Everywhere you turn in today’s modern kitchen you see granite. It’s almost like a kitchen isn’t a kitchen if the countertops are anything other than granite. One study found that three in every four homeowners would choose granite for a new home or kitchen remodel (though granite’s popularity may be declining). For those who like a unique and interesting kitchen environment, however, here are some alternatives to granite that are every bit as good.
Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it can scratch. Yes, those are both considered to be attractive qualities. If you wonder how scratching (marble is softer than granite) and staining are qualities that make marble attractive, just think of the word “patina.” It turns out that the development of a patina, which is just a fancy way of referring to the aging process, gives the marble a warm look that many people appreciate. They claim that it makes the home feel used and loved and inviting. Of course, if you aren’t into scratched and stained countertops, avoid marble like the plague.
Soapstone is softer than granite, but not as soft as marble. It is also acid resistant, which is why it is often used in laboratory settings, and therefore won’t be affected by spills (coffee, wine, etc.) that can stain marble. That being said, you can’t polish soapstone like you can marble or granite, so its natural finish is matte. There are mineral oils that you can use to shine soapstone, but it will never glisten like granite. Some people like the matte look while others prefer a shine. If you like matte, consider soapstone.
In the last few years, butcher block countertops have become very popular. The popularity stems, in part, from the natural beauty that wood offers. Butcher block countertops also provide a break from all the granite being used and compliment many types of material quite well. Many kitchens combine the wood and another material to create a contrast that adds interest to a kitchen island or preparation area. Wood is durable, though not as durable as stone, and will develop a patina, like marble, over time. The biggest drawback to wood is that it requires more maintenance than just about any other option.
Quartz is a stone that is popular in engineered countertops that are made by mixing many small bits of quartz with a tough polymer resin. The result is a hard, durable, low-maintenance countertop that can be almost perfectly customized to match any kitchen decor. Quartz is tough, but it can be scratched, so care does need to be taken when cutting or using metal cookware. It will not stain or develop a patina like marble. Engineered quartz is provides a look that is similar to some types of granite.
This heavy option has come about as a result of new colorizing and staining technologies that let provide more options for concrete surfaces than the standard gray. Because they are poured as liquid and allowed to harden, concrete countertops can be made to include stone chips, tiles, silicone, and a variety of other objects. This versatility makes concrete one of the most customizable options available. Though resistant to scratches and heat, concrete can be damaged by acid and thus requires special sealants and regular maintenance.
Glass is the most durable countertop option as it is resistant to heat, scorching, stains, acids, and even germs (glass is non-porous). Glass is also highly customizable because it can be laminated to include an art layer between two clear layers. The only drawback to glass is its cost and so it is often only used in professional kitchens or for countertops that are see (e.g. bars). One cool option that glass provides is the ability to light the countertop from underneath
Most appliances these days are stainless, so why not the countertops too? There is nothing new about stainless, which has been used in professional and domestic settings for decades, but it is making a bit of a resurgence as people look to compliment their appliances. Stainless steel is heat and moisture resistant, but can be scratched or even dented. If stainless isn’t your metal of choice, you can choose pricier options like copper or zinc.
Solid Surface Countertops
These countertops look like natural stone, but are much less expensive. Unlike stone, these countertops are made on site, so they don’t have seams. They not only look great, by the lack of seams makes cleaning easier. While moisture resistant, these countertops are prone to scratching and chipping and can be scorched if care isn’t used. There is a great deal of research and development into improving solid surface countertops, so look for advanced performance in the near future.
The options for kitchen countertops are almost overwhelming, but fear not. Start first with your budget and rule out anything that exceeds it. After that, consider your cooking habits and look for a countertop with the performance characteristics that best match your habits. When all is said and done, you’ll have a kitchen that meets all of your requirements and that looks great as well.
Alan Rosinski adores the modern kitchen. He researches and redesigns beautiful and functional kitchens. He greatly enjoys writing about innovations in design and materials for today’s home chef.