Kitchen Countertop Quick Guide: Pros and Cons of Every Option

Brian Hogan
Oct 9, 2021 8:30:00 AM

As a Design-Build firm that specializes in kitchen renovations, we get a lot of questions about countertop material options here at Hogan Design & Construction: 

"We want a kitchen countertop that's just as durable as it is beautiful, what are our choices?"

"We cook and entertain a lot. Which kitchen countertop materials age well with heavy use?"

"What's the best natural material for kitchen countertops?"

"How do engineered quartz countertops compare to natural stone surfaces like granite?"

Open floor plan kitchen with a large island, natural wood beamed ceiling, featuring white and wood cabinetry, a brick backsplash and stainless steel appliances.

To help you make sense of your options, we’ve been exploring the pros and cons of several sought-after kitchen countertop materials in our weekly blog. Today, we’ll wrap up the series with a quick, bullet-point guide that covers the benefits and drawbacks of every major option:  

Quartz

As one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz is one of the most durable, hardwearing kitchen countertop materials available. Although quartz is a natural substance, quartz countertops are an engineered stone product made of quartz particles and other minerals bound together by resins and shaped into custom-fabricated slabs. 

Pros of quartz:

  • Incredible fabrication and design versatility
  • Very durable; resists scratching and staining
  • Nonporous and antimicrobial (no need to seal) 
  • Environmentally friendly countertop material

Cons of quartz:

  • Expensive; can cost as much as natural stone
  • Heat-resistant, but still vulnerable to extreme heat
  • Not a good option for outdoor kitchen spaces

Soapstone

With its light or dark grey color, subtle veining, milky finish, and ever-evolving patina, soapstone offers the best of both worlds: dramatic beauty and exceptional durability. While it’s relatively soft, it’s also very dense; soapstone particles are so compact that they form a non-porous surface that’s virtually impervious to stains. 

Pros of soapstone:

  • Classic; suits a wide range of design aesthetics
  • Nonporous and antimicrobial (no need to seal)
  • Resistant to heat, staining, and stress (won’t crack)
  • Eco-friendly natural material; can be recycled

Cons of soapstone:

  • Pricey; cost is on par with other natural stone surfaces
  • Vulnerable to scratches, but you can sand them out
  • Ages best when treated with mineral oil occasionally 

Granite

As a countertop material, “gold-standard” granite offers the perfect blend of form and function. But that’s not the only reason homeowners continue to choose it for their kitchens time and time again — granite also possesses a rare duality that makes it feel just as elegant and luxurious as it is natural and earthy.  

Pros of granite

  • Natural, organic beauty; each slab is totally unique
  • Thousands of different color and pattern combinations
  • Remarkably durable, hard-wearing, and heat-resistant
  • Adds to home value (good return on investment)

Cons of granite

  • Expensive; often one of the costliest options
  • Variably porous; requires sealing every year
  • Difficult to repair properly if it chips or cracks
  • Slabs may have noticeable imperfections

Marble

Few natural materials exude as much opulence as marble — this refined, high-end countertop surface brings instant luxury to any kitchen. Distinguished by its sublime, characteristic veining, marble comes in a wide array of hues and dramatic color combinations: stunning white marble may have cream, grey, or black veining, while dramatic black marble may have eye-catching white or gold veining. 

Pros of marble:

  • Incomparable natural beauty; timeless appeal
  • Heat resistant and relatively durable
  • Adds to home value (good return on investment)
  • Cuts more smoothly; more design options

Cons of marble:

  • Porous; stains easily even when sealed
  • Vulnerable to scratches (especially polished marble)
  • More temperamental than granite or quartz
  • Often as expensive than granite and quartz

Wood and Butcher Block

Warm and charming wood and butcher block countertops are full of natural character. Traditional wood surfaces are usually allocated to lower traffic uses, like islands and peninsulas that double as eating areas. Butcher block countertops, which consist of strips of wood that are pressed and bonded together to form a slab, serve as proper work surfaces.  

Pros of wood / butcher block

  • Relatively affordable, mid-priced option
  • Vast array of wood choices and design styles
  • Long-lasting with proper care (monthly sealing)
  • Easy to keep clean; can remove most stains 
  • Eco-friendly (reclaimed; sustainably sourced) 

Cons of wood / butcher block

  • Adverse to moisture; vulnerable to water damage
  • Prone to scratching (but can be repaired easily) 
  • Maintenance requires monthly oiling and sealing
  • Bacteria can be a problem if it’s not maintained 

Concrete 

Far from the cold, impersonal grey slabs you might expect if you equate this foundational building material with sidewalks, concrete makes a warm, gleaming, and remarkably stylish work surface suitable for almost any kitchen. From its shape, edging, and thickness to its color, texture, and finish, every aspect of this ultra-strong, functional beauty can be crafted to your vision.   

