Countertop Materials 101

Countertop Materials 101

By: Lee Boyland As a firm, our blog topics vary greatly as a result of the many, many different facets of our profession. You may have already read some blogs that provide insight into selecting interior finishes, and I’d like to add one more to that list. So, let’s talk countertop surfaces. I’ll run down the list of the most common materials (laminate, solid surface, quartz and granite), pointing out their advantages and disadvantages (in my opinion) so as to help our readers make the right decision for their application. Plastic Laminate – this is the most cost effective, averaging $35/sq. ft., and there is a huge array of color and patterns to select from. Laminate patterns have come a long way, and now many are textural, imitating wood grains and stone very well. Many are Greenguard certified. Disadvantages: laminate is not resistant to heat, so no setting down hot pans on it! It is not resistant to cuts, and can chip and become brittle with age. Solid Surface – second most affordable, averaging around $65/sq. ft., though there is a wide range of grades (A through E with some manufacturers), which correlates with pricing. Solid surface is 100% repairable. Where there is damage, that piece can be cut and an exact match of that piece can be inserted almost inconspicuously. Some damage can also be buffed out. Thermoforming is available with solid surfacing, allowing for unique shapes and designs. It is often Greenguard certified and NSF 51 rated.  One important thing to note too, is that there are two (2) types of solid surface. One is 100% acrylic. This formulation is easier to sand; however, acrylic patterns generally offer less movement. The other formulation is a polyester blend, which is usually more brittle. Solid surface materials now imitate stone and quartz very well, ranging from small to large particulates.  Disadvantages – solid surface is not resistant to heat, staining or scratches. Engineered Quartz – third most affordable, averaging $95/sq. ft. Engineered quartz, commonly just called quartz, is 93% quartz and 7% polymers (pigments and binders), with a 7 out of 10 rating on the hardness scale, (one of the hardest minerals other than diamonds). Quartz is Greenguard certified and NSF 51-rated. It’s durable, non-porous (which means no staining), and practically scratch resistant due to its hardness. Quartz is abundant; therefore manufactured quartz is abundant as well. Disadvantages – quartz is not heat resistant, so avoid placing hot pans directly on it. Granite – this material has a wide price range, starting in the $50’s/sq. ft. and going well over $100/sq. ft. Granite is a natural, mined material and each slab is unique. Disadvantages – granite is not Greenguard certified. It is porous and therefore can stain. Granite also required yearly sealing. As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these widely-used countertop materials. As a designer, which materials to you prefer to use and why? As a consumer/homeowner, which material do you prefer in a kitchen or bathroom?

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