Countertops
The choices for countertops today is extensive and requires thought to make appropriate selection(s). It is not uncommon to have several different types of countertops in a single kitchen. For example, one may have marble in a baking area, engineered stone on the other counters and butcher-block on an island. Each type of material has its pros and cons.

In order to help one make an informed choice we have provided some basic information about each type. They are listed in alphabetical order. The cost index for type runs from 1 to 4 with one being relatively the least expensive and 4 the most.

Butcher Block - made from rock maple for its tight grain, as well as oak, mahogany, and cherry, butcher block can also be made in mixed and exotic species.

  • Butcher block countertops are wonderful for cutting and chopping. Butcher block must be oiled regularly. Mineral oil is used because it is non-toxic.
  • Clean easily; bacteria can be removed by rubbing a slice of lemon over the surface.
  • Butcher block is fairly durable and may develop scratches that can be repaired by sanding.
  • Thickness runs from .75 to 3.5 inches
  • Cost index - 2

Concrete - contains natural materials: stone, silica-based cement, water, and pigment. Cast in molds and structurally reinforced, it is either pre-cast in a shop or done on-site.
  • Concrete is a handmade, custom-crafted material that works well with other natural elements such as slate and wood.
  • Concrete is extremely porous and must be properly resealed periodically to resist stains.
  • Cutting directly on the surface will compromise the sealant and dull knives quickly.
  • Concrete is rather unpredictable in nature and may crack and will change color, developing a warm patina over time.
  • Hairline cracks may develop from the natural shrinkage of the concrete. These cracks tend to be nonstructural and simply add interest to the inherent beauty of the material.
  • Concrete seams can become part of the design element.
  • Standard thickness is 1.5 inches.
  • Cost index - 4

Copper and Zink - nonporous metal places over a hard substrate such Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

  • Copper and zinc may be polished regularly to retain their new, bright finish or left to age naturally and oxidize, developing a rich patina.
  • To prevent heat damage and scratching, trivets and cutting boards are recommended.
  • Soft, but due to their substrate construction, dent-resistant.
  • Copper and Zink are available in seamless lengths up to 118".
  • Thickness with substrate is typically 1.5 inches.
  • Cost index - 4

Engineered Stone - combines natural quartz and silica sands under extreme pressure at very high temperatures to create an agglomerate product that looks like granite, marble, or travertine but is more durable and flexible.

  • Nonporous, engineered stone is stain-, acid-, mold- and mildew-resistant and hard enough to resist chips and scratches.
  • Available in a variety of colors, patterns, and finishes, it is produced in ½", ¾" and ¼" thick slabs.
  • Cost index - 3

Glass - one of the newer types of countertops available today.

  • Heat and stain proof.
  • Limitless colors, textures and edge details available.
  • Will scratch. Will show watermarks if not towel dried after use.
  • Fabricated to order. Typically glass is ¾" thick.
  • Cost index - 4

Granite - one of the hardest natural materials is primarily made up of quartz and feldspar.

  • Extremely heat- and scratch-resistant, granite allows hot pans to be placed directly on the surface.
  • Stains can be removed by a variety of methods depending on the type of stain. Scratches need to be repaired by a professional.
  • A porous material, granite requires proper periodic resealing with a penetrating sealer at least once every couple of years to prevent staining.
  • Cutting on the surface is not recommended.
  • Sizes are limited, and slabs must be pieced together for larger areas.
  • Available in many varieties, in various edge treatments, and in polished, honed, and matte finishes.
  • Cost index - 3 to 4

Lava Stone - is quarried in France and enameled and fired to present a brilliant crackle finish.

  • Completely fabricated before shipping, it can be made into any shape through laser cutting technology, in seamless slabs up to 48" x 96".
  • Impervious to stains and heat, lava stone has a high-gloss finish that can scratch if mistreated.
  • Available in many colors as well as in custom colors.
  • Cost index - 4

Limestone - consists mainly of calcite, a neutral-toned mineral.

  • Varies in hardness: some varieties are softer like marble and some are harder and more scratch-resistant like granite.
  • A porous material, limestone requires proper periodic resealing with a penetrating sealer to help prevent staining.
  • Available in black, gray, brown, white, and yellow, limestone has a smooth, muted complexion.
  • Cost index - 3

Marble - naturally occurring stone that is mined from various parts of the world.

  • Stains and scratches easily.
  • A porous material, marble requires proper periodic resealing with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining.
  • Heat and water-resistant.
  • Works well in very small areas for specific tasks, such as rolling out pastry dough.
  • Available in honed, matte, and polished finishes.
  • Cost index - 3

Plastic Laminates - are made of melamine-impregnated decorative surface papers combined with phenolic-treated kraft paper (saturated with resin).

