Kitchens are a bit like puzzles – every element needs to fit and work together to create a harmonious picture. Kitchen countertops are a key focal point to the look and feel of your space. Balancing light and dark elements along with functionality are all considerations for creating a kitchen that is lovely to entertain in and easy to use.
Why are Kitchen Countertops Important?
Some might say that the countertop is the most important element of your kitchen. Although that might be an overstatement, many people agree that countertops are a vital part of any functioning kitchen. A kitchen countertop has to stand up to quite a bit of activity – food prep, spills, messes, kids, and parties. It also is one of the first things people notice about your kitchen. Before choosing a countertop, it’s important to take into consideration costs, type of materials, aesthetics, functionality, durability, and color. Ideally, you want the countertop to enhance the floor, walls, and cabinets in your kitchen.
Types of Countertop Materials
Granite (or Granite Laminate)
When homeowners talk about kitchen countertops, granite is one of the first materials people discuss. Beautiful, durable and low-maintenance, granite is a natural stone that gives a warm and luxurious look to your kitchen. Because granite countertops come in an array of design options it can fit into most kitchen aesthetics.
While the advantages of granite countertops are many, there are some disadvantages. There are a lot of veining and speckles in granite that can make it look busy, and in smaller kitchens, this busy-ness may overwhelm the space. It also needs to be sealed to keep it from staining at least annually, depending on how well maintained it is.
Stainless steel countertops are a staple in restaurant kitchens across the nation and for good reason – they are durable and resilient to water, heat, and stains. Because they are not porous it means that bacteria and germs cannot penetrate the surface keeping your food prep areas hygienic with regular clean-up.
Additionally, stainless steel countertops can be custom-made to fit your kitchen design and often blend with contemporary or traditional kitchen looks. The downside of stainless steel kitchen countertops is that they scratch, dent and show fingerprints. Consider using stainless steel only in areas that will get a lot of food prep use and embrace the patina.
Concrete countertops have come a long way since the early utilitarian slabs of gray that many people think of. Today, concrete countertops are both functional and stylish, giving homeowners a high-end, durable surface that offers a range of options. Since concrete countertops are heavy, floors may need to be strengthened for the extra weight. Also, concrete is porous so it needs yearly resealing. Because of its tendency to stain, some people may not like the way concrete countertops wear; however, it is a great high-end option.
Real wood countertops are a classic look that comes in a variety of options. From basic style options of face grain, edge grain or end grain to custom patterns, stripes and borders, wood countertops are warm, beautiful and durable. Additionally, wood countertops can be mixed into almost any style kitchen, providing an excellent work surface for food prep. However, wood is porous and requires regular resealing to keep it from harboring bacteria.
Water is also not wood’s friend. Consistent protectants and regular care are needed to avoid damage and wear. Work with a wood countertop expert to find the right wood material for areas such as food prep, islands, and buffets. One of the benefits of high quality wood countertops is that they can be refinished and restored to look brand new.
Countertops made of quartz have gained a reputation as being almost perfect with a luxurious feel and durable strength. Quartz is a hard natural stone that is combined with resin to create an “engineered” stone. It comes in a wide variety of solid colors or is available in options that mimic natural stone with elegant veining that gives unique character to your kitchen.
As a nonporous surface that stands up to juice, oil, wine, and coffee and doesn’t harbor bacteria, quartz countertops are easily sanitized. Concrete-looking quartz countertops are available and provide higher durability, offering the same concrete aesthetic without some of the disadvantages. One thing to note with quartz countertops – be careful of extreme heat as it will melt the resin and leave burn marks.
The gleaming surface of marble countertops are the ultimate in luxury looks. Marble has a unique ability to work with many different design styles, making it a classic choice for many kitchens. As a natural material, marble has been attracting the eye in art and architecture for a thousand years or more.
Premium quality marble is dense and relatively durable, but because it is made of minerals, it is susceptible to etching by acids such as lemon juice or vinegar. Keep in mind that because acid leaves a white-ish mark it is more noticeable on dark or nonwhite marble countertops than on white. Also, because every slab of marble is different, it is important to plan how you want to locate the veining in your countertop.
When looking for kitchen countertops that stand up to daily use, recycled glass countertops are also worth considering. Easy to clean and beautiful, recycled glass countertops can be used in modern, bold or traditional designs. Glass countertops are often made of recycled crushed glass embedded in concrete or acrylic, making them both eco-friendly and eye-catching. Clear acrylic with crushed glass can give the appearance of glass floating in liquid glass. Glass countertops can also be combined with concrete, which can add more mosaic-like textures.
Because of the way they are made, each glass countertop is unique, lending vibrant texture to a space. Glass countertops come in a broad range of colors and textures – from the greens and browns of recycled beer bottles to confetti colors to stark white. Bio-glass countertops, made from 100 percent recycled glass and no fillers, are available in cool shades of blue or green.
Caring for crushed glass countertops is fairly easy depending on the binder used. For concrete or acrylic based glass countertops, it’s important to clean up acidic food quickly and not use harsh cleaners that can break down the fillers. Countertops with concrete binders will also need to be sealed regularly. Bio-glass withstands heat and is more stain and dent resistant than crushed glass countertops with fillers.
Choosing White Countertops
While not a countertop material, color – or lack of it – is something to consider in every kitchen design. For example, white countertops in kitchens are classic and can stand the test of time, easily navigating the trends that come and go. It also brightens up kitchens that might not have a lot of natural light and opens up smaller kitchens so they feel open and spacious. Also, a white countertop gives you options when you want to change the paint color on the walls. The drawback to white countertops is how, depending on the material, they can show stains, crumbs, or water spots.
When considering white for your countertop, make sure to bring home samples to see how the color does in the natural light of your kitchen, away from the showroom. Whites are not all the same. They span hues of alabaster to subtle grey to sand. If you are looking to do an all-white kitchen it is even more important to make sure that your white tones match.
Let Hamish Murray Construction Help Create Your Dream Kitchen!
At Hamish Murray Construction, we believe that every aspect of your home, including kitchen countertops, should be all about you. We are builders who ensure quality craftsmanship, taking pride in building with full integrity whatever you see in your kitchen, to make it beautifully liveable, just the way you want it.
As collaborative planners and detailed executors, we work with architects, trade partners, and other construction professionals to keep your project going smoothly, on schedule, and on budget. Our talented team takes your vision to build or remodel a home from start to finish, creating a result you will love.