Kitchen Countertops: Alternative Solid Counters, Part 4 of 7By Jim Mallery
Part 4 of a seven-part series, Kitchen Countertops
Previous articles in this series have explored granite and quartz countertops. But if they don't knock you off your feet, you can counter-punch. There are other materials that may complement your refreshed kitchen cabinets.
6 Kitchen Countertop Contenders
- Acrylic. Perhaps the best known acrylic counter material is DuPont Corian. This has been around since the 1960s and is a considerably cheaper option to granite and quartz countertops. Acrylic counters, however, are prone to scratches and burns and readily show their age. Scratches can be buffed out of them, but you may be reluctant to haul out the power tools every time you get a scratch. They are impervious; they don't stain. They come in a wide variety of colors and also have patterns that mimic stone.
- Soapstone. This is a quarried stone consisting to a large degree of compressed talc. Soapstone is very dense and smooth, and it is virtually impervious to stain. The surface is honed, not polished, and thus has a dull finish. It usually is green, but darkens over time to nearly black. Often mineral oil is applied to hasten the darkening and to give the surface a richer look. Soapstone does scratch, though scratches will darken and not be obvious. Soapstone from some parts of the world will have white streaks. It's also more fragile, yet costs about the same as middle-range granite.
- Marble and Travertine. These two stones are often seen on counters in slab or tile form, but usually in the bathroom. They are both very soft, and scratch and stain easily. Unless you use your kitchen only for show, they will not hold up to ordinary kitchen abuse.
- Concrete. In recent years, concrete countertops have grown in popularity. They have a kind of rustic charm that fits well with certain kitchens. They can be fabricated on site or in a shop and brought to your house. The concrete can be stained to various colors. Surfaces are polished and sealed so that performance characteristics are similar to granite. It can be very stain resistant, though as with granite, hot pots can compromise the sealer and allow staining. Concrete countertops can develop hairline fractures, as with most concrete products. The fractures are too small to gather debris, and owners just regard them as part of the counter's charm. Concrete counters, because of the labor involved, will cost in the same range as granite.
- Stainless Steel. An expensive and specialized look, stainless fits only certain kitchens. It scratches easily. While you may not want scratches on stainless appliances, scratches in stainless counters and sinks just become part of the look.
- Laminate. The common brand is Formica, though there are many other manufacturers. Laminate is a much cheaper, solid-surface alternative for a countertop than the aforementioned materials.While manufacturers have developed more attractive laminates, it is still easily identified as a lower-end surface. If you have laminate now, you may want to upgrade, and if you have a higher-scale surface, you probably don't want to downgrade. One note: If laminate is right for your décor and budget, and if you are a competent do-it-yourselfer, it is fairly easy to install yourself.
That's the low-down on solid-surface countertops to complement your new-look kitchen cabinets. The next article will examine tile countertops.
About The Author
Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.