain for $310-330 per 12' section). You can sand many problems right out of it (but it's self-healing like a wood cutting boad when kept oiled, or you can get it varnished for less maintenance required), and it's something you can install yourself, as it's wood and doesn't require fancy tools.

The only disadvantage that I know of over the other surfaces you listed were if it were to get exposed to standing water, unsealed, and started to mold.

And I'll admit -- I'm not a fan of granite or stone ... I can't see paying that much money for a countertop; it's one thing to have a marble or granite insert for a pastry station, particularly if it's something you can pull out to chill down before using, but I'd never do a whole kitchen in it. If I wanted stone, I'd go concrete, just from the DIY-persepective of it.

You might want to re-ask this question on cooking.stackexchange.com for another perspective.

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We recently put in butcherblock - it can be a very economical option, and in my opinion looks incredible. There is some maintenance that goes along with it, but it's honestly not particularly a lot of work. –  Ryan Brunner Aug 16 '10 at 2:07
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We used Travina for all the counters throughout our new house. It has all the benefits of granite or quartz, but is about 50% of the cost.

From the website...

Travina® is composed of 70-80% natural aggregates and a special blend of high tech polymer resin for strength and durability.

  • Cost Effective Travina® was designed to be a low cost alternative for kitchen counter tops. It is comparable in beauty to real stone, as durable as solid surface products, yet stays within an affordable price range for most budgets.

  • Renewable Travina’s unique system makes it a renewable product. Very minor scratches can be removed with a single application of Travina® Final Coat. Deeper scratches can be taken care of by using a 400 grit sandpaper followed by Travina® Final Coat. In extreme cases, the manufacturer can renew almost any Travina® surface.

  • Heat Resistant Travina® fillers are heat resistant, but we recommend you use a hot pad.

  • Scratch Resistant Travina® products are scratch resistant. Although very sharp objects will scratch the surface, normal wear is typically undetectable. Travina’s unique appearance gives the product better ability to hide surface wear than its competition.

  • Stain Resistant Travina® is a porous product, but neither the aggregate or the resins are susceptible to staining. Travina® Final Coat is an advanced 5-year sealer that holds up to common stains. Some acids, bleaches and citrus products can harm the surface.

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the website also says: "Travina® contains calcium carbonate and is extremely sensitive to acids. Therefore, fruit juices, wine and harsh chemicals must be removed immediately from the surface." –  Vitalik Aug 13 '10 at 13:14
    
@Vitalik True enough. I was just listing some of the highlights. Besides, we don't usually leave spills or harsh chemicals on the counter, regardless of the type of counter. –  aphoria Aug 13 '10 at 20:01
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