Photo by Emily May, acquired via Flickr.com

Kitchen Countertop Materials, Part 2

Posted September 22nd, 2014 under renovations and repairs.

Last month, I discussed the pros and cons of common countertop materials: laminates, ceramic or stone tiles, granite, and marble.

This month I'm going to discuss some uncommon and new materials that offer different advantages.

Soap Stone

Soap stone costs upward of $80/sq.ft. installed, so it's not an inexpensive option. However, it offers many attractive advantages.

Softer than other stone counters, soap stone remains very durable. It resists stains, chemicals, and bacteria, and is heat resistant.

Colours are limited to gray and darker hues, but attractive and subtle veined patterns add to any decor.

If it's within your budget, soap stone is a great alternative to granite or marble.

Solid Wood / Butcher Block

Starting at $30/sq.ft. installed (varying by thickness and type), wood is an affordable option.

It offers a warm, traditional country look and the variety of colours and grains can be made to work with any decorating scheme.

Wood is durable, forgiving to dropped items, easy to clean, and contrary to popular belief, does not harbour bacteria.

However, wood is not heat-resistant (it will scorch), may swell if infiltrated by water, and may stain.

Wood is a good choice for people who want a warm look and don't mind a certain amount of aging.

Stainless Steel

Costing upward of $85/sq.ft. installed, stainless steel is available in brushed, matte, or special finishes and can give your kitchen a professional or "restaurant" look.

Although long-lasting, easy to clean, and resistant to heat and stains, steel is susceptible to scratches and dents, and is noisy when hit. It also shows fingerprints, so you;ll be cleaning it more often.

For those that don't mind the extra cleaning, steel offers a bold look perfect for a modern style of decor.

Copper and Zinc

These two metals offer many of the properties of steel, but at a higher price of $100/sq.ft. installed, and with one significant difference.

Where steel has a minimal and modern look, copper and zinc both develop a complex patina over time, giving them a more organic look.

Copper develops a more complex patina. Zinc has a look similar to pewter, with the added property of being resistant to bacteria.

Both materials are easily marked and dented, and are noisy when struck, but forgiving to dropped items.

Paperstone

A new material made from recycled paper and resins, paperstone feels and looks like soap stone, but is much cheaper, costing upwards of $40/sq.ft. installed.

Paperstone comes in many colours, is long-lasting, stain resistant, and easy to clean. However, it is not resistant to high heat.

If you like the look of soap stone, but its price tag isn't in your budget, paperstone may be the material for you.

Concrete

You may not have expected to see concrete on this list, but in fact, it has a number of advantages as a countertop material.

It is extremely durable, and as a poured material, you aren't restricted in terms of shape or size. Countertops can be poured in place and integrated with other architectural elements (sinks, floors).

You may also be surprised to know that concrete can be given many colours and unusual patterns through the use of pigments, stains, and additives (including recycled materials such as glass).

However, special attention must be paid to maintaining the sealer, and a patina will often develop over time.

Because of the custom work involved, concrete typically costs upwards of $100/sq.ft. installed, so it's not for everyone. But if it's within your price range, its unique properties make it worth a look.

Engineered Quartz

Formed from a combination of ground quartz (90-95%) with resins and pigments (5-10%), engineered quartz has a number of positive qualities.

Durable and impact-resistant, engineered quartz is also nonporous, so it resists stains and bacteria. Unlike some natural stones, no sealing or waxes are required. However, the resin content is not heat-resistant.

A wide variety of colours and patterns are available. Typical cost is upwards of $95/sq.ft. installed.

Want to know more about remodelling your kitchen? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.

--Peter

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