Selecting the right material for your new countertop is matter of taste and function. The colour and texture of counters will provide an extra touch to your kitchen and bathroom design. Each surface has its own care considerations. It's important to become familiar with the properties of each before you make your selection. Don't hesitate to combine materials to stay within budget yet create the look and function you want.
Durable, colourful, and moderately priced, laminate is the most surfacing material for builders and remodelers. From wood and granite motifs to splashy graphics and metallics, laminate is available in a range of patterns and textures. Pick your colour, there are literally hundreds on the market.
Laminate countertops can be given a square edge or a rolled edge. The rolled edge type are available in many different profiles. The square edge type can be bevelled on the edges, have wood inserts, or brass inlays to create a rich custom look.
Many laminate manufacturers have a product line in which the colour runs through the sheet. These solid colour laminates eliminate the brown line often associated with edgings, and make scratches and chips harder to see. Solid colour products also can be routed to create graphic effects.
Laminate resists grease and stains and cleans up with soap and water. Abrasive cleaners should not be used. However, it won't stand up to sharp knives or hot pots and pans. Prolonged exposure to water may dissolve glue lines and cause warping of the sub-surface. Some laminate finishes are more durable than others, so you may want to take home a sample to test which one works best for you. Once damaged, laminate is difficult if not impossible to repair.
Solid surface materials such as CORIAN are water and stain resistant,
non-porous and easy to clean. Although knife cuts and scratches can be removed with an
abrasive cleanser, these tops are not designed to be cutting surfaces or landing pads for
hot pots and pans. This durable marble-like material can be shaped and installed with
woodworking tools to create unique edging details. It is an excellent material for the
kitchen and bath and offers a wide colour range.
Butcher Block and other kinds of woods will give your countertops natural warmth and
elegance. Thick butcher blocks are made of hardwood strips glued together. It is the ideal
countertop for the cook who does plenty of slicing and dicing. Butcher block is generally
made from hard rock maple or beech. Countertop units come in thicknesses ranging from 1 to
1-1/2 inches and can be cut in any shape.
As with all wood products, warping can occur under prolonged exposure to water. With proper care, wood counters can last a lifetime. Periodic rubdowns with mineral oil protect the finish and preserve luster. Scratches and nicks add character to the wood, or you can smooth them with sandpaper.
If you like the benefits of wood but want something requiring less care, a butcher-block insert may be a better choice. Insets in food preparation areas are handy for chopping and carving. Butcher block can turn black if located near water or improperly sealed.
Stainless steel is a specialized countertop surface that works well near a sink or
wherever a lot of water is used. Because it is impervious to heat, it is also practical
near ovens or ranges. A disadvantage of stainless steel is its tendency to dent and
scratch. It is not meant for cutting.
Glazed ceramic tile comes in the widest range of colours and patterns and is both durable and easy to clean. Heat, stain and scratch resistant, it can chip if hit with heavy objects. If a fragile object hits it, expect the object to break. Using coloured grout and grout additives decreases (but not eliminates) the problem of stained grout lines.
A practical and attractive combination for a kitchen might be laminate countertops with
a ceramic tile or marble backsplashes and butcher block or stainless steel inserts.
Marble, however, is not recommended for kitchen countertops. Oils, alcohol, coffee, tea,
wine, tomatoes and citrus stain marble and tend to etch the surface.
Granite comes in an extraordinary palette of colours ranging from subtle to dazzling in
intensity. Each granite colour comes from a different quarry, and no two quarries in the
world yield the same colour. Granite provides a worry-free surface and requires few
special precautions. Most granites are impervious to scratches, staining and heat
blistering or cracking. Hot pots and pans won't damage it. Warm water and a soft cloth can
be used to clean up most spills and semi-annual application of a non-yellowing paste wax
will preserve the original brightness for many years.
COURTESY OF; THE KITCHEN EMPORIUM INC.