  • Typically, just the top surface of the laminate has the coloring. However, you can buy laminate that has coloring that goes all the way through and these are less likely to show scratches, and they eliminate the brown line often associated with laminate edgings.
  • Shiny laminates or solid colors are more likely to show damage than matte or patterened surfaces.
  • Plastic laminates are durable but not indestructible.
  • They are impact resistant, fairly easy to maintain, and with proper care they will keep their good looks for many, many years. However, since the material is softer than soild surface, engineered or natural stone some precautions are necessary.
  • Because the typical structure is made up of layers, it is impossible to repair surface chips, scratches and cuts.
  • Do not use the surface as a cutting board. Ceramic or abrasive objects can also damage the surface if dragged across the countertop. Abrasive cleaners can scratch and dull the surface.
  • Damage caused by abrasion or scratching is irreversible, but can sometimes be masked by applying lemon oil or self stripping waxes, such as Pledge® or PLexus™ Plastic Cleaner.
  • Seams are the most vulnerable area of plastic laminate countertops.
  • If the seam is not properly matched or sealed, water may penetrate the substrate, causing the substrate to swell or crumble and the laminate layers to peel or break apart. This situation cannot be repaired, and the countertop must be replaced.
  • Do not use the countertop for a "hot pad". Prolonged exposure to temperatures of 140ºF (60ºC) or higher may cause the laminate to separate from the core material, or cause it to melt.
  • Never use cleaners containing acid, alkali, or sodium hypochlorite. These cleaners will mar, etch, corrode, and permanently discolor the laminate surface. Also, make sure that bottles, rags, and other materials contaminated with these cleaners never contact the laminate surface.
  • Cost index - 1

Recycled Glass - Made with 85% recycled glass makes this product green.

  • Recycled glass bound in Portland cement and other non-VOC ingredients.
  • Resistant to staining, but requires sealing.
  • Waterproof
  • Extensive color choices based on the type(s) of glass used.
  • Slabs are available in 1¼" thickness. Slabs are 60" x 108".
  • Cost index - 4

Recycled Paper - Yes countertops can are made from recycled paper making it a green product.

  • Machines like wood.
  • Resistant to staining
  • Waterproof
  • Limited color choices available in tones of blue, green, red, black, and brown
  • Designed to be consumer-friendly, scratches and stains can be easily sanded away.
  • Slabs are available in ¾, 1 and 1½" thickness. Slabs are 60" x 144".
  • Cost index - 4

Slate - a natural stone that features nonporous, heat-resistant qualities.

  • Any scratches can usually be removed easily with a damp sponge. Deeper scratches may be buffed out with a steel wool pad.
  • Slates mined in Vermont require no sealing.
  • Softer than granite, slate has edges that should be rounded to discourage chipping.
  • Limited color choices available in tones of green, gray, purple, and black.
  • Cost index - 3

Soapstone - (Steatite), a material that has been used in kitchens for centuries, achieves a traditional, rustic look.

  • Soapstone is primary composed of talc, making it soft and smooth to the touch.
  • Chemically and thermally resistant to stains and burning.
  • Reapplying a coat of mineral oil periodically will enhance its luster and act as a sealer.
  • Originally mined in Vermont, most soapstone is imported from Brazil in a range of blue/gray tones.
  • Cost index - 3

Solid Surface - manufactured from acrylic resins and/or polyester plastics.

  • Offering seamless construction, solid surface materials can easily accommodate large areas or a built-in sink.
  • Nonporous, solid surface resists most liquid and food stains.
  • Trivets are recommended, as hot pots will melt the finish.
  • Designed to be consumer-friendly, scratches and stains can be easily sanded away.
  • Available in numerous solid colors and evenly distributed patterns, they can be found with matte and polished finishes, and with a wide selection of edging details.
  • Cost index - 3

Stainless Steel - combination of steel and nickel

  • Nonporous and heat-resistant, stainless steel holds up extremely well in wet areas.
  • 16-gauge is recommended for strong wear.
  • Scratches will fade over time into a fine patina.
  • Available in seamless lengths up to 114".
  • Cost index - 4

Tile - Made from clay and then fired at high temperature.

  • Tile is heat and stain-resistant.
  • Available in ceramic or porcelain and every color imaginable.
  • Epoxy grout is highly recommended for easier cleaning.
  • Glazed tiles may scratch and chip, so extra tiles should be purchased and stored.
  • Optional corners and liners are available from many manufacturers to finish the edges beautifully.
  • Size - from mosaics to 6" x 6" and larger
  • Cost index - 1 to 2