Popular materials in the kitchen right now include plastic laminate, tile, solid surface, wood, and natural stone.
Margot Hartford

Comparing Countertops

Chop on it, knead on it, serve from it: you ask a lot, every day, of your kitchen countertop. No one material is best for all purposes, but each of these types looks distinctive and has specific merits.

The principal countertop materials currently in favor for kitchens are plastic laminate, tile, solid surface, wood, and natural stone -- including granite, limestone, and slate. Also showing up on kitchen counter are soapstone and concrete, along with manufactured materials such as quartz-based surfaces and woodlike compressed composites. Stainless steel, too, draws fans for its contemporary, commercial-kitchen ambience.

There are pros and cons to concrete.
Courtesy of Sonoma Cast Stone


Pros: A natural product available in many colors; heat resistant; can be customized with embedded objects; offers integral sink and drainboard capability; smooth.

Cons: Can develop cracks; needs to be sealed, and the sealer can be damaged by heat and knives; experienced fabricators hard to find.

Stone countertops with chairs at counter and light wood cabinet with lot of overhead lighting
Michael Skott

Natural Stone

Pros: Beautiful natural material in a range of types (granite, marble, limestone, soapstone, slate, lava stone); long lasting; has enduring appeal; heat- and waterproof.

Cons: Solid slabs are expensive, stone tiles a less costly alternative; tends to stain (slate is the most stain resistant) and must be sealed for stain resistance; food acids etch marble.

Blue plastic laminate countertops pop against a yellow background
Michael Skott

Plastic Laminate

Pros: Inexpensive; comes in lots of colors, patterns, and textures; easy to clean and maintain; stain resistant.

Cons: Has visible seams; heat will damage; burns, stains, and deep scratches can’t be repaired.

Richlite countertop looks like wood
Doug Ogle, Courtesy of Richlite


Pros: Environmentally friendly product derived from sustainable forests; has natural look like wood; develops natural patina with age; can span considerable lengths without support; heat resistant to 350 degrees.

Cons: Needs sealing for stain resistance; limited colors; UV rays will darken colors; scratches buff out, but not deeps cuts.

Light green countertops have raised steel grids on it that function as a trivet, to keep surface from being burned
Courtesy of DuPont

Solid Surface

Pros: Nonporous; tough and low maintenance; resilient; scratches and burns can be sanded; seamless; molds to any shape; allows for integral or undermounted sink.

Cons: Extremely hot items may damage surface; can look artificial compared to real stone.

Tan tile countertop with humming bird tiles bordering
Margot Hartford


Pros: Durable; heat resistant; many colors, patterns, and materials; stone tiles provide a less expensive alternative to costly stone slabs.

Cons: Grout (except epoxy) needs sealing (as do some tiles) and can stain or crack; some tile can chip or crack (ceramic) or get etched by acids (marble); not good for rolling dough.

Vegetables lay ready to be chopped on bright stainless steel countertops
Glen Christiansen

Stainless Steel

Pros: Durable; waterproof; resistant to bacteria, heat, and stains; integral sink capability; offers commercial look.

Cons: Cold to touch and noisy; will dent and scratch and is then hard to repair; cutting on it damages both countertop and knife; shows water and grease marks if not properly cleaned and dried.

Light wood countertops make the metal faucet sparkle.
Courtesy of Kohler


Pros: A natural product that complements any other material; warm to eye and touch; resilient; scratches and stains can be sanded; hardwood good as cutting surface.

Cons: Porous, thus harder to maintain than nonporous surfaces; requires regular cleaning and sealing or waxing; limited heat resistance.

From Ideas for Great Kitchens

For more kitchen know-how, purchase Ideas for Great Kitchens.

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