Marble has been a popular trend in kitchen countertops for the past several years. If you compare performance characteristics in a kitchen environment, granite is the better choice. However, because of its subtle veining and aesthetic appeal, many are choosing marble. The main difference is that granite and marble are made of different minerals that perform differently in regards to chemical resistance and hardness. Marble will etch when exposed to acids and bases.
Marble will also scratch more easily since it scores a four on Mohs scale of hardness versus granite’s rating of seven. Some people assume that if marble is sealed, these tendencies will disappear but that is not actually the case. Most installers will use an impregnating sealer that sits just below the surface of the marble. Therefore, the surface is still susceptible to these occurrences.
If you want to consider using marble in your kitchen you must set the proper expectation for its performance. It will not look the same 10 years from now as it did the day it was first installed. It will etch and scratch, we call this a patina and many consider it a thing of beauty. Yes, you can resurface the marble countertops to restore it to its original luster but this is a messy and expensive project. It is hard to duplicate the polish on areas that have been affected so you will usually need to do the whole thing.
Granite vs. Quartzite
Granite and quartzite have very similar performance statistics. Quartzite is generally harder and denser and the pattern is more like marble which is appealing to many homeowners. Supply and demand has driven the price of quartzite up, so expect to pay a little more and have fewer color options than with granite. Don’t confuse quartzite with manufactured Quartz Surfacing.
Onyx is not a good option for most countertops, but it does make for a beautiful backsplash. Its beauty and translucence make it appealing, but still not practical. It is vulnerable to acids and bases, which will react with the minerals in onyx to create a chemical reaction- basically eating away at the countertop. Onyx is also quite brittle and will chip and crack easily. You might have noticed the onyx used in celebrity chef Emeril’s kitchen set. Be sure to make note that it is not on the surface, and only used for aesthetics on the front panels.
Two of the newest countertop surfaces on the market today, are Porcelain and Sintered Surface. New technology and trial and error have given way to material that mimics the look of natural marble. Though color selection is far from extensive, more are available all the time. Both are comparable to granite in regards to scratch and heat resistance. They are non-porous so they don’t need to be sealed. The pricing for these materials are closer to a high-end granite countertop and they are not yet widely available so you may need to do some searching to find a local installer.
Nothing beats the warmth and traditional charm of butcher block countertops. Many homeowners are choosing to use a combination of wood and granite, or another hard surface, in their kitchens. Since wood is soft it scratches and stains easily; there is a lot of maintenance involved. The price of wood countertops has a very large range- from budget-friendly DIY variations to high end exotic hardwoods.
Quartz countertops are a big trend in today’s market. Brands such as Caesarstone, Silestone and Zodiaq are readily available in a large variety of colors. Prices will range, but in general are towards the higher end when compared to most granites. They are made with a mix of natural quartz and polyester resin. There are a few things, such as permanent markers, that can stain quartz surfaces but not true granite. Overall, in regards to performance in a kitchen setting, they stand up well to heat and scratches and have very low maintenance.
Laminate countertops have been very popular for years because they are affordable and readily available. You may know them better by the common brand name, Formica. They are made of thin layers of plastic which is laminated to particleboard. You’ll often see them installed with a coved backsplash. For the price, they perform well in a kitchen setting. They are durable and clean easily. Higher end surfaces such as granite have better heat and scratch resistance, though.
“Recycled” is a popular term for homeowners concerned with sustainability. These countertop surfaces are made with glass chips from a variety of materials such as medicine & liquor bottles, old stop lights and more. They are set into a concrete base which can be sealed to offer better protection against stains. The manufacturing process is extensive, driving the price towards the higher end. If being green is a concern of yours, you can also consider choosing a locally quarried natural stone, or even requesting remnant materials from your granite fabricator.
Concrete countertops were a short-lived trend in the early 2000s. They are still seen occasionally, though. They are quite porous and even with sealer, can easily be stained. A lot of ambitious DIY types have made attempts to make these countertops for their homes but found it to be a difficult project since costs can add up quickly. If you are looking for the industrial look, you can consider granite with alternate finishes such as brushed or water washed. For a thicker edge, try laminating the edges. There are also quartz surface options that have a similar look.
Though not common in residential kitchens, you’ve likely seen stainless steel countertops in commercial settings. They are easy to clean and heat resistant. Overtime wear can be seen in the scratches and scuff marks but they can be refinished. If modern is the look you are going for, you might consider this for your home. When paired with other surfaces such as granite or wood, you can warm up your kitchen to feel homey.
Ceramic Tile countertops were very popular in the 70s. In some regions of the United States, they are still seen in many homes. Popular opinion is that they have become dated and out of style. Heat and scratch resistance are great and there are many options available in a wide range of colors and styles. Since grout is difficult to keep clean and maintain, most homeowners are choosing to make the switch to a different countertop surface.