The Most Popular Kitchen Countertop Materials—and How to Care for Each One
When it comes to remodeling your kitchen, one of the biggest decisions you'll have to make is choosing a material for your countertops. "Countertops are the workhorses of the kitchen space and need to stand up to a lot of wear and tear," explains Kerrie Kelly, creative director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. "Beyond each surface's aesthetic appeal, you'll want to weigh its physical characteristics," she adds, noting that you should look for something that is water-resistant, etch-resistant, stain-resistant, durable, and easy to maintain.
Additionally, you should consider your lifestyle and family dynamic. "A family with young children may need a countertop that works hard for them, such as quartz, whereas empty nesters may put a higher priority on the natural beauty of a stone, which may require more maintenance overall," explains Danielle Rose, founder of Danielle Rose Design Co. If you can't decide on one specific material, Kelly says not to limit yourself: "Quartz may be your choice for the perimeter countertops, while butcher block may be used on a prep island." Considering what you want out of your countertops, as well as how you plan to use them, will guide you when it comes time to shop. Here, Kelly and Rose explain the most common kitchen countertop materials you'll see during your search, as well as how to maintain them and the type of lifestyle they're best suited for.
One of Kelly's favorite countertop materials thanks to its natural aesthetic, quartz is a heat-tolerant substance that supports busy lifestyles; it won't etch or stain with frequent use. The man-made material comes in "many beautiful variations from solid white to heavily veined, mimicking the look of marble," Rose explains. "It is a non-porous surface and is generally smooth and shiny." Active families who entertain often are typically drawn to quartz because it is resistant to scratches, stains, and heat. The forgiving material requires little maintenance beyond general cleaning and doesn't need to be sealed. If you do choose to install quartz in your kitchen, Kelly says to "be selective with the style and try to view a full slab prior to purchase, so you can confirm the movement and ensure it looks real versus printed."
If your first priority is creating an aesthetically pleasing kitchen, marble may be the material for you. "Marble is a natural stone, known for its timeless beauty, and comes in a wide variety of colors, tones, and textures. It can be finished in a shiny, leathered, or honed finish," Rose says. Although it is visually appealing, marble is an undertaking when it comes to maintenance—it requires regular cleaning and, because it is a porous material, needs to be sealed during installation and resealed every year to two years. Even with regular upkeep, marble countertops are highly susceptible to stains, scratches, and dents. While it may not be ideal for someone who uses their kitchen frequently, the material is wonderful for bakers (it keeps dough cool!) and those who want to have a show kitchen versus a work-horse room. "It's a great working space for a family member who loves baking because of its functionality," affirms Kelly. "You can roll out the cookie dough on the marble—and the surface also looks great when not in use."
Another one of Kelly's favorite kitchen countertop materials is dekton. "The look and feel of dekton is similar to quartz, but also features more high-fashion finishes like metallic details," she says. People who opt to install this material in their kitchen are drawn to color variety and thickness—and love that it is low maintenance. Dekton requires general spray cleaning and is so durable, that Kelly says you can literally take a blow-torch to it—and it will stay in tip-top shape. What's more, dekton is ideal for those who enjoy cooking indoors and outdoors, since it is UV and heat resistant. There is one drawback to dekton, however. It has glass in its composition, so you'll need to hire a certified fabricator and installer for the best result.
You'll never have to use a cutting board again. Butcher block comes in a variety of wood tones and has a natural beauty that gives your kitchen a rustic look. It's ideal for people who are willing to put in the work to maintain the wood and those who don't mind some wear and tear. "Not resistant to heat or stains—although it can be sanded and renewed—butcher block tops require regular care and maintenance, such as oiling," Kelly notes. The sustainable material can be cut upon directly, which is a large draw for many who choose to install it in their homes. If you don't want it to take up all of your countertop space, consider installing it as a prep island that you can use to chop vegetables, slice fruit, and more.
Beloved for its earthiness, quartzite is a natural stone that comes in a variety of colors, tones, and textures. Harder and more durable than marble, Rose says quartzite is "suitable for anyone who values the beauty of natural stone and will take the time to care for it properly." Like other organic materials, quartzite requires regular care and, because it is very porous, must be sealed during install and resealed annually.
If you like the idea of installing a natural stone in your kitchen, but don't want the maintenance that often comes with organic materials, consider soapstone. Another natural substance, soapstone is durable and requires little upkeep, according to Rose. "It comes in shades of gray with white or light gray veining and is known for its rich, matte appearance," she says. Although it's a dense and non-porous surface that won't stain, soapstone is known to scratch and dent easily—but blemishes can easily be buffed out with sandpaper. To help soapstone look its best, Rose says to use mineral oil to keep the material's color deep and dark, adding that the "more you oil the countertop, the deeper the color will be."