It’s enlightening to have designers share their personal thoughts on the materials we use in our homes because they have practical experience. Mosby Building Arts’ designer Dean Vitale picks his four favorite countertop materials and shares with you the pros and cons of each.
I love concrete countertops and would not hesitate to have them my own home. Concrete works in endless applications from kitchen and bath counters to tubs, flooring and as a fireplace surround.
Homeowners can be very creative with concrete because of the many colors available. Other materials can be inlayed into the concrete; for example, you can inlay granite into concrete to create a cutting board or heat-resistant area on your kitchen counter top, or just to have an additional and unique design element.
I love the look, texture and feel of concrete, but it is not for everybody. With concrete there will be a lot of upkeep. It is important to seal the concrete at the time of installation with a re-seal every few years. Concrete also stains very easily; wine, soda, olive oil will all soil the concrete and it will be very hard to remove these stains once set in. Some people like the look of an aged concrete countertop, and it looks particularly good in homes with a rustic feel.
Concrete can also crack very easily, as it’s the nature of the material. Depending on the aesthetic, this could be a welcome accent. For instance, If you have an industrial design style in your home, the addition of a few cracks in the concrete counter tops could add a nice distressed look that lends itself to that particular style. If you have children (who are prone to spills) or are not up for the maintenance of protecting for a pristine surface, then I would steer clear of concrete countertops.
I am always amazed when I go to a stone yard and look at the infinite array of natural beauty that Mother Nature produces in granite. Some say that granite is on its way out, but I feel it’s a very classic, timeless material and will always be a top choice when selecting countertop material.
Granite is a very hard, durable substance so is not susceptible to the chips and scratches of normal wear. Granite resist heat as well, so using it near ranges and cooktops is ideal. You can set down a hot pan and granite will take the heat without being damaged or weakened. Granite is also very resistant to stains and absorbing liquids if properly sealed at installation.
For all their beauty and durability, granite countertops do have a few weaknesses. The most common problems can occur when the granite is not sealed properly or the sealant wears off without. Granite is porous so it will absorb spills that turn into permanent stains. It is important that granite is expertly sealed at the time of installation.
Another thing to consider with granite is the price point. Granite is a higher level of initial investment but because it lats forever, you will definitely get your money’s worth.
Today’s wooden countertop options move beyond butcher block to include salvaged and exotic woods and many different stains and sealers. Using wood countertops is more informal, and adds a cozy feel of beauty, warmth, and texture. Though wood becomes more formal with certain edge finishes.
If you desire a furniture-style look then wood is the way to go. The endless variety of wood’s natural coloration doesn’t require stain, though it does need to be sealed with a glaze or lacquer finish make it waterproof and low maintenance. And with this seal, you will need to be careful and train others in your household to use a cutting board for slicing and dicing, as you shouldn’t do it directly on the sealed wood top. If you are going to use the surface for cutting with knives then it will need a natural oil finish, which is completely safe for direct knife work. Placing hot items directly on the wood can leave burn marks, but those can be sanded out and refinish the spot, though I would not recommend doing this repeatedly. This is where potholders come in handy!
Wood counters, if they are well cared for, do not harbor any more bacteria than any of the hard surfaces do. Wood actually has an antibacterial property built in by Mother Nature, and will maintain this if properly sealed.
Be careful of wood tops around the sink area (see the work-around idea for that, above) and not to let water sit for very long or it will stain the material. Consider that wood counters will need regular maintenance and be re-oiled 2 to 3 times a year. If you have a rustic style home this may be The Choice because you can just let it go and not worry about knife, burn or water marks. The natural patina of age adds to the appeal.
Man-Made Quartz Stone Countertops
Quartz countertops are a man-made engineered stone formed by combining 90% natural quartz and 10% resin, polymers and pigments. For households with children I would recommend quartz for its low bacterial factor. Quartz is non –porous so resists staining much more than granite, marble or concrete. Quartz has the same durability as concrete and granite, but is a bit more forgiving, meaning it won’t chip or crack easily.
Quartz is a manufactured product that comes in a variety of colors and textures unavailable in most natural stones. This could be helpful when trying to match or achieve a specific uniformity. The appearance of this engineered stone is very rich and luxurious and is available in a polished, honed or leather style that makes it attractive for applications outside of kitchen or bath countertops.
An important consideration for quartz is the price point. Although it is very competitive with granite prices, it can be a slightly higher investment. Finally, although quartz has little to no maintenance it is not as heat resistant as some natural stones so extra care should be taken when placing hot items on the this surface. For a contemporary, upscale look with very low maintenance required quartz countertops are definitely worth considering.
Selecting materials for your kitchen or bath counter tops it is a very personal choice. I can steer you in the right direction, but ultimately you will be the one living with your choice on a daily basis. . For help with your Metro St. Louis countertop selection and design, I’m here for you. Just call the Mosby office at 314.909.1800 and ask for Dean, or contact me here.