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Countertop Materials: Pros and Cons

Choosing New Countertops for Your Home: Part 1

   If you are planning a kitchen update or another remodeling project somewhere else in your home, countertops are a big deal. Whether your countertops are actually falling apart or just plain ugly, you will notice a completely different feel to a space when you have a new surface to work on.

When you start looking for countertops, you will likely find many visually appealing options. The tough choice comes when you start looking at materials. The options can be overwhelming, as there are many countertop types, in a wide variety of colors and styles.

For your countertop remodeling project, consider questions like:

— I love to cook – which countertop material is best?

— In what situation would laminate countertops be a good choice?

— I keep seeing concrete countertops on various remodeling TV shows; what’s it like to actually own them?

— Do I really need granite countertops to increase the value of my home?

Your main question is likely, “What’s the difference between all of these, anyway?” 

In part 1 of this blog, we’ll review the pros and cons of the most popular types of countertops: laminate, granite, quartz, solid-surface, and marble.


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Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops became really popular in the 1950s, due to their low cost and low maintenance; they remain a popular choice today. Laminates come in a variety of colors and styles, from imitation stone to bright colors and patterns.

Pros & Cons:

— Not green: Laminate countertops are comprised of plastic (layers) bonded to a backer – often this is particle board, so it cannot be recycled.

— Not for bakers: Because laminate countertops are a synthetic product, it is comparatively inexpensive, but it is susceptible to damage from heat. Once it becomes damaged, it’s really difficult to repair, so it’s not the most practical option for an aspiring baker.

— Wipes clean: Busy families who are looking for a budget-friendly option often choose laminate because it is easy to clean and doesn’t require regular maintenance. There are several other materials, though, that are in a very similar price range that work just as well.

— Popular brands of laminate include Formica, WilsonArt, Arborite, and Nevamar.

Photo courtesy of WilsonArt. 


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Granite Countertops

Aside from laminate, granite is likely the most well-known type of countertop and it remains highly desirable. What makes granite countertops so popular? Granite is more durable than both laminate and marble, and comes in a variety of different looks.

It’s a natural stone that is mined from the earth as large chunks that are eventually sliced into slabs. What you see is what you get, so this natural resource is not only stunning visually, but always one of a kind. It’s a really good idea to talk to an expert on granite before you buy, so you can find the type that fits your budget and expectations.

Pros & Cons:

— Sort of green: Granite countertops are composed of primarily quartz and feldspar, with varying combinations of other minerals. It must be quarried, so there is some environmental impact for using it.

— Fits lots of budgets: Granite has a wide price range based on many factors, like how common it is, and how reliably mined it is.

— Heat-friendly: Granite is great for bakers, because it stays cool.

— Long life: Granite countertops are less porous than marble, so it will be easier to keep granite looking nice. Lighter colors are also more porous than dark. With proper care, granite will last a lifetime.

— Needs some maintenance: Granite requires regular sealing, and will still stain if spills and rings aren’t cleaned up quickly.

— That home value question: According to homelight.com, value needs to be considered in terms of what’s appropriate for your market. “Before making bigger upgrades—like new countertops—consider both your price point and your competition. If your house is valued in the low or mid-range, installing high-end countertops can actually hurt your home’s value. On the flip side, if local comparables all have granite countertops and yours doesn’t, you have a choice to make. In order to list at the same price as your neighbor, you’ll have to invest in new countertops—otherwise, you’ll have to settle for selling at a lower price point.”


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Quartz Countertops

It’s really easy to make the case for quartz. This material may cost you more than granite, but is easy to maintain, and incredibly durable. Quartz is a great option for kitchens; we like to think of quartz as the superhero of countertops!

Pros & Cons:

— Green: Quartz countertops are composed of about 90% ground quartz and 10% resins. It is predictable material that is environmentally friendly, and can be recycled.

— What color would you like?: Quartz offers a larger variety in terms of color over both marble and granite.

— Extremely durable: In order to achieve diversity in colors and patterns, quartz is mixed with a variety of polymers, resins and pigments. It’s this recipe of stone plus resin that makes quartz virtually indestructible.

— Keepin’ it clean: It easily resists stains because it is inherently non-porous, and it’s safe to use most cleaning products on.

— Amateur cooks love it: Quartz is heat-resistant.

— Quartz we recommend: Caesarstone and Silestone.


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Solid-Surface Countertops

Solid-surface countertops, like the brand Corian®, can be a great choice for the budding chef. Most solid-surface countertops easily meet standards for food preparation safety. These countertops come in a variety of designs that can very closely mimic granite, marble, or any other natural stone.

Pros & Cons:

— Lower maintenance: If you like the look of stone but just don’t have the time to maintain natural countertops against extra wear and tear, think about a solid surface as an alternative.

— Durable but fixable: Available in gloss or matte, these versatile countertops are sure to stand the test of time. Solid surfaces can stand up to the toughest kitchen nightmares, but are also easily repaired.

— Versatile and stylish: Solid surfaces aren’t just great in your kitchen – they are great in high-traffic places like bathrooms.

— One of our favorite brands is The Onyx Collection®, which specializes in mildew-resistant surfaces for vanities, showers, and tubs. Onyx is an interesting hybrid of a solid surface and a marble, giving you the best of both worlds.


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Marble Countertops

Marble countertops offer a luxurious and elegant look, but can be very expensive – even more than granite. Marble is available in many color options, but is a high-maintenance surface that needs to be resealed yearly.

Pros & Cons:

— Yay for baking: If you’re looking for a gorgeous and heat-resistant countertop, marble is for you.

— Spills are its nemesis: Wine and coffee lovers, look out! Marble is smooth and firm, but porous. This means all those little stains will stick around – even the oils from your hands can leave some evidence on this surface. To keep marble looking pristine, quick cleanups are necessary.

— Keep it very green to clean: You shouldn’t use harsh cleaners – or even citrus-based cleaners – on marble countertops, because abrasives will cause etching and scarring.

— Regular sealing is mandatory! Pay for the extra sealant if it is offered before installation, because even water can temporarily stain marble.

— Gorgeous marble options: Brazilian white, Calcutta gold.


Be sure to continue reading Part 2 of this blog, which covers some alternative countertop materials, like wood, soapstone, stainless steel, glass, and concrete.

If you’d like to weigh the countertop options for your project with the help of an expert, you can call 734-669-4000 to speak with a design expert, or drop us an email.

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Shannon Janeczek

Shannon is the Marketing Manager for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen Ann Arbor. If you'd like to contact us with a guest blog post, or a remodeling story, just email her at marketing@dm-remodel.com.

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