The Inside Outside Guys: Countertop choices that will stand the test of time

Ken Calverley Chuck Breidenstein
Chuck Breidenstein

If you are like 95% of current homeowners, you would like new countertops.

Most of those people believe there are three or four choices as to the type of top they choose, with granite being the most popular, but the truth is there are all kinds of great materials and color choices available for use as a countertop.

Various concerns you should address regarding the material you choose include how much abuse it will take over time. Will the countertop edge resist chipping and cracking? Are repairs easily made to the damaged surface? Will sharp knives or hot pans create issues? Is the product high or low maintenance?

Because many of these products are fairly pricey and non-depreciating over time, you should also choose colors wisely. That trendy black and red farmhouse style top you’ve installed may become very dated and could negatively impact a future home sale. Many people today are choosing neutral colors for the larger expanse of top and picking up accents with smaller sections like you might install on a kitchen island.

As to some of the many choices, you’ve likely heard of quartz and quartzite, but do you know any more about them?

Quartz has become widely available as a man-made product consisting of roughly 90%  ground quartz and 10% resin. It is available in many colors and patterns and is less porous than natural slabs and a little harder due to the manufacturing process. It is a great value product when compared to many, natural stone, slab-type surfaces.

Quartzite, like granite, is a natural slab that is going to be one-of-a-kind in terms of pattern and grain. Because of this, it will be a little higher up on the installed cost scale and, like granite, require some cleaning and sealing maintenance.

Stainless steel is another popular choice for tops. If you’ve ever been in a commercial kitchen, you’ve seen it because it can take a lot of abuse without staining, cracking or chipping. Like that stainless kitchen sink you may have had, the quality and durability of the surface is based largely on nickel content and gauge or thickness of the metal. High quality stainless steel is pricey, but a great long-term value for anyone that really uses their kitchen.

Engineered quartz remains the most popular material for upgraded kitchen countertops, with 42% of homeowners opting for it.

Butcher block is another choice, and many cooks opt for a least a section of their food prep area to be genuine wood. It is available in many choices that relate to hardness and color based on the species of wood used. It can take a lot of abuse and is an excellent cutting surface. Some maintenance is required, but these tops seem to acquire character over time and use.

Ceramic tile is making a comeback as a surface material along with glass and recycled glass tops. The design options are virtually endless, and cost is dependent on specific tile choices and patterns. This can also serve as a great accent backsplash for that neutral-colored slab countertop.

Soapstone, which may harken back to your high school biology lab, is another great nonporous choice. Colors are limited to darker shades and are perfect to accent the current “farmhouse” kitchen trend.

Slate is most commonly associated with your pool tabletop, but it can be a great specification for a bar top, bathroom or island. It is very hard and durable but, again, limited in terms of color.

The “solid surface” tops, most popularly Corian, are still available and offer a wide variety in terms of color and edge treatments, as well as a visually seamless installation.

For those daring souls with a higher budget, marble is also in play as an option, but it does require more maintenance over time and will not stand up to much abuse.

Other potential choices include concrete, (not your driveway grade of material), brass and copper.

Before you complete your list of potential materials to explore, add one more, laminates. Commonly known as Formica but made by different manufacturers, laminates have come a long way in the past 20 plus years.. Various edge treatments abound as well as styles and colors to mimic most all the surfaces we discussed above.

If you are looking for professional design and installation of many of those materials mentioned, talk to the folks at Granite Source of Michigan in Southfield. The Guys trust them.

New countertops are said to add instant value to a home; up to three times their installed cost, but the caveat is that they generally require professional fabrication and installation. Work with people you can trust, like those you’ll find at Insideoutsideguys.com.

For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on News/Talk 760, WJR-AM, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at insideoutsideguys.com.