|Types of Countertops
Solid surface, stone, ceramic tile, laminate, stainless steel, wood and concrete. The list of materials
used for countertops has grown quite a bit over the last 75 years. Choosing the type of countertop
for your remodel or new home can be a major dilemma these days. Let SBS help you narrow the
choice with a look at the various types of countertops to choose from and the pros and cons of each.
Until a few years ago, when someone mentioned countertops, plastic laminate was probably what
most people thought of first. In fact, plastic-laminate tops still account for 75 percent of the market.
This product is made of multiple layers of resin soaked kraft paper, topped by a patterned sheet of
melamine that is subjected to heat and pressure. A 1/16-inch laminate sheet is then made into a
countertop in two ways: Post formed: post-forming is done at a fabrication plant to create tops with
rounded backsplashes and nosing. These tops can be purchased off-the-shelf in limited colors, or
special ordered. The result is the least expensive, easiest to clean and quickest to install plastic
laminate. Custom fabricated: Custom fabricating results in a range of styles. Laminate sheets are
glued to the particle board, then edged with laminate, wood or solid surface strips.
Pros: Low cost, the extensive choice of colors and patterns and easy installation and maintenance.
Cons: This product is not as durable as stone or solid surface, most of the time it can't be used with
undermount sinks and it will scratch. If your family is careless, this may not be a good choice as hot
pans and sharp knives will damage the countertop, and are tough to repair.
Today there are more than two dozen manufacturers of solid surface countertops. Most are 1/2-inch
thick and made of acrylic, polyester and fillers. Edges are built up with two or three layers of
material for a thicker appearance. A predictable product, solid surface installation should be handled
by a professional who is certified to fabricate and install that specific product.
Pros: Solid surface is sometimes called a "near-perfect" product. It is non-porous, difficult to stain,
has a long life and can be made in nearly any size and shape. It is seamless and scratches and burns
can be buffed or sanded out. Sinks can be undermounted and backsplashes integrated into the
countertop, making them seamless.
Cons: Most problems with solid-surface tops come with improper installation. Damage can occur
since a hot pot can make the product melt. Some critics also say the product looks artificial. It can
be rather expensive to purchase and to have installed.
"Let SBS help you narrow the choice with a look at the various types of countertops to choose from."
Granite or Stone
The most durable option of all countertops, stone is becoming more popular among homeowners
and is no longer seen as an "exotic" option. Granite countertops are made from natural products
and come in a wide range of colors, patterns and depths, yet each is absolutely unique. The cost,
which a few years ago was prohibitive for most budgets, has come down due to increasing imports,
new technologies and thinner blades that allow the product to be cut with less waste and cost. Most
slabs come in 9 Ft. x 5 Ft. sections.
Pros: Granite surfaces resist most stains, and are even tougher if sealed. A variety of edge styles
including bevel, radius, half-radius, ogee and square are available. Sinks can be undermounted and
the product can handle hot pans.
Cons: Granite is hard and cold. It can be scratched, and if neglected, can be stained by hot grease.
Seams are more evident with granites that have a strong pattern or grain. This product really needs
to be installed by a professional who has special tools. On-site repairs are difficult to make.
Engineered stone combines the functional benefits of solid-surface material with the great look of
natural stone. Engineered stone is mostly made of crushed natural stone (93 percent) that is bound
together by acrylic or polyester resins. It's a fairly new product in the U.S., but has been popular in
Europe for more than a decade. Anyone looking for zero maintenance on a kitchen countertop
should consider this product. Products made of marble and limestone are best suited for bathrooms.
Pros: Engineered stone is non-porous and nearly impossible to stain. It never needs sealing and
resists scratches. They have a nice natural look, but can be tinted to create colors not found in
Cons: Expensive, with a cost falling between solid-surface and natural-stone prices. The product can
crack or change color if exposed to extreme temperatures. Some feel the surface is too slippery,
cold and unforgiving with a spilled glass.
A common product in restaurants, stainless steel countertops are less common in homes, largely
because they're expensive and hard to find. There are different grades and thicknesses of stainless
steel. Make sure the steel is wrapped completely around the edges of the substrate to protect it.
Pros: Stainless tops are very sanitary, provide good heat-proof surfaces and are easy to clean.
Cons: A very expensive choice, this product shows fingerprints and water spots easily, especially
when it is new. As it ages, it can show nicks, dents and scratches. The product usually can only be
found in limited sizes.
Wood countertops look great, are uniform throughout and can be reasonably priced. However,
wood is rarely used as a primary top. More likely, a butcher block is incorporated into countertops
made of another material, to create an area for chopping. However, wood with a penetrating oil
finish can be used for the entire countertop. If the top will mainly be used as an eating area, choose
a varnish finish. Wood countertops are usually made from 1 1/2-inch strips of maple edge-glued to
one another. Oak and other woods are available but usually need to be special-ordered.
Pros: Real wood is beautiful and has a high "fondle factor." Cuts and dings can be repaired easily
with a little oil and a rag, and major damage can be fixed by sanding and recoating.
Cons: Seams and areas around sinks are often subject to expansion and contraction.
Granite, porcelain and glazed tiles are most commonly used on countertops, as they are less porous
and more durable. Install backerboard over plywood to create a good surface to install tiles. Then
use an epoxy grout that is more durable. If standard cement grout is used, make sure you seal it
often and well.
Pros: Tile is reasonably priced and tile countertops can be installed by pros and amateurs alike. It
comes in a variety of styles and colors.
Cons: Tile is hard and never totally even along the surface. Grout lines are vulnerable to staining.
High gloss and solid-color tiles show scratches.
Concrete countertops seem to be growing in popularity. They are durable, heat resistant and can be
formed into any shape with the ability to embed things in or dye them. Concrete tops are not
recommended for those who don't want to do the maintenance, as they are surprisingly porous and
need to be sealed and re-sealed.
Pros: Concrete countertops allow for uniqueness, flexibility and fun. It can be mixed with a variety
Cons: Concrete tops are expensive and easily stained, even with a lacquer finish. They chip easily
and are hard, with an industrial look. They require diligent maintenance.
Think Glass is a company that uses state-of-the-art technology to mold, sculpt or texture pieces of
glass in sizes as large as 8 x 12 feet from a thickness of 1/8 inch to 12 inches. The glass can be any
shape and any texture and can be used for a multitude of applications, countertops, sinks, back
splashes, door inserts, walls, floors, stairs, drop ceilings, water walls, balustrades, sculpture,
shower walls and doors, fountains, furniture and anything else you can
imagine. The glass comes in either crystal ( clear ) or aqua, however a solid color or spot color can
be added or it can be painted. Special effects such as heat corrosion gives the glass an
opaque look an enhances deep textures and an effervescent treatment creates bubbles between
layers of glass. Edges can be natural, which is similar to a bull nose, they can be textured or it
can be polished. Special effects created with lighting will bring the glass to life. Holes and
notches can be drilled to accommodate hardware. If you want a colored countertop
but are is afraid the color will become dated the company can paint the underside allowing
the paint to be removed and the color changed at any time. What about fingerprints? No problem.
The textured underside hides them well. Simple glass cleaner is all that is required.
And what about heat? Amazingly, hot objects don't harm the surface at all.
Is it expensive? Since every piece is different in thickness and size, every job is considered
custom so countertops are in the same price range as a high-end granite.
|Call us for a free