Which of These Popular Countertops Is Right For You?

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Aside from appliances and cabinetry, countertops are one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your kitchen. And considering how many options are available—marble, granite, quartz, wood and more—it can be hard to decide which of these popular countertop materials is right for you.

Keep reading as we outline some of the most popular kitchen countertop options including marble, granite, quartz, butcher’s block, stainless steel and ceramic tile, and the pros and cons of each. 

Read on to learn which countertop may be the best fit for your home!

Marble Countertops

luxurious marble countertop in kitchen
Image via Remodelista

What is a marble countertop?

Marble is a type of naturally occurring, metamorphic rock found in nature. Marble comes with beautiful natural veining which is ideal for design-forward clients looking for a luxurious, character-infused addition to their kitchen or bathroom design. Most often, clients who want marble countertops are more interested in the feel and aesthetic of the piece rather than its ease of upkeep since marble is prone to staining and is a softer rock than granite, making it more likely to scratch overtime with use.

Pros of Marble Countertops

  • Very durable 
  • Stays cool
  • Heat Resistant – however do not place a hot pot or pan directly on your marble countertop
  • Easy to cut and shape
  • Luxurious, high-end appearance
  • Timeless
  • Added Value

Potential Drawbacks of Marble Countertops

  • Marble is a porous material making it more prone to staining, watermarks and scratching than some other countertop materials and other natural stones like granite.
  • Needs to be re-sealed on average every year – though we recommend you follow the sealing instructions and frequency provided to you by your marble vendor/fabricator.
  • Cost. Marble is typically more expensive than other countertop materials.

Marble countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Value a design-forward, luxurious kitchen or bathroom.
  • Don’t mind watermarks and staining from use over the years – which is truly not something to be afraid of! Each little mark on this beautiful stone is a memory, a line of your life’s story being written into your home. We always urge people to embrace the wear, while still taking care, but without trying to be perfectionists. Because a home without imperfections is a home nobody LIVES in!
  • Are comfortable resealing countertops approximately once per year 
  • Want a natural, classic stone.
  • Where sustainability is not the number one factor driving the decision on countertop material.

Granite

What is a granite countertop?

Like marble, granite is a type of naturally occurring, metamorphic rock found in nature. Granite countertops are beautiful and design-forward, and are available in many colors and levels of pattern intricacy. Plus, granite countertops have a very similar feel to marble with a slightly lower price tag (generally by about 20-25% lower). It is also one of the most common countertop materials for kitchens, especially because granite can hold up well to everyday use and is not as prone to staining like marble. 

Pros of Granite Countertops

  • Extremely durable 
  • Stays cool
  • Heat Resistant – however do not place a hot pot or pan directly on your granite countertop
  • Easy to cut and shape
  • Luxurious, high-end appearance
  • Added Value

Potential Drawbacks to Granite Countertops

  • Granite, especially light colors, are still prone to staining and cannot take the heat of a hot pan directly on the countertop’s surface.
  • Need to be re-sealed on average every year – though we recommend you follow the sealing instructions and frequency provided to you by your granite vendor/fabricator.
  • Cost. While less expensive than marble, granite is still a costly stone.

Granite countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Value a design-forward, luxurious kitchen but are looking for competitively priced options.
  • Don’t mind minimal scratching or staining from use over the years – which is truly not something to be afraid of! Each little mark on this beautiful stone is a memory, a line of your life’s story being written into your home. We always urge people to embrace the wear, while still taking care, but without trying to be perfectionists. Because a home without imperfections is a home nobody LIVES in!
  • Are comfortable resealing countertops approximately once every few years.
  • Want a natural stone. 
  • Where sustainability is not the number one factor driving the decision on countertop material.

Quartzite Countertops

striking quartzite countertop in kitchen
Image via Anna Bond

What is a quartzite countertop?

Quartzite is NOT quartz. These are two different materials. Quartzite is a natural stone, whereas quartz is a manufactured material (more on quartz below). While both quartzite and quartz contain quartz crystals, quartzite is formed in nature, whereas quartz is formed through a manufacturing process. Quartzite begins as sandstone and then under a natural process of extreme heat and pressure it gets fused together with quartz crystals in nature to form quartzite. 

