What is the most important thing to look for in a kitchen countertop?
Yes it needs to last. Yes it needs to look good. But most important of all, it must be able to withstand the Malaysian cooking challenge of kunyit (turmeric) paste, ghee, and dark soy sauce.
That’s why your choice of kitchen countertop is very important. Choosing the right material means taking a look at how you use your kitchen. Do you put hot woks directly on the counter? Or use a pestle and mortar to tumbuk your sambal?
Once you know what you are dealing with, you can start to narrow down your list from these popular kitchen countertop materials.
Alongside other natural stone materials, marble is popular for its durability in the face of the common wear and tear. This classic material is also heat resistant and available in a variety of textures and tones. However, marble is also the most expensive option, and it must be sealed at installation and then periodically resealed over time, as its porous qualities can lead to problems.
As a cultured stone, quartz combines minerals, resins, and colors to create the vibrant texture of natural stone, with a wide variety of grains, textures, and hues, including more uniform tones. Unlike stone, though, this mixed medium does not require sealing or regular maintenance, and it stands up to scratches, stains, and heat. Quartz has a similarly high price tag, though, and sharp corners may require professional care if damaged.
Like stone and quartz, granite is resistant to damage from knives or heat, but, like quartz, is prone to damage to edges that may require professional care. Still, this popular material boasts textures and patterns unique to each slab, with polished and matte options that will further improve stain resistance. More unique colors will generally cost more, and, like stone, granite must be resealed over time.
Solid Surface Countertop
Solid surface countertops mimic the textures and colours of stone, as well as glass or concrete materials. Yet, they require less maintenance over time, helping to reduce costs. They maintain the resistance to heat and water damage of stone, but are much simpler to clean and will not show wear as quickly. Solid surface can be scratched and scorched, but these issues can be repaired with a bit of special care.
With its natural look and many potential tints or sculpts, concrete can be surprisingly adept at bringing the elements of your kitchen together, especially alongside other natural materials like wood or stone. This durable material will resist heat and stain damage, as well, which makes the regular sealing and maintenance worth the trouble. However, concrete is quite heavy, which will require extra care in design and installation, and can be easily damaged by highly acidic liquids.
As a countertop material, ceramic tiles are especially homeowner friendly. Not only do they drastically reduce costs, but they open up the possibility of a do-it-yourself approach. The diverse sizes, shapes, colors, and textures make any look or design possible, though the tiles themselves can be fairly easily damaged. Despite the fact that grout requires routine cleaning to prevent mildew and stain damage, tiles are quite resistant to damage from water, heat, scratches, and stains.
Among the many natural materials available, wood stands out for the warmth that it adds to any kitchen space. Wood will also stand up quite well to regular wear and tear from cutting and chopping, with any wear showing as a charming patina. In particular, butcher block, the most common variety, makes a wonderful base for a prep-area, although crafted slabs can also be used. As a material, though, wood requires regular maintenance and food-friendly sealing, as it can be damaged by water, heat, stains, and common acids or chemicals.
With changing technology, laminate has become quite popular as its available textures and colors have expanded. With the ability to mimic other materials, laminate entails particleboard or plywood encased in a thin layer of plastic resin. This makes it the most inexpensive countertop material, as well as one that is both durable and relatively easy to maintain. However, you will need to take care with laminate, as there is no way to repair any damage from hot pans or deep scratches and cracks. Furthermore, only drop-in sinks can be used with this material due to its construction.
Stainless Steel Countertop
There’s a reason why restaurants use stainless steel in their kitchens. This material is almost indestructible, and will handle the frenzied activity in any commercial kitchen. It is also easy to clean, since any spills will not penetrate the surface (and lead to bacteria). However, after a while, this shiny surface will get dull and scratched (you could say that it has more character). And it only comes in one colour.
Choosing the right kitchen countertop comes down to knowing the needs and requirements of your own cooking space. Undoubtedly, there is a material out there best suited to you and your household; it’s merely a matter of carefully considering the options to find the best material for your home.