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1. Quartz (88%) 

Quartz, not to be confused with quartzite, is the most popular countertop material because of its durability and low maintenance. A man-made "stone", quartz is comprised of ground minerals, pigments, and resin. Some people may dislike the uniformity of the material as it does lack the obvious natural variegation of real stone, but newer types of quartz include the venation and marbling seen in the real deal. The most popular brands are Silestone, Zodiaq, Cambria, and Caesarstone. 

Pros: 

  • Middle-priced: For how durable and low maintenance this material is, it is not the most expensive countertop type. Between the top 3 most popular materials, quartz is in the middle.
  • Heat resistant: Even though it is heat resistant, play it safe and use pads.
  • Stain resistant: Non-porous means no staining.
  • Scratch resistant: Quartz is tougher than granite!
  • Low maintenance: Because it is fabricated and non-porous, sealing quartz is unnecessary. 
  • Eco-Friendly: Instead of mining/transporting solid slabs of stone, quartz deals with chunks and ground minerals.
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options.
  • Sanitary: Quartz is non-porous, so bacteria have a hard time finding a foothold.  

Cons:

  • Requires professional repair: The edges and corners can chip if not rounded, and requires someone experienced to fix.
  • Homogeneous: The uniformity of the "venation/marbling."

2. Granite (83%)

Granite once reigned as the most popular countertop material thanks to its strength and natural beauty, but has since been dethroned by quartz. Granite is an igneous rock made up of compressed minerals like feldspar, mica, and quartz. Out of the top 3 countertops, granite is the least expensive. Each slab is unique, which is why it's right behind quartz.

Pros:

  • Middle-priced: Even though it's priced in the middle, granite is the least expensive top 3 countertop material.
  • Heat resistant: Granite has a Mohs hardness rating of 7/10.
  • Stain resistant: As long as it's sealed.
  • Scratch resistant: Strong as stone!
  • Low maintenance: The original sealant can last 10-15 years, but most recommend resealing every 1-2 years.
  • Sanitary: Dense and non-porous.

Cons:

  • Carbon-intensive: Mining/transporting large, solid slabs of stone has a bigger carbon footprint.
  • Less customization: Working with a natural, solid piece of stone limits your choices.

3. Marble (43%)

Timeless marble is a metamorphic rock made up of re-crystallized carbon. Extreme pressure and heat from the Earth's tectonic plates compresses limestone, transforming it into marble. Where granite has "venation," marble is know for its "swirls." Some of the most popular types of marble are Calacatta, Carrara, Crema Marfil, Emperador, and Levadia.

Pros:

  • Stain resistant: As long as most spills are cleaned quickly.
  • Scratch resistant: It's extremely dense, ranging at about a 5 on the Mohs hardness scale.
  • Sanitary: If it's sealed!

Cons: 

  • Expensive: Marble is the most expensive of the top 3 most popular countertops.
  • Susceptible to heat: Use heat pads!
  • High maintenance: Because it's more porous than granite, it requires sealing every year. 
  • Carbon-intensive: Mining/transporting large, solid slabs of stone has a bigger carbon footprint.
  • Less customization: Working with a natural, solid piece of stone limits your choices.

4. Solid Surfaces (43%)

These surfaces are made by combining a fine white mineral powder known as alumina trihydrate (ATH), acrylic, epoxy, or polyester resins, and pigment. Ratios are typically about 33% binding resins/66% minerals or acrylic/polyester blends. The most popular brands are Avonite, Corian, and Wilsonart Gibraltar. 

Pros: 

  • Middle-priced
  • Stain resistant: It's sealed and non-porous.
  • Scratch resistant: Any small nicks can be buffed out easily!
  • Low maintenance: It's easy to repair and requires no re-sealing.
  • Eco-friendly: The longevity of the product means you won't need to buy new countertop for years to come!
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options.
  • Sanitary: Approved by the National Sanitation Foundation!

Cons:

  • Susceptible to heat: Use heat pads!
  • Homogeneous: Its minimalist appearance isn't for everyone.

5. Butcher Block (35%)

Butcher block is made by adhering the tough, square ends of wood, or end grain, into a solid piece. Wood is one of the only countertop materials that you can cut directly on, as any scratches can be buffed out easily. The most popular types of wood used are rock maple, teak, walnut, cherry, oak, and even poplar. 

Pros: 

  • Middle-priced
  • Heat resistant: Wood is extremely heat resistant!
  • Stain resistant: Mineral oil can wick away not only water, but also liquids and spills that stain.
  • Scratch resistant: Scratches can be lightly sanded out, then re-oiled.
  • Eco-friendly: If the wood is sourced sustainably, like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), it can be environmentally conscious. 
  • Customizable: Wood ends can be joined together in whichever assortment you want! Wood can also be stained or finished in a multitude of different ways.
  • Sanitary: Wood, even though porous, is exceedingly sanitary! Natural antimicrobials found naturally in the wood grain inhibit bacterial growth.

