Best Kitchen Countertop Materials

The right countertop will lend both functionality and style to your kitchen. (Photo: Dreamstime)

If you’ve thought about remodeling your kitchen, you’ve probably given some consideration to countertops. After all, countertops are not just an important functional feature; they’re also a primary design element. And the many options available can make the choice seem overwhelming. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of five popular materials to help you choose the best countertops for your kitchen:

Granite
Granite has long been a top countertop material, and for good reason: It’s durable, heat-resistant, attractive and easy to clean. What’s more, granite is cut from veins of naturally occurring stone, which makes each slab entirely unique. Typically, a granite countertop slab will run anywhere from $50 to $150 per square foot, though granite tiles will yield a similar result for less. One downside to granite is it’s porous, so it must be sealed once a year to maintain its appearance and durability.

Engineered quartz
Engineered quartz is another popular countertop material. In fact, many designers argue that it’s taken granite’s place at the top. That’s largely because it’s tougher than granite. It’s nonporous, so it’s resistant to cracking, scratching and staining. And it doesn’t require the maintenance and sealing that come with natural stone. Because the material is engineered, it comes in uniform slabs. But there are a number of attractive colors and design options available – ranging from sleek, modern monotones to traditional marble look-alikes. Engineered quartz is one of the more expensive countertop options. Typically, you’ll spend as much or more for engineered quartz countertops as you will for granite.

Butcher block
Wooden butcher block countertops are not only functional and durable, but they can also add warmth and beauty to any home. The downside to wooden butcher block countertops is they require frequent maintenance. Wood has to be sealed about once a month to prevent damage from heat and moisture, and regular wax and oil treatments will keep it looking its best. The good news is minor damages such as scratches and small burns can typically be sanded out. Wooden butcher block countertops typically fall about mid-range in terms of pricing.

Concrete
Concrete countertops offer natural strength and heat resistance, as well as the opportunity for full customization. Not only can homeowners choose from an array of precast colors and designs, but they may also opt to include additives such as rocks, shells and colored glass to add texture or create a look all their own. Concrete countertops used to crack and chip easily, but material innovations have addressed these issues. Concrete is a good option for both modern and traditional interiors. And, like butcher block, it typically falls about mid-range in terms of pricing.

Laminate
Laminate (commonly referred to by brand name Formica) is one of the most affordable countertop materials. Generally made with paper pressed between plastic resins and bonded to particle board or plywood, laminate is durable but easily damaged. The downside to laminate is it’s not heat- or scratch-resistant. The upside is it comes in a wide range of colors and textures that mimic higher-end materials at a much lower cost. And, its price point makes it more easily replaceable than other countertop materials.

Of course, these are only a few of the countertop materials available. You may also consider options like soapstone, tile and stainless steel, for example, which all come with their own pros and cons. Ultimately, the best material for your kitchen countertop will depend on your budget, use and design preferences.

By Megan Alderton. Angie’s List. Megan Alderton is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.