The ultimate kitchen countertop buying guide

Considering a kitchen makeover? Our home decor editor explains the pros, cons and price points of eight common countertops.

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countertop options choices counter soapstone granite stainless steel engineered stone butcher block laminate marble corian wilsonart
Photo, Sian Richards.

1. Butcher block
Pros: Long-lasting if maintained properly. Delicate on dishware. Can be less expensive than other options.
Cons: Easily damaged by knives and hot cookware. Susceptible to water stains and warping.
Cost: $

2. Marble
Pros: Available in many different colours. Especially useful to bakers because its surface is great for rolling out dough.
Cons: Extremely heavy and needs to be well supported. Requires sealing and can be etched by acid, including citrus juice, alcohol and coffee.
Cost: $$$

3. Solid surface (Corian, Wilsonart)
Pros: No sealing required. Uniform colour. Seamless installation.
Cons: Can be damaged by heat.
Cost: $$

4. Laminate
Pros: Budget friendly. Doesn’t require sealing.
Cons: Will show burn marks and scratches. Visible seams.
Cost: $

5. Soapstone
Pros: Requires occasional oiling but no sealing, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Stain-proof and can stand high heat.
Cons: Softer than other stones, it can be easily scratched or dented. Its colours tend to darken with time, so bear that in mind when comparing it to your other decor elements.
Cost: $$$

6. Stainless steel
Pros: High-end, commercial-kitchen look. Durable, heat-resistant and helps reflect light in darker rooms.
Cons: Can dent or scratch and shows every fingerprint. Can be a loud surface for placing cookware and dishes.
Cost: $$

7. Granite
Pros: Stain, heat and water-resistant when sealed. Requires minimal maintenance.
Cons: Very heavy and must be supported by strong, sturdy cabinets. Can chip or crack.
Cost: $$$

8. Engineered stone (Quartzite, Caesarstone, Silestone)
Pros: Low maintenance. Doesn’t need to be sealed. Stain, heat and scratch-proof.
Cons: May have visible seams where the pieces meet. Can chip.
Cost: $$$

5 questions to ask yourself:

1. What’s my budget?
Decide how much you’d like to spend. After your cabinetry, your countertops (if you choose a pricier option like marble) can be the second-biggest investment you make.

2. How much will I need?
Start by measuring the length of countertop you need. Depending on your budget, you may want to consider using two different types of materials to mix and match.

3. How will I use these counters?
If you bake a lot, consider marble, a perfect surface for rolling out dough. If you’re constantly chopping, cooking, boiling and grating, think hard-wearing stainless steel or granite.

4. How much maintenance can I commit to?
Some materials require a distinct upkeep ritual. If you know you’re not one to regularly change the oil in your car, it might be unreasonable to assume you will oil your soapstone or butcher block countertops. Quartzite or granite may appeal more to those looking for a low-maintenance option.

5. What is my design esthetic?
Is it utilitarian? Modern? Traditional? Choose a material that will complement the style of your home and the other elements you already have in place.

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