Cons

  • High maintenance: As long as it's sealed (many use mineral oil) often, it won't stain. It is the most high maintenance when new, as it's recommended that you oil it once a day for the first month, then once a week for the next, and lastly once a month as a minimum.
  • Susceptible to the seasons: Wood naturally expands and contracts when heat and humidity seasonally change.

6. Other Wood (29%)

The other most popular types of wood countertop are edge grain and face grain. Edge grain countertops are made using the adhered long edges of wood, facing up. Face grain countertops, or wide plank countertops, are the most traditional choice, but also the most vulnerable to staining if not oiled consistently. 

Pros: 

  • Middle-priced
  • Heat resistant: Wood is extremely heat resistant!
  • Stain resistant: Mineral oil can wick away not only water, but also liquids and spills that stain.
  • Scratch resistant: Scratches can be lightly sanded out, then re-oiled.
  • Eco-friendly: If the wood is sourced sustainably, like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), it can be environmentally conscious.
  • Customizable: Wood can be stained or finished in a multitude of different ways.
  • Sanitary: Wood, even though porous, is exceedingly sanitary! Natural antimicrobials found naturally in the wood grain inhibit bacterial growth.

Cons:

  • High maintenance: As long as it's sealed (many use mineral oil) often, it won't stain. It is the most high maintenance when new, as it's recommended that you oil it once a day for the first month, then once a week for the next, and lastly once a month as a minimum.
  • Susceptible to the seasons: Wood naturally expands and contracts when heat and humidity seasonally change.

7. Other Stone (26%)

Besides granite and marble, other stones are becoming increasingly popular countertop choices. 

- Soapstone

Soapstone is a soft, metamorphic rock consisting largely of talc. Its smooth feel and appearance have made it a trendy addition as a household countertop. 

Pros: 

  • Mid-priced
  • Heat resistant: Soapstone is extremely heat resistant, but beware of putting hot pans and pots on a recently waxed soapstone countertop, as it can melt the wax and stain the stone.
  • Stain resistant: It's non-porous, and when oiled, repels spills and stains quite easily.

Cons: 

  • Susceptible to scratches: Light scratches and dings can disappear with a little dab of oil.
  • High maintenance: Mineral oil or wax treatments are necessary.
  • Carbon-intensive: Mining/transporting large, solid slabs of stone has a bigger carbon footprint.
  • Less customization: Working with a natural, solid piece of stone limits your choices. Soapstone also has a limited color spectrum (gray, blue/gray, green, and black).

- Slate

Another metamorphic rock, slate is a mixture of a sedimentary stone and ash or clay fused together under extreme pressure and heat. The ash or clay creates fine, light lines throughout the mostly solid-colored stone.

Pros: 

  • Mid-priced: It's more affordable than marble and granite!
  • Heat resistant: It's created by intense heat!
  • Stain resistant: It is fine grained and non-porous.
  • Low maintenance: Reseal as needed, for example, when water no longer beads on the surface.
  • Sanitary: Dense and non-porous

Cons:

  • Susceptible to scratches: Although it has a Mohs hardness rating of 5.5, scratches can show easier on this stone than others.
  • Carbon-intensive: Mining/transporting large, solid slabs of stone has a bigger carbon footprint.
  • Less customization: Working with a natural, solid piece of stone limits your choices. Slate also has a limited color spectrum (grey, green, purple/red, and black).

- Limestone

Limestone is a light-colored dense sedimentary rock, mostly formed of calcite or dolomite. Although it needs some serious upkeep, its delicate look may be worth it for the right person. 

Pros: 

  • Mid-priced
  • Heat resistant: It's extremely heat resistant.

Cons:

  • Susceptible to staining: Although stone, limestone is much more porous and can stain easily, and its light color will show more types of stains.
  • Susceptible to scratches: On the Mohs scale, limestone scores a small 3, meaning it is much softer than granite or marble. 
  • High maintenance: Its porousness makes resealing a priority.
  • Carbon-intensive: Mining/transporting large, solid slabs of stone has a bigger carbon footprint.
  • Less customization: Working with a natural, solid piece of stone limits your choices. Limestone has a limited, neutral color spectrum, mostly coming in ivory, pale gray, and light brown.

- Gemstone

Precious gemstones like agate, amethyst, jade, labradorite, lapis lazuli, rose quartz, tiger eye, and more are embedded in clear resin, usually acrylic or epoxy, to create jaw-dropping countertops. 

Pros: 

  • Heat resistant: The resin makes it nigh indestructible
  • Stain resistant
  • Scratch resistant
  • Low maintenance
  • Eco-friendly: Smaller chunks of precious stone can be mined/shipped with less of a carbon footprint.
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options, and there are so many gemstone options.
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • Expensive: Gemstones are already expensive!

8. Recycled Materials (22%)

- Glass

Recycled glass is bound together with cement, porcelain, or resin, then buffed smooth.

Pros:

  • Heat resistant: Both the glass and its binder are extremely heat resistant.
  • Stain resistant
  • Scratch resistant
  • Low maintenance
  • Eco-friendly: Reduce, reuse, recycle!
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options, and it comes in varying colors and finishes. 
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • Expensive: Although recycled, it can be as expensive as granite!

