How to pick out a countertop.
Countertops are expensive, which also means they are a fairly permanent decision for most of us. Therefore, picking out the right countertop material and design can be a very stressful task. There are many materials you can use for a countertop. We'll focus on the most popular and common options available. Let's break it down to a few steps.
What is your budget?
How durable and maintenance-free do you need it to be?
What is the look you are going for?
Laminate countertops are much less expensive than pretty much any other material. However, they are not super durable. You shouldn't put anything hot on them, and they scratch easily. The top layer (which is the where the design is) can potentially peel off, and you have to be sure not to let them get damaged by too much water in seams or near a sink.
Granite is natural stone. It is very durable and can take heat from pots and pans. The look can vary greatly, not only between types of granite, but even between slabs. You will want to make sure you see the slabs available and choose the one you like best. Some varieties can be very busy to look at. Granite needs regular sealing to prevent stains, as it is porous. It is also much more expensive than laminate.
Quartz is real stone. It's just crushed and bonded into a wide variety of designs. It is very durable and many have a consistent pattern. Quartz has become extremely popular lately and the colors and patterns seem endless. Even though it's great for those of us who don't want to seal our countertop regularly or to have to be too careful, you still shouldn't put hot pots and pans on it. The cost is similar to granite, and can have a variety of price points.
Solid Surface tops are less expensive than some stone options. The seams can be fused together so they are not noticeable, and even solid surface bathroom sinks can be integrated seamlessly with the countertop. They do not take much maintenance, but they can be damaged by heat and scratching.
Quartzite, Marble, Slate, Butcher Block, and Soapstone are all natural materials like granite, but some of these stain easily (such as marble) and need regular maintenance, and some can be easily damaged. You can also choose from concrete, ceramic tile, stainless steel, and more. No matter what material you choose, I always tell my clients that the pattern is going to be busier than they think it will be. Without seeing a whole slab, you can only visualize your kitchen from a small sample. Consider what your focal point will be in your kitchen. Will it be the countertop? If so, you can go with a bold choice with lots of movement. Does some other element take center stage? If that is the case, choose a simpler design. Whatever you choose, look at some pictures online, and certainly bring a sample home to see it in your environment.