Pros of concrete

  • Very versatile, fully customizable material
  • Easy to incorporate integrated sinks and drain boards 
  • Strong and durable; resistant to heat and scratches
  • Adds to home value (good return on investment)

Cons of concrete

  • Very heavy; may require structural reinforcement
  • Surface is fairly porous; requires regular sealing
  • Can develop hairline cracks as time goes on
  • Less eco-friendly; uses sand, a fast-depleting resource

Kitchen featuring white cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, double islands with contrasting gray cabinetry and large, black drum pendant lights.

Stainless Steel

It makes sense that stainless steel is the countertop material of choice in professional kitchens: it’s heat resistant, extremely durable, easy to maintain, and even easier to keep clean. With their crisp lines and modern feel, stainless steel countertops are seamless and fabricated to your specifications.   

Pros of stainless steel

  • Impervious to stains (it’s right there in the name!)
  • Impervious to heat and water; won’t scorch or rust
  • Doesn’t require sealing or routine maintenance 
  • Eco-friendly material that’s fully recyclable 
  • Adds to home value (good return on investment)

Cons of stainless steel

  • Relatively “noisy” surface material 
  • More vulnerable to scratches and dings
  • Doesn’t fit many design aesthetics

Recycled Glass

Made from materials gathered through curbside recycling and demolished buildings, recycled glass is combined with resin or cement binders and formed into a countertop slab. A recycled glass countertop may be translucent, opaque, or colored; it may also be smooth or embedded with texture. Many feature a terrazzo-style mosaic of joyful flecks and shards across the surface.   

Pros of recycled glass

  • Available in a broad range of colors and styles
  • Versatile; can be bright and cheery or warm and rich
  • Can be formed into unique shapes and contours  
  • Nonporous; doesn’t stain or require sealing
  • Durable, heat-resistant, and easy to keep clean

Cons of recycled glass 

  • Can still crack or chip, and is costly to repair
  • Less eco-friendly unless locally made
  • Pricey; can cost as much as natural stone 

Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

Yes, the very same material that makes such a wonderful kitchen backsplash also makes for a statement-making countertop surface. Durable and easy to clean, ceramic and porcelain tiles come in an exceptionally wide array of colors, styles, and design options — you can even get tiles that look like marble, wood, or cork.   

Pros of ceramic and porcelain tile

  • Enormous range of design options
  • Nonporous and stain-resistant (if sealed)
  • Resistant to heat and scorching 
  • Less costly than natural stone and quartz

Cons of ceramic and porcelain tile 

  • While durable, tiles can still crack
  • Grout lines can be difficult to clean
  • Grout must be sealed regularly
  • Custom tiles can be very expensive

Solid Surface 

First manufactured half a century ago, solid surface countertops are made of a dense blend of acrylic particles and resins that are pressed into sheets and joined together with undetectable seams. Once regarded as a premium, ultra-modern alternative to the natural stone surfaces they sought to mimic, solid surface countertops are an ideal choice for mid-range kitchens.   

Pros of solid surface

  • Many colors, styles, and stone-inspired patterns
  • Nonporous, antimicrobial, and waterproof 
  • Stain-resistant; scratches can be easily repaired 
  • Mid-priced, budget-friendly alternative to quartz

Cons of solid surface

  • Relatively soft; prone to scratches and dings
  • Vulnerable to heat damage; may scorch or warp 
  • No longer considered a “luxury” material

Laminate

As a popular element of retro kitchen design — especially mid-century modern — laminate countertops are plastic-coated synthetic sheets bonded to a particleboard (MDF) core. With its smooth, easy-to-clean surface, laminate can be custom fabricated or purchased in pre-formed segments. Laminate surfaces are available in thousands of colors, styles, and patterns. 

Pros of laminate

  • Very easy to keep clean and maintain
  • Wide range of design aesthetics and options
  • Affordable; one of the lowest-cost surfaces

Cons of laminate

  • Visible seams; may appear “cheap”
  • Prone to scratches, dings, and chips
  • Vulnerable to heat and delamination
  • Shorter lifespan than other materials
  • Doesn’t bring added home value

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