Whether you’re planning a kitchen upgrade or designing a new one from scratch, there’s lots to consider. One of the key elements of any kitchen is the countertop. Choosing the best one requires you to think beyond fitting it with the rest of the decor, as different countertop materials have their own pros and cons. But what are the differences, and how do you choose which is best for your needs? Below, we’ll take a look at the options.
Wooden countertops come in an array of different varieties, including oak, maple, walnut, cherry, teak, and many more. What’s more, they can be stained in various shades to create a completely unique look. Depending on the way they are made, there are three main types of wooden countertops: end grain (or butcher block), edge grain, and face grain (or wide plank) countertops.
Wooden countertops are typically associated with kitchens that have a traditional, rustic design. The pattern of the grain itself is one of the major selling points, creating a warm and natural look that adds to your kitchen’s homely vibe. They also come in a variety of colors and stains, and if you decide to change their look, or even just freshen them up, re-staining them is easily done.
Wooden countertops are also easy to install, making them suitable for eager DIY-ers. They are heat-resistant, and they provide a safe, antibacterial work surface, which is excellent if you prefer doing your chopping directly on the countertop. Edge grain and butcher block countertops require a small amount of maintenance to keep them in top-shape, typically occasional conditioning with food-grade mineral oil to prevent moisture entering the wood. Stains and cracks are easy to fix with a bit of sandpaper and oil, and, if you’re truly going for a rustic look, you can even allow your counters to develop a patina, and gracefully show their signs of age.
Although hardwood countertops are resistant, they’re not completely impervious to dents and scrapes. If you prefer to chop directly on them, it’s good to bear in mind that knives in particular will leave marks, and that lighter wood can stain easily over time. Face grain (wide plank) counters will need more regular maintenance than other types, as cracks in the grain are more likely, and it’s important to keep them sealed.
Natural Stone Countertops
Like wooden counters, there’s a variety of stone countertops to choose from. The different types of stones provide a wealth of color and are suitable for all types of kitchens, from the ultra-modern, to the rustic farmhouse. The three most common types of stone countertops are, from hardest to softest: granite, marble, and soapstone.
Natural Stone Pros
What makes stone countertops more appealing than hardwood is their durability, with some companies offering warranties of up to 25 years. The fact that they come in a wide array of colors is also an added bonus, and you can find marble countertops that are naturally blue or green, or streaked with all sorts of patterns and veins. All stone countertops are heat-resistant and easy to keep clean, and they can add value to your home, due to their unique look and hardiness.
Natural Stone Cons
Picking the right type of stone countertop can be difficult, especially for beginners. Marble is a popular choice, mostly for its beauty and the vivid colors it comes in, yet it is one of the most expensive options, it stains easily, and needs constant maintenance. Granite is more durable, but it’s also quite expensive, and the hard surface can, in fact, dull your knives. Meanwhile, soapstone has fewer color options and it’s the softest of them all, yet it is cheaper, and less likely to stain. However, all three types will be significantly more expensive than hardwood countertops.
Regardless of which one you go for, always remember that stone countertops are very heavy and difficult to install, meaning that they’re not fit for a DIY project. In fact, improper installation can lead to cracks, which are a tedious and expensive fix. The stone will need regular resealing to prevent staining, and dents caused by dropping a heavy item on it will lead to pricey repairs that are best handled by a professional.
It’s tempting to pick your countertop material based only on aesthetics alone, though it’s important to think practically as well. Hardwood is more affordable, easier to install and maintain, and also versatile, fit for both modern and traditional designs. Meanwhile, natural stone is more durable and can provide your kitchen with that wow factor. Both hardwood and natural stone counters have their pros and cons, so it’s essential to work out what’s most important for you.