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Countertop Culture: how to determine what material is best for you

Remember when countertops were either laminate or granite? Well those days are long gone.

Today’s countertops might include engineered seamless stone, concrete, metal, wood and just about anything else you can dream up. But not all surfaces work for all purposes. For hardworking countertops, material is a critical choice. Nearly every material will require a certain amount of maintenance to keep it looking great, which means you have to consider not only your needs for the space, but the material’s as well. To help you decide what’s best for your specific countertop, we’ve outlined the pros, cons and everything in between for some of the most popular materials we’ve been installing lately.

Granite

No two pieces of granite are alike!

No two pieces of granite are exactly alike – Best Brazilian Granite

Granite has been a popular choice for a long time for good reason. When sealed annually it is stain-proof, heat-proof and water resistant. Natural stone brings a unique aspect to a room as well, and granite comes in a huge variety of colors and patterns, although granite can sometimes vary from the samples you see in the store. Our primary provider of granite is Best Brazilian Granite which allows you to view their huge inventory of entire slabs of granite in their warehouse. The piece you choose is then put into a computer system which shows you exactly where every color, movement or aspect of that specific piece will land in your countertop design.

Slabsmith at work

This software allows you to see exactly which part of your slab will appear in your design.

Provided you purchase your granite from a high quality retailer, and have it installed by professionals, this material can last a lifetime. However, lower quality, thinner pieces can chip and less experienced installers may not be able to hide seams or ensure that the base for this extremely heavy materials is durable enough to withstand its weight.

Bold piece of Brazilian Granite

Nothing can quite mimic the unique movement of a piece of granite.

Concrete

concrete countertops in kitchen

Concrete has become a popular material, especially in modern designs. When properly sealed it is stain, heat and water resistant. However, if it is not sealed correctly and if the seal is not maintained, the porous material can absorb stains and moisture. The look and feel of a concrete kitchen countertop is hard to replicate with any other material – it is truly a unique design aspect. But keep in mind that the material is extremely heavy, which means the base cabinetry must be exceptionally strong. It can also be difficult to install, so make sure to choose an installer who is experienced in this material.

 

Marble

carrara marble countertops in bathroom by james river construction

Marble works great in a bathroom where it’s less likely to stain or chip.

Carrara marble has made a huge comeback in the past few years as white and gray palettes have become the popular colors of choice. The subtle colors and movement of marble have made their way into many of our recent bathroom and kitchen build outs. While it is a beautiful and luxurious material – both to look at and to feel – it is also much more apt to scratch than other types of solid stone, and it is porous, so care must be taken not to leave spills on its surface for too long. We love marble in the bathroom where food stains and knife scratches are less likely to happen.

 

Butcher Block

Use the ends of your kitchen island for additional storage or display by James River Construction

While butcher block has made a recent resurgence in kitchen design, it’s nothing new. Wood use to be the material of choice in kitchens in the early 1900’s and before. Wood brings a warmth and design element into a space that nothing else can. However, it is porous and can mark easily from heat, liquids, foods and knives. We recommend this material for a hardworking space where a pristine surface may not be as important to you or in a area where it is less likely to receive a lot of wear and tear.

 

Stainless Steel

stainless steel countertops in kitchen

Another modern design choice lately is stainless steel. Using it in one specific, hard working area gives you an extremely durable, heat proof surface without making your home feel like an industrial kitchen. Keep in mind that fingerprints and smudges show up everywhere on stainless steel and it can be easy to ding and dent. But using a small amount in the right space can make a big impression.

 

Engineered Quartz

Although a man made product, engineered quartz is 90 to 94% natural materials with the rest being resins and pigments. This addition of resin means that engineered quartz is durable and nonporous. It is also incredibly strong and therefore resistant to scratching and chipping. The best part? You don’t have to seal it – it is nearly maintenance free. Another plus? Quartz is a sustainable product with it being an abundant material and the final product being non toxic and non allergenic. The downside is that it isn’t as unique as a piece of granite or marble, which can never be exactly replicated. The patterns most engineered quartz manufacturers are making are light, consistent and subtle, however the options are growing as this materials become more and more popular.

custom bathroom cabinetry by bluebird

Quartz can be used to create a super clean, modern design like this pure-white bathroom countertop.

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