- Plastic

Recycled plastic countertops are formed from discarded milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, and other consumer plastic waste. 

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive
  • Stain resistant
  • Low maintenance
  • Eco-friendly: Reduce, reuse, recycle!
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options.
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • Susceptible to heat: Use heat pads!
  • Susceptible to scratches

- Paper

Paper hardened by resin creates some very interesting and environmentally friendly countertop material.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Heat resistant
  • Stain resistant
  • Scratch resistant
  • Eco-friendly: Reduce, reuse, recycle!
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options.
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • High maintenance: Requires re-sealing every year or two to keep it heat/stain/scratch resistant.

- Wood

Reclaimed wood is becoming very popular for its rustic beauty and "diamond-in-the-rough" characteristics. By reusing spent wood, no new trees need to be felled for your project!

Pros: 

  • Mid-priced
  • Heat resistant: Wood is extremely heat resistant!
  • Stain resistant: As long as it's properly protected and serious spills cleaned quickly.
  • Scratch resistant: Scratches can be lightly sanded out, then re-oiled.
  • Eco-friendly: Using reclaimed wood means no new trees are harvested for your project.
  • Customizable: Pieces of discarded wood can come in all shapes and sizes, and can be made to fit by measuring/cutting.
  • Sanitary: Wood, even though porous, is exceedingly sanitary! Natural antimicrobials found naturally in the wood grain inhibit bacterial growth.

Cons:

  • High maintenance: As long as it's sealed often, it won't stain.
  • Susceptible to the seasons: Wood naturally expands and contracts when heat and humidity seasonally change.

- Metal

Recycled metals, like aluminum, can offer an economical alternative to stainless steel countertops. 

Pros:

  • Mid-priced
  • Heat resistant
  • Stain resistant
  • Low maintenance
  • Eco-friendly: Reduce, reuse, recycle! Usually made of 65%-100% recycled materials.
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options.
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • Susceptible to scratches: Scratches from knives show easily.

9. Stainless Steel (17%)

Stainless steel is steel with at least 10.5% chromium, a metal that is rust/corrosion resistant. It is manufactured in differing thicknesses, ranging from 14-20 gauge. 16-18g countertops are found most often in residences, while 14g is typically reserved for commercial countertops. The varying grades of stainless steel are directly related to how much chromium is present. Austentic stainless steel, or type 304, is a food-grade option that hot pots and food can be placed directly on safely because of its high chromium amount. 

Pros:

  • Heat resistant: The higher the chromium percentage, the higher the heat resistance.
  • Stain resistant: Fingerprints are about the only thing that can "stain" stainless steel.
  • Low maintenance
  • Eco-friendly: The longevity of the product means you won't need to buy new countertop for years to come! 
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options, and comes in several different finishes like satin polish, mirror polish, and antique matte. 
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Susceptible to scratches: Scratches from knives show easily.

10. Concrete (13%)

Concrete countertops are being perfected so that the messy ones of the past stay there. Typically strengthened with wire mesh, metal rebar, or fiberglass fibers, pre-cast slabs can last quite a long time. Santora is changing the recipe a little to reduce cracking by adding nylon and steel fibers to the mix.

Pros:

  • Heat resistant: The concrete is resistant to heat, but use heat pads to protect your sealer! 
  • Scratch resistant
  • Eco-friendly: The longevity of the product means you won't need to buy new countertop for years to come! Although it has to be transported as pre-cast molded slabs, if the aggregate is recycled, it can be very green.
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options, and comes in a wide array of colors and finishes.
  • Sanitary: As long as it's sealed!

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Susceptible to staining: Concrete is porous. Once the stain has set in the concrete, it's difficult to remove. Acidic and oily drinks/food stain easier.
  • High maintenance: Because it is so easy to stain, it requires constant maintenance. You should seal/wax every month.

11. Glass (11%)

Tempered glass, or toughened glass, is heated to make it stronger than regular glass. The heat puts the exterior surface into compression, and interior opposite. This makes it safe even if it breaks, as it crumbles into large intact separate parts rather than shattering into tiny pieces.

Pros: 

  • Heat resistant
  • Stain resistant
  • Scratch resistant
  • Low maintenance: No sealing is needed! Wipe down water rings and fingerprints as necessary.
  • Eco-friendly
  • Customizable: Anything man-made has more customization options, and it comes in different colors and finishes.
  • Sanitary: Non-porous.

Cons:

  • Expensive: The tempering process raises its price.

12. Tile (6%)

Once all the rage, tile is making a small comeback (but it is small). Tile can be made from ceramic, glass, or natural stone, and comes in a plethora of colors, finishes, and shapes. 

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive to mid-priced
  • Heat resistant
  • Stain resistant
  • Scratch resistant: If one tile becomes damaged, only one tile needs replacing!
  • Eco-friendly
  • Customizable: Multiple types of tiles can be incorporated together if desired, and arranged in more ways than a monolith. 

Cons: 

  • High maintenance: Grout lines, if not kept clean, will make the area look dirty and create a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Uneven surface: The seams between tile and grout create an uneven surface.

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