Quartzite oftentimes is mistaken for marble as it typically has lots of veining just like some marble. The veining in quartzite is typically large and flowy creating a beautiful movement to the stone. This movement makes quartzite a favorite among those seeking a natural stone and wanting to make a unique and bold statement in their kitchen or bathroom. 

Unlike the other natural stones, marble and granite, which can come in a variety of colors, quartzite has a more limited color array. Typically quartzite comes in shades of white or light gray, however you will sometimes find it contains some pink, gold or reddish-brown hues, depending on what minerals are present. 

Pros of Quartzite Countertops

  • Extremely durable – harder and denser than marble
  • Stays cool
  • Easy to clean
  • Heat Resistant – however do not place a hot pot or pan directly on your quartzite countertop
  • UV Resistant – works great for outdoor applications like outdoor kitchens
  • Luxurious, high-end appearance
  • Beautiful, sophisticated, modern, organic look

Potential Drawbacks to Quartzite Countertops

  • Difficult to cut and shape – require precision diamond cutters and experienced personnel to cut.
  • Prone to scratching from sharp objects even despite its hardness.
  • Is a porous material so can be prone to staining.
  • Need to be re-sealed on average every year – though we recommend you follow the sealing instructions and frequency provided to you by your granite vendor/fabricator.
  • Cost. Quartzite is typically more expensive than other natural stones.
  • Limited color options.

Quartzite countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Value a design-forward, luxurious and unique kitchen or bath. 
  • Don’t mind minimal scratching or staining from use over the years – which is truly not something to be afraid of! Each little mark on this beautiful stone is a memory, a line of your life’s story being written into your home. We always urge people to embrace the wear, while still taking care, but without trying to be perfectionists. Because a home without imperfections is a home nobody LIVES in!
  • Are comfortable resealing countertops approximately once every year.
  • Are not going to DIY the install of their countertops. Quartzite is difficult to install and a very heavy material. It is best left to professionals for installation.
  • Who want a natural stone with lots of beautiful movement.
  • Where sustainability is not the number one factor driving the decision on countertop material. 

Quartz

timeless quartz countertop in bathroom
Image via East & Gray Interiors

What is a quartz countertop?

Quartz countertops are actually a manufactured material! Quarried stone is ground up and infused with roughly 5% polymer resins during the manufacturing process of quartz in order to create a more durable, stain-resistant material for kitchens. We highly recommend quartz to clients who will feel a lot of anxiety and stress over their countertops staining and/or scratching because they are stain resistant and waterproof, allowing them to stand up to scratches, spills and watermarks very well. 

What are the pros and cons of quartz countertops?

Pros of Quartz countertops:

  • They do not have to be sealed.Extremely durable
  • It is resistant to staining and scratching
  • In some cases the ground up stone that is used to create quartz is recycled/being reused from natural stone that was once used in another form, which is great for sustainability and the circular environment!

Potential drawbacks of Quartz Countertops: 

  • Quartz does use some synthetic material – roughly 5% polymer resin (which is plastic), so if you’re hoping to avoid synthetic materials altogether, it might not be the right choice for you.
  • Quartz is costly, so if you’re budget conscious, it may not be the best option.

Quartz countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Plan to use their kitchen often.
  • Don’t want to worry about having to reseal countertops – you don’t have to seal quartz.
  • Prefer a clean look that is not susceptible to stains, scratches or watermarks.
  • Want their countertops even years later to look exactly the same as the day they were installed.

Wood / Butcher’s Block Countertops

What is a wood or butcher’s block countertop?

Wooden countertops have stood the test of time and are a classic way to add warmth and homeiness to a kitchen. You can make these countertops out of almost any species of  wood – including oak, walnut, cherry, teak, bamboo, and more. Walnut has long been a favorite for butcher block countertops because it is one of the harder woods and has a clear grain. Bamboo is becoming a new popular favorite for its sustainability factor. And of course sourcing reclaimed wood for your countertops is another great sustainable wood option. 

What are the pros of wood and butcher’s block countertops?

