10 of the hottest kitchen counter-top materials

Freshome

Home decor is not unlike fashion. There are classics with looks that will last a lifetime and there are trends that come and go. Generally, the lifetime of kitchen decor is less than 10 years, so when creating your dream kitchen you want to consider a look that will last.

So now you’re ready for an upgrade and you’ve given careful consideration to your appliances and the overall look, but how much have you thought about your counters? How much do you know about the options available to you?

[Yahoo! Homes editor's note: We've had such tremendous and helpful response in the comments to this article that we thought we'd organize them and call them out. Read readers' own experiences with these counter-top materials and others on Yahoo! Homes' Spaces blog.]

There’s more to a counter than granite or marble these days. Though they are still wildly popular, here are some other suggestions that are trending in kitchen design.

[Related: How much should your kitchen remodel cost?]

1. Poured Concrete

Poured concrete counters offer strength and style and are seemingly timeless in appearance. They offer a natural, organic look for those who are wanting such in their kitchens. These counters need to be sealed well, perhaps more than once, to prevent staining. Poured concrete can be tinted to be any color you wish. If sealed it is stain-resistant and can be cast and poured into any shape you desire. Its appearance improves with age, as opposed to many others that start to look weathered and dingy after just a few  years. While concrete is heat-resistant, the sealer is not, and hot pots and pans should not be placed directly on top of the concrete. Cutting boards should be used as well, as chopping directly on to the concrete could damage the sealant. Concrete requires just a little bit of maintenance and is a very desirable option at a very desirable price.


2. Butcher Block

Butcher block offers a look that is elegant yet casual and environmentally friendly. Its soft surfaces mean that some maintenance is required, but nothing that will take up any significant amount of time. Cutting should be left to cutting boards. A nice butcher block surface should be sealed and oiled about once a month. Cleanup is easy, requiring simply mild dish detergent and a light cloth or sponge. The only potential negative is that the surface, if not well maintained, can dry or crack, and excess water should always be wiped off. There are many kinds of woods with varying thicknesses available. Butcher block is another well-priced option.


3. Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood is all the buzz lately. What is reclaimed wood? It’s simply wood that has been salvaged from older homes and barns that are about to be, or have been, slated for demolition. Reclaimed wood is a smart and attractive option, offering a look and feel that the newer butcher blocks can’t match. Reclaimed wood that was used from older trees is much sturdier than the newer counterparts made from younger trees. When purchasing reclaimed wood for your kitchen, you are, in effect, doing wonders for the environment. If you are concerned about the environment, want a “greener” feel to your kitchen and love the casual elegance that wood has to offer, you should see how you can obtain reclaimed wood products near you.


4. Cork

It’s not just for wine anymore! Cork is a material that is growing in popularity in our kitchens. It is dense, sturdy and lightweight. It is a sustainable product (another good choice for those of you who want environmentally friendly alternatives) that has sound-cutting properties that may appeal to parents of noisy children worldwide! The material is resistant to water and heat and has antibacterial properties. Cork can be a very versatile and sensible option.


5. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel has an elegant, classy feel that's also modern. These counter tops are resilient to water, heat and germs. Over time they are susceptible to dings and scratches, and these surfaces show every little finger mark, but other than a regular polish and wash, these tops require very little maintenance.

[Related: Is this the end of a 25-year run for stainless steel?]


6. Soapstone

Soapstone is a natural stone that’s quarried like granite. It’s a softer surface composed mainly from mineral talc, but the varieties used for kitchen counter tops are generally sturdier as they contain more quartz. This makes it a suitable option for a kitchen surface. The color is naturally gray and darkens with age. Like stainless, this material is not impervious to dents and scratches. Soapstone offers a smooth, matte feel. Scratches can be sanded or oiled away.


7. Recycled Glass

With kitchen and design trends leaning toward more environmentally friendly choices, as noted above with the use of the reclaimed wood and cork, another option to consider is the recycled glass counter top. They are not only beautiful with many colors and options available, but they have a life expectancy of 50 years. They are easy to care for and clean but may require resealing every few years. While recycled glass does cost less than granite, it is probably not for the budget-conscious.


8. Pewter

Pewter is an alloy of several metals. It is fairly soft and not as sturdy as stainless. It will show nicks and dents, so one must take some care when working on this surface. It has a beautiful, gentler look compared with its more clinical stainless counterpart. Pewter’s dark silvery color is muted and is not brash like chrome. Because it is a softer material, it is easily shaped and stamped. A hammered antique look would mask some of the natural dents and dings that naturally occur on many kitchen surfaces. While the look of pewter is more of a traditional one, it could look right at home in a more modern or eclectic setting.


9. Slate

One tends to think of rooftops or walkways when one thinks of slate. A natural, fine-grained rock, slate is softer than granite but harder than marble. Slate has a naturally uneven surface that many find aesthetically appealing, and these naturally occurring dents make it hard to detect nicks and scratches that inevitably happen on well-used kitchen surfaces. Slate has a dull matte finish and would not be the material of choice for those who prefer more of a high-gloss look. Maintenance is easy – a simple wash with soap and water. Slate is not a material conducive to bacteria build-up. To prevent staining and uneven coloring or discoloration, it is best to use trivets under hot pots and pans and coasters under glasses and other items containing liquid.


10. Quartz

Quartz is a plentiful, naturally occurring mineral. It is one of the most scratch-resistant minerals available, and because of this it is extremely easy to care for and clean. Wiping stains from its surface is easier than even granite, making it a very desirable choice for your kitchen counter top. Quartz needs not be sealed, has a long lifetime and is available in a wide variety of colors. For those wanting a natural mineral counter top in your kitchen, but wanting to stay away from granite for a slightly different, more unique look, quartz could be for you!

So now you know more about some of these popular materials, is there one that you like best? Are you classic or modern by design choice? Perhaps you like a bit of the old and the new as I do.

[Related: Take care of your precious granite and marble counters]

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