With so many countertop material options available, it can be confusing as to which is the best for you. The guide below should be a helpful start. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your specific questions and requirements. See the contact us page to get in touch.
Surface Material Options:
Engineered Stone is the most desirable material to use as it is non-porous, stain (no sealer required) and heat resistant, doesn’t chip easily, is certified food-safe and has the most consistency in colours and patterns. Slabs contain materials that are crushed and bound together using heat and adhesive, usually a polymer resin.
The most popular is quartz engineered stone. Most often people refer to this material as “quartz” which is not entirely correct as there are many variations of engineered stone. There is also a natural stone called “quartzite” which doesn’t compare to the low maintenance “quartz engineered stone.” If the manufacturer produces good quality slabs, they will have a high content of quartz and usually less than 8% resins and colours. High quality quartz engineered stone examples include Silestone by Cosentino, Caesarstone, Cambria, Dupont Zodiac, Hanstone, Vicostone, and LG Hausys.
Engineered stone can also contain other mixed or recycled materials such as porcelain (very hard), coloured glass, shells, metals, or mirrors. High quality examples of these are ECO by Cosentino, Dekton by Cosentino, and Neolith.
Granite engineered stone is also available in an ultra thin 1/4” slab thickness that you can install over your existing countertops. Trend Stone is a good quality option for people wanting to save money in demolition and for rebuilding the areas around the countertops that cost money.
Solid Surface is also a man-made non-porous surface but is made of acrylic, polyester, marble, dust, and epoxy that attempts to mimic engineered stone, granite or other natural stones. The advantage to this material is that it is high quality material and, installed correctly, it should have a seamless look. No sealing is required and you can mould and shape it, called thermoforming, for special applications. Although solid surfaces can be scratched or gouged (though not easily) it can be sanded out with very fine sandpaper. Examples of solid surfaces are Staron, Avonite and LG Hi-Macs but Dupont Corian is still the best. Dupont actually created the initial solid surfaces approximately 50 years ago.
Natural Stone is made by Mother Nature and is porous, can stain or chip, and has inconsistencies in colour and pattern. These materials need sealing to not only prevent stains but also to prevent bacteria from building on your surfaces where you are preparing your food. Without sealing the surfaces, the countertops ARE NOT FOOD SAFE.
Examples of natural stone surfaces are Granite, Slate, Soapstone, Quartzite, Travertine, Marble, Lava, Onyx, Sandstone, Limestone, etc.
If granite is what you have in mind, we recommend Sensa Granite (by Cosentino) which has a special treatment that gives it 25 year warranty against stains and bacteria.
Porcelain is made of clay rich in kaolinite and has become more popular in recent years. Slabs are 30% stronger than granite, durable, heat resistant and larger slabs are available. The only drawback is they can chip and crack.
Let us show you the range of colours and patterns in Neolith (example shown here).
Ceramic Tile is durable and easily installed but, if not installed properly, mistakes are easily visible. Grout seams are porous and attract food and anything else that comes into contact with it. They are also difficult to clean, even when sealed.
Metals used for countertops can provide a stunning look in kitchens and bathrooms.
Stainless Steel is the most popular metal for both commercial and residential use now. They can be a showstopper, providing a sleek, contemporary look and can be formed in any shape or dimension desired (as shown in photo).
The downside is over time, it’s not really as durable and “stainless” as it seems. It will scratch, stain and corrode even with a significant amount of care and maintenance.
Copper is a more unusual countertop choice but more ideal for a rustic look in a traditional home.
It is anti-microbial material and should kill most bacteria and germs within two hours of contact. It is easily cleaned, non-porous and rarely stains. Be aware that although it is a relatively soft metal, it can scratch or scuff, can patina over time and become damaged through general use.
Zinc is similar to pewter and therefore presents a duller look unique to bullet metals (lead and lead alloys). It will resist dents but scratch, oxidize and patina with frequent use and over time.
Glass – Glass is a popular option for reflecting light and highlighting an area that won’t have high traffic use. Glass can be offered in clear, translucent, textured or smooth, and curved and can be backlit. These should not be used in task areas (for preparing food) as fingerprints and scratches are highly visible.
Recycled Glass is a nice option for adding light, reflection, and openness to the room. Different patterns, colours, and textures are available, allowing some creativity in the room. The use for this in countertop applications is limited to low traffic areas as the material scratches over time, diminishing the original, new look. Try GEOS as an option for a material that is post-consumer and industrial-use glass and proven proprietary binder for a strong and durable surface.
Plastic Laminate countertops have been highly popular because they are cheap and easy to install. They are made from layers of paper treated with resin and pressed together using heat and pressure with a base of composite chip wood. The downside is they are easily damaged, scratched, or chipped and particle board can swell if it comes into contact with liquids.
Older laminates were thicker and tended to be quite durable. In more recent years, laminates have had to become thinner to compete with other surfaces that have curves and round edges. For this reason, it is important to seek out a higher priced and higher quality laminate manufacturer to ensure the surface doesn’t need to be replaced in short time.
Wilsonart (Black Alicaster – shown here) and Formica are the big names in laminate countertops.
Concrete may look like a solid and very modern surface but it is porous and maintenance is difficult.
It is a custom material that be formed into any shape with any colour or texture you desire but is heavy and stains easily. It must be sealed regularly and even then is high maintenance.
Paper Composite is made of recycled post consumer wastepaper, made with non-petroleum-based resins and pigments that are heated and pressed together with a formaldehyde-free thermoset plastic resin in a dense slab. Paper composite comes in a matte finish, generally in medium to dark hues, and in a variety of thicknesses. Due to the resins, they can’t be recycled but can be re-cut and re-tooled.
These are durable surfaces, handling heat well, resistant to stains and chips, non-porous and not as heavy as natural stone. They will need to be sealed with mineral oil or a similar sealer. An example of a popular manufacturer is PaperStone.
Wood is beautiful and warm to look at and warm to touch. A very popular choice is to make your wood countertops from reclaimed materials (and therefore eco-friendly). They are, however, prone to scratches, dents, are not suitable for direct cutting, and can be damaged by water. Depending on the type of sealant you’re using, you’ll likely need to reapply it two or three times a year. Those that fall in love with their wood countertop turn the chore of caring for the wood into a pleasure.