All About Countertops: Which One is Right for Me?

There are many different types of countertops that can be used in Kitchens and Bathrooms.  Everybody is always asking: “What is the BEST Countertop?”

The best is Quartz, the second best is Granite, the third best is Solid Surface Acrylic, for example Corian.  The fourth best is Hi-Definition Laminate, and the fifth would be regular laminate.

Caesarstone Quartz Countertop

That is just a general opinion from me, but that is based on experiences that my clients have given me feedback on.  Quartz is not able to be stained or scratched or damaged in any way, which makes it the best.  It comes in a wide variety of colors and always has a smooth texture.  Granite is the second best because it can be stained and it has to be sealed; it does take maintenance.  But, if you’re looking for beauty, granite is better than quartz.  You cannot beat the look of a slab of granite.  If you went into the warehouses where they store the granite to pick yours out, you would be awed by the wide variety of colors and waves of color that go through the slabs, your jaw would drop and you would pick one out that is so beautiful and just for you.  Quartz is not like that, it does not produce that jaw-dropping effect.

Slab of Granite

How hard is it to maintain the granite?  I mean, is it do-able?

It has to be sealed.  And then if you’re cooking and you have grease going on there and wine and grapes and things, you could stain your granite, especially your lighter colored granite.

Do you seal it just once, or every year?

As often as you need to.  Every 6 months is what I recommend, some do it every year, depends how much you use your countertops.  In the area where you do food prep, every 6 months would be appropriate.  You have to strip it, clean it and re-seal it.  You can buy cleaners that also seal, which is what we use at our house.

Again, Quartz is the least amount of maintenance and the most amount of durability against scratches, which are the two qualities that make it generally recognized as “the best”.

What about Wood Countertops?  Those seem to be rising in popularity.

Butcher block countertops are beautiful to look at, but they have to be sealed and are softer than stone, so they can dent and scratch (but many wood-lovers see this as adding character). There has been a myth spreading that wood countertops harbor bacteria, but wood is actually naturally anti-bacterial!

And then you have Corian type products (Solid Surface Acrylic).

Corian is very easy to scratch, all Acrylic countertops are easy to scratch.  Ebonite, Corian, Nevamar, and a whole bunch of them.  But the beauty of them is they can be worked like a piece of wood.  So you can router them, you can have inlays, you can add designs, and they are all seamless; every time they are installed there are never any seams.  The edge treatments are all formed right into the countertop. It works like a raw piece of wood as far as using tools on it, drilling holes and things like that. It’s very easy to work with which makes it a great choice if you have custom designs that you need done.  Corian is good for shower walls, it’s good for bathtub decks, it’s good for a lot of things where the weight of quartz or granite would be too cumbersome.  It has its application, and is very popular in some high-end areas just like quartz and granite; it’s about the same price.

And then your Hi-Definition Laminate is a very durable product as far as scratches, much more durable than Corian, but it has a limited life.  Moisture is the enemy of laminate.

Around the sink and in areas where there are seams, over time develops swelling of the substrate, and the counter has to be replaced probably every 7-10 years. Now it’s about one quarter of the cost, so if you want to refresh your counters once in a while, then go with Hi-Def laminate and you can change them more often.

Is that what Formica is?

Formica is a brand of plastic laminate.  They’re all the same: Formica, Nevamar, Wilsonart, a few others.

So when would you recommend using laminate?  Isn’t that what we have in our basement around the bar area?

Yes we do.  We used a Hi-Definition plastic laminate, looks like granite, has a texture to it, it is very durable, looks beautiful.

Formica Laminate Countertop

Because I’ve seen some new ones that even look like stone.

Yeah that’s because they have rounded edges or beveled edges, they look like stone.

And you don’t have to worry so much about your every move, whether or not you will stain it.

They can’t be stained.  Very difficult to stain laminate, but they can be cracked with a hot pan.  But then again you shouldn’t put a hot pan on anything.

That’s what a lot of people ask me on the phone, which countertop they should get.  They think they want to put their hot pans on them.  Would you recommend doing that, even on quartz?

Well you can! You can put a hot pan on anything.  What you’re risking is something called Rapid Thermal Expansion which will cause  a thermal crack.  So, when something is really hot it expands quickly.  If the countertop is part cold and part hot because you put something on it, it might crack.  No one is going to provide a warranty against the cracking of any countertop.

So it’s a crack we should be worried about, not a black circle burn mark or anything like that?

Right.  You can’t burn granite, you can’t burn quartz.  Corian can be scotch-brighted and the burn comes right off- you can’t burn through the surface.  You can burn the surface, with a cigarette or something, but it will come right off.  Laminate, if you put a hot pan on that, it pops the glue, and makes a bubble in the surface or cracks.  The limit really is about 325º for anything going on the counter.  Anything more than that, you’re in danger of cracking.  Or even boiling water.  If you pour boiling water into a Corian sink you can crack it.  That’s only 212º.  So I guess it would probably be best to use hot pads all the time.  You wouldn’t want to take the chance.

So there are different applications for all of the different counters, it depends on the abuse it’s going to go through, and the amount of upkeep you are willing to do.  Laminate is a lot less expensive, and it’s come a long way. Stop by our showroom any time to look at the hundreds of samples we have of all the different styles of countertops!  Kopke Remodeling & Design, located at 38200 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights, MI 48312.

[This post was written by me through a conversation with my Dad (Dave Kopke) in 2013]