Choosing a Countertop Material

We realize choosing a countertop material is a big decision and requires that many considerations be taken into account. Appearance, strength, durability, sustainability and, of course, price are key factors in making a choice that will leave you satisfied and, ultimately, proud. Some common options on the market today are plastic laminates, ceramic tile, stainless steel, concrete, natural stones (marble, granite, slate, soapstone) and wood. Among these options, granite has the most advantages that make it adaptable to the kitchen. Disadvantages and advantages of common countertop materials are given in the comparison chart below.

While some synthetic surfaces scratch easily and melt under hot cookware, granite resists heat. Granite is also one of the most bacteria-resistant kitchen surfaces, and it is not affected by citric acid, coffee, tea, alcohol, or wine. It is also nearly impossible to scratch, and with proper cleaning, will not stain under normal use.

Several years ago, one of the leading home improvement magazines – Inspired House – compared granite with engineered stone, ceramic tile, laminate, butcher block, and other manufactured surfaces. Below you will find this comparison chart:

choosing the right kitchen countertop

We have prepared a more detailed and updated comparison for our clients:

GraniteEngineered StoneAcrylic an/or Polyester PlasticsTileLaminates
Brand NamesSilestone, Ceasarstone, Cambria, Technistone, ZodiaqCorian, Staron, Gibraltar, Avonite, Surell, Hi-MacsWilsonart, Formica, Nevamar, Pinoite, Arbortite
What is it?100% Natural stone quarried from within the earthMan-made: 85%-95% crushed quartz with a resin binderMan-made: Acrylic or Polyester PlasticsMan-made: Ceramic or PorcelainMan-made: Printed colors/patterns on a fiberglass backing
Heat ResistanceNot affected by heatCan be affected by high heat (over 400F)Hot pots can warp, melt, crack, or discolor the surfaceNot affected by heatHot pots can warp, melt, or discolor the surface
CleanlinessIndependent studies have found granite to be one of the most bacteria-resistant surfaces availableNon-porous – very resistant to bacteriaDeep scratches can harbor dirt and or moistureGrout is very porous and can be difficult to keep cleanNon-porous – easy to clean
Scratch ResistanceHighly scratch resistant – small scratches can be professionally repairedHighly scratch resistantScratches easily – can be sandedFinish can be scratched and is usually not repairableCan be scratched – not easily repaired
InstallationMay require seams – various edge profiles availableMay require seams – various edge profiles availableSeamless – usually set on a wood sub-structure – various edge profiles availableShould be set on an approved sub-structure – limited edge profilesSheet material is applied to a wood sub-structure – limited edge profiles
AppearanceHighly polished finish – every piece is naturally unique in color and patterningPolished finish – consistent and uniform color and patterningMatte finish – with consistent and uniform color and patterningGrout joints can vary greatly – tile color and shading can varyHighly visible seams – consistent and uniform color and patterning
MaintenanceMay require periodic sealing to prevent stainingNo maintenance requiredScratches can be sanded outGrout needs to be re-sealed often

The fact that manufacturers of acrylic/polyester plastic surface countertops try to make their product look like granite speaks volumes as to which product is the most beautiful. As the saying goes, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Counter tops made from acrylic and other manufactured materials may have the “look” of granite, but the similarities end there. For resistance to bacteria, heat, scratches, stains and overall performance, granite is unsurpassed. For pure aesthetic beauty, none of the man-made countertop materials comes close to the richness, the depth, the polish, the power and the naturally organic quality of the granite. The beauty of granite will always show itself.

Which material is the most germ resistant?

If you are concerned about bacterial contamination of your kitchen countertop, granite is the way to go. That’s what a recent study by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, a St. Paul Minnesota-based organization that develops educational materials and research for the retail food industry shows.

The study measured the bacteria resistance capacity of most common countertop materials. Each surface was contaminated with E-coli (nearly 2 billion of the microorganisms), washed and rinsed with soap and water and then sanitized with a vinegar-and-water solution. The results are show in the table below:

SurfaceMicroorganisms ELIMINATED by Cleaning*
Plastic Laminate498,884

* Full version of The Reduction of E.Coli on Various Countertop Surfaces – by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. of Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management can be found in our Resource Center section.

If you have any questions or concerns about the subject, please do not hesitate to contact us.