What are the pros and cons of various kitchen counter top materials?
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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.
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.
We totally remodeled our kitchen about six months ago, on a fairly small budget. We went with laminate counter tops because...
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.
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 :)
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.
+ 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.
- Chips and expensive to repair.
- Limited heat resistance to pots despite new girlfriends thinking otherwise :) - Plates can chip or smash if dropped on it
+ 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
+ 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.
I just did my countertop in epoxy with a polyurethane topcoat on an MDF and laminate underlayment. I've put hot pots and pans on it with no effect since the epoxy and poly are heat resistant and they are over laminate which is over compressed particle board. Nothing to crack. I tried staining it with wine, mustard, and permanent marker. The permanent marker needed acetone to remove, but it did come off completely without much effort. The wine and mustard just cleaned off. I think I had to use acetone on the mustard also IIRC.
I did the pattern using mica powders, dyes, and spraypaints basically finger painting the end result - it looks like carara marble.
The polyurethane is only scratch resistant, but it takes a deliberate effort to scratch it. It's food safe, and no seams. That was important as I was extending an existing laminate peninsula with MDF and adding more base cabinets and any stone material would have had multiple seams. I also didn't want to demo my existing cabinets since they are a custom fitting and would have been very expensive to replace.
Materials cost about 5$/square foot. That doesn't include the time and materials teaching myself how to do it.
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.
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.