The counter is the main surface in the most visited room in the home. It's where the guests always end up. It's a place to put your drink during the kitchen party. It's where the food gets laid out for the buffet. It's where your new friend stirs sugar into their coffee. It has to look good.
The kitchen counter is also the place where you sweat the most. It's where you're dealing with hunger, dishes and groceries all at the same time. Food's coming in and food's going out while the garbage piles up. You're home from work to feed the family and hoping you can spend some time together before you all drop off to sleep. It has to be easy.
Fortunately there are a number of countertops that are tough, good-looking and easy. None of them are perfect but some will suit you better than others, so before you agree to the first thing that catches your eye, shop around a little. Your kitchen counter is the hardest working surface in the house and it deserves respect.
Here's a quick run down of the main players in today's wide world of countertops. All of them have proven themselves to be durable but sadly, nothing lasts forever. Chips, cracks and stains will happen, so weigh your lifestyle needs against your budget and personal style to find the one that will fit your kitchen.
1. Granite - This is the new darling of the kitchen reno. Granite is a natural solid stone countertop that can be had in a selection of colors. Extremely durable and nice to look at, granite is also heat and waterproof. Cons: It resists stains and scratches but not entirely. Seams are visible. Granite can be high maintenance and has to be resealed every year. Imported and expensive.
2. Quartz - Beautiful quartz countertops offer many of the same benefits as granite, but come in a wider range of colors. These counters never need resealing or polishing. They resist scratches, heat and stains. Cons: Seams are visible and installation is expensive.
3. Polished concrete - Customizable counters can be had in any shape or size you want and will take on any color you care to tint them. These seamless counters are heat and scratch resistant and they look good. Cons: They also stain easily and are very expensive. Can be hard to find skilled tradespeople.
4. Solid surface - Usually acrylic, these counters are solid all the way through and give you a durable surface without seams. Waterproof. Small scratches can be sanded away. Wide range of colors and designs. Cons: Though these counters can look solid, they can be scratched easily and become damaged by heat and knives.
5. Recycled glass - Looks great. This alternative to natural stone combines colored recycled glass with concrete to make an attractive countertop that's good for the environment. Cons: Properties are similar to granite so while it resists heat and scratches, it stains easily and needs to be resealed regularly. Expensive.
6. Laminate - The old standby, laminate is cheap and versatile. Made of plastic layers bonded to paper or particle board, it comes in an endless variety of colors and patterns. Somewhat durable. Cons: Can be permanently damaged by heat and knives and shows scratches easily. Once ruined, it can't be fixed.
7. Tile - Why don't we tile our kitchen counters more often? Tiles make a durable, easy-to-clean counter that is inexpensive and can be done yourself. Ceramic is heat and scratch resistant. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Cons: It also chips and cracks easily, and makes a poor cutting surface. Though tiles come clean, grout becomes stained.
8. Wood - Comes in a range of colors and finishes with maple and oak being the most popular. Makes a fairly easy-to-clean surface and gives a nice warm effect to the room. Can be damaged by heat and water but can also be sanded and resealed. Makes a good cutting surface. Cons: High maintenance countertop that needs regular oiling.
9. Stainless steel - Great looking modern countertop. Heat resistant and durable. Seamless. Easy-to-clean. Cons: Also expensive and noisy. These counters dent easily and dull knives.
Expect time to add character to the countertop you choose just like anything else in your home. No matter what material you decide on, make sure it's one you love and you can't go wrong.