The kitchen is among the most-used spaces in homes. It’s where meals are created and the family gathers to socialize, cook, and spend time together. As such, it’s important that the space benefit from smart, functional design, including kitchen countertops that are durable, food safe, and able to withstand the use and abuse of a busy household.
Of course, this popular gathering spot is about more than just practical concerns. In design, form may follow function, but that doesn’t make it any less important. There are plenty of counter materials to choose from, but you want to find the perfect combination of practical and aesthetic appeal so your house feels like a home instead of a bare-bones cafeteria.
While new and exciting materials are hitting the market all of the time, options like natural stone and engineered surfaces remain popular for a reason. They deliver the value and longevity homeowners expect. Which kitchen counter materials are the most popular, and which is right for your home upgrade project?
It’s not hard to see why granite countertops consistently come out on top in the kitchen remodeling game. This dynamic natural stone surface is available in a wide range of colors and patterns and delivers incredible depth and dimension.
If you want to make a bold statement with kitchen counters, you can’t go wrong with high-variation granite.
Aside from looks, there’s a lot to love about granite, starting with the fact that it’s one of the hardest natural stone options available. At a Mohs rating of 6-7, this stone can withstand heat, etching, scratching, staining, chipping, cracking, and more.
With that being said, like all natural stone, it is porous, which means it will need to be sealed regularly to prevent staining and other harm.
With incredible strength and durability, the practical benefits of granite are self-evident. However, it’s the absolute bounty of eye-catching options, with intense colors and patterns that sets granite apart from other natural stone countertops.
The beauty of marble is legendary, which is probably why marble countertops have remained a popular choice throughout history.
Marble is famous for its luminescent quality – something that other natural stone types simply can’t compete with. The inner glow associated with marble, particularly white or light-colored varieties, adds an elegance and beauty to your interior that has long been a mark of luxury.
From a practical standpoint, this stone is quite durable, but it’s not as hard as granite or quartzite, landing at roughly 3-5 on the Mohs hardness scale. It’s also more porous than some other stone types. This means it could be more susceptible to certain forms of damage, particularly etching and staining.
For this reason, it may not be ideal for households with children, although regular sealing will go a long way toward preventing any lasting damage. With that being said, it is still a natural stone, which means it offers a good deal of resilience. With proper care, there’s no reason this beautiful, popular stone can’t last a lifetime.
Engineered quartz countertops have steadily gained ground as a go-to for busy households over the last several years. Made from 90% or more crushed natural quartz, these surfaces are sealed with resins and polymers that create a non-porous and incredibly food-safe surface.
Why is quartz such a popular choice? Although it’s not technically natural stone (i.e., a quarried slab), it can be made to look like a number of authentic stone surfaces, including beloved marble and granite varieties. Or it can look like something completely different, such as a pure white expanse or a nougat-filled surface.
In addition, quartz is resilient. Because it is non-porous, it tends to be more resistant to food stains like pasta sauce, wine, and coffee. It also resists etching from acidic substances that could erode the seal on marble or granite, and it’s probably the most low-maintenance option on the list.
The only real drawback is that it’s not as heat-resistant as natural stone. While most quartz can withstand temperatures of up to about 300 degrees (F), setting boiling pots or broiling pans directly on the surface could scorch them, so you’ll definitely have to use trivets.
Still, this surface material is typically more cost-effective than natural stone, so you have a greater opportunity to get the look you love on a budget.
Quartzite countertops have recently started to gain real momentum as a contender against marble and granite. This material tends to fall on the pricier end, but it has a couple of potential advantages over its two main competitors.
First, it offers a look similar to granite, with many varieties featuring neutral colors, linear striations, and soothing aesthetics. It is also even harder than granite, with a Mohs rating of 7, making it incredibly strong and durable. If you want a look like marble with the resilience of granite, quartzite delivers.
Once a popular choice, soapstone countertops fell out of fashion as other stone options became more popular, but it’s enjoying a revival recently as modern homeowners seek counter surfaces that offer a softer, more casual look.
Soapstone fits the bill perfectly with a naturally matte texture and milky quality that’s less formal than high-gloss, polished stone finishes.
There aren’t many colors to choose from with soapstone, but the soft whites, grays, and blacks perfectly suit the modern palette.
In addition, soapstone is on the softer side, ranging from about 1-5 on the Mohs scale, depending on talc content. This means it could be susceptible to scratches but also that surface damage is easier to correct than some other stone surfaces.
It’s not easy to choose the perfect counter material for your kitchen upgrade, but when you understand the pros and cons of different options, you have the best chance to find the function and aesthetics you prefer.