You know what you like in a kitchen countertop’s aesthetics, but you probably don’t think too much about its strength. Can your countertop resist a range of scratches and temperatures? It’s pretty easy to just assume your kitchen counter can take anything you dish out, but depending on what it’s made out of, you might do damage to your counter by pushing it too far. Listed below are several materials that most kitchen countertops are made of along with their strengths and weaknesses.
Laminate countertops are made of a plastic combined with paper or particleboard, usually giving the appearance of other materials (like wood or marble). As expected with any sort of hybrid plastic product, they are not very heat resistant (a cup of coffee can discolor or mar the surface of a laminate surface). Laminate is most often the most economical solution.
Solid-surface counters are slightly better than laminate, but not by much. They are also a composite of inorganic materials, including roughly one-third polymer resins. They have a little more heat resistance, although they can crack from extreme cold or extreme temperature changes.
Granite is exceptionally heat-resistant/tolerant as a natural material, so it works great as a kitchen countertop. A hot pan can be placed right on a granite counter without leaving a mark. However, extreme changes in temperature (such as putting something frozen where there was immediately before a hot pan) can potentially cause cracking. Best to use some sort of heat protection, like a trivet.
What is marketed as quartz countertops are usually a hybrid of natural quartz and inorganic materials. The quartz itself is very heat resistant, but the polymers incorporated with them can discolor with heat or direct sunlight. Because of this, they are seldom used outdoors.
Marble is comparable to granite for heat resistance/tolerance. However, untreated marble countertops can have issues with scratching and marring since it’s a relatively soft stone, requiring the use of trivets or other means of heat protection.
Terrazzo and recycled glass
While aesthetically very pleasing, Terrazzo and recycled glass countertops are not very common. Although their durability compares to granite, they can crack when they encounter extreme changes in temperature (just like granite). The level of resistance of the material depends on the quality of the glass used. They are also very expensive compared to the other materials listed here.
Concrete has a very high heat resistance/tolerance. But just like a sidewalk, it can develop cracks over time. The process of installation is also very expensive and difficult.
Metal countertops are usually made from stainless steel, aluminum, or copper. While metal is very heat resistant, it’s also very heat conductive, meaning you need to be careful touching any surface that’s recently had a hot pan on it. They also scratch very easily.
Clearly, there is no one size fits all answer to ‘what is the best kitchen countertop?’, but armed with a bit of knowledge, you can make a decision for your kitchen that makes sense. Consulting with your contractor can also help you with this decision.