  • Wood is a soft and forgiving material so ceramics and other dishware/glasses are much less likely to shatter if dropped on this surface.
  • Wooden countertops absorb noise much more than natural stone or steel which some people may prefer. 
  • They offer an organic, natural look to kitchens which can be beautiful! 
  • They often are one of the more affordable countertop options.
  • Variety of design options available – many colors & grain patterns.
  • Have a long lifespan because you can easily sand and resurface them multiple times.
  • They are naturally antibacterial. Wood naturally slows the growth of bacteria by absorbing water and it naturally contains antimicrobial compounds. It’s important to note though that treated wood will likely limit these antimicrobial properties.

Potential drawbacks of wood and butcher’s block: 

  • Wood is porous, even when sealed, which can make them prone to staining. 
  • The softness of them can also be a drawback to some because this aspect also makes them more prone to dents, knicks and scratches.
  • They can wear, warp and rot if not properly cared for with regular curing, but with proper care, they can last for decades!

Wood countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Don’t mind scratches and staining from use over the years.
  • Are comfortable resealing and/or oiling their countertops frequently. Oiling typically needs to be done every 1-3 months. If sealing, check with your carpenter/installer on how frequently they recommend sealing. This will depend upon what type of sealer the initially used at install and whether it was a Polyurethane sealant or not. Who want a natural, organic, warm look to their kitchen.

Stainless Steel

functional stainless steel countertop in kitchen
Image via Remodelista

What is a stainless steel countertop?

Contrary to what many people may think, stainless steel countertops are expensive! Generally $75-$150/sqft, stainless steel is an increasingly popular choice for kitchens and is known for looking better with age.

What are the pros of stainless steel?

  • Many of the top restaurants in the world have stainless steel countertops in their kitchens! This is because stainless steel is extremely durable, rust-resistant, heat tolerant (you can set hot pots and pans down, no problem!), are easy to keep clean and free of bacteria, and age beautifully. 

Potential drawbacks of stainless steel:

  • Most of the drawback with this countertop is that it’s cold to the touch (more so than marble or granite) so some feel that it’s a bit less inviting. 
  • Stainless steel is very industrial-looking, which may not suit everyone’s style.

Stainless Steel countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Want an extremely durable surface for their kitchen.
  • Consider themselves a serious home chef.
  • Like an industrial, restaurant-style design.

Ceramic Tile Countertops

unique ceramic tile countertop in kitchen
Image via Côté Maison

What is a ceramic tile countertop?

Ceramic tile countertops are an excellent option for someone seeking a unique look for their kitchen. Available in options ranging from classic squares to detailed, intricate mosaics, ceramic tiles come in a wide range of options to fit absolutely every design style. 

What are the pros of ceramic tile countertops?

  • Ceramic is heat resistant, making it ideal for individuals who want to place hot pots and pans on the counter’s surface without issue or the need for a trivet. 
  • They’re also available in endless colors, patterns and designs, making them a great choice for individuals who are looking to go bold with their countertop design and create a one-of-a-kind look. 

Potential drawbacks of ceramic tile countertops:

  • The main drawback of ceramic tile countertops is that they are prone to chipping if a heavy object is dropped on the surface. 
  • And while the tile is generally stain and scratch resistant, the grout between the tiles can be prone to stains from use over the years.
  • More difficult to clean compared to other countertop materials.

Ceramic tile countertops are ideal for people who:

  • Don’t mind grout discoloration from use over the years. Or are willing and able to stay on top of regularly cleaning the grout lines.
  • Are looking for a bold or unique design for their kitchen countertops.

Pro Tip: If you do replace your countertops at some point, here are some options to consider before you decide the landfill is the only option for them.

  1. Try to repurpose them in some way – Use a portion of it for a vanity countertop, cut it into tile to use for a backsplash or shower, or make it into a dining table top. 
  2. Donate it to a place like Habitat for Humanity or a similar non-profit organization. 
  3. See if a friend, neighbor or family remember could use the material in some way.
  4. See if there are recycling programs in your area for recycling countertop materials. A call to your municipal recycling plant will let you know what and how different materials can be recycled in your area. Also, countertop fabricators will often take your old countertops and/or left over pieces of material, so check with them!

Need help with an upcoming kitchen design project? Book a discovery call today!

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Interior Designer Andrea Durcik Columbus Ohio

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Traveling, animals, and all things design encompass Andrea’s life, fueling her creative energy every step of the way.

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