Counter Intelligence


The countertop is a very significant part of our kitchen and we expect a lot from this surface. It needs to be durable, yet easy to care for. It needs to be stylish – yet timeless looking – so it does not date too quickly.

The kitchen countertop is the most frequently used surface in the home, therefore there are a number of factors one should consider before making such a big decision. Selecting the right material is crucial to both the appearance and functionality of any kitchen.  For that reason, make sure you do your research and do it well.

In order to choose the countertop that is right for you and your lifestyle, it is good to know a little bit about all of your options. The more information you know, the better off you will be in making the right choice. Remember that there are many materials, colors and styles to choose from, but at the end of the day, you are the one that needs to be happy.  I will warn you that at times it may seem overwhelming, but at the end it will be worth it.

For this guide I’ve picked the most popular countertop options.  I’ve outlined the pros and cons of each material and I’ve also rounded up photographs to inspire your renovation.  

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1. Granite

Granite has become the top choice for countertops; however, it does come with a high price. The it stone defines elegance and adds beauty to even the most modest of kitchens. It costs anywhere between $45 to $170 per square foot.

Pros: holds up to heat; it comes in various colors; will last a lifetime; new sealers are almost maintenance-free; 2nd highest hardness rating after diamonds; has a high value to home buyers.

Cons: expensive; requires maintenance; some stones are known to absorb stain if not sealed correctly; knives can become dull if you cut on it; can crack if stressed or improperly installed.  

Image from Dreamy

2. Engineered Stone

The Engineered Stone is composed of 93% quartz particles and is another favorite for countertops. Perfect for the home with young children.  It costs anywhere between $45 to $125 per square foot

Pros: easy to care for, without the annual sealing required by natural stone: stain and acid resistant; comes in a larger range of colors and has a nonporous surface that resists scratches.

Cons: Expensive

Some brands on the market include Cambria Quartz, Silestone®. DuPont Zodiaq®, LG Viatera®  

Image From Delaware

3. Solid Surface

Solid surface counters are custom-made to your specifications, because the counters are solid all the way through; it’s easy to sand out any scratches. It costs anywhere between $40 to $100 per square foot.

Pros: comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns; seamless; stain resistant.

Cons: moderately expensive; susceptible to hot pans and stains which can damage the surface

Some brands on the market include Avonite, Corian and Swanstone.  

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4. Ceramic Tile

Ceramic Tiles are an easy and an inexpensive way of dressing up any kitchen. Because it’s installed a section at a time, it can be done by most resourceful homeowners. It costs anywhere from $20-$100 per square foot installed.

Pros:  available is many styles, patterns and colors; it takes hot pans; easy to clean.

Cons: unfortunately ceramic tiles are known to create uneven surfaces; tiles can easily chip or crack; grout lines become stained over time by acids and oil; custom-designed tiles could become very expensive.  

Image From A1 Countertop

5. Laminates

Laminate countertops offer a pleasant look and feel. They are made of plastic-coated synthetics with a smooth surface that’s easy to clean. Pieces are costume cut to size, finished on the ends and they are also available with different edges. They cost anywhere between $10 to $20 per square foot.

Pros: large selection of colors to pick from; easy to maintain; inexpensive

Cons: scratches and chips are almost impossible to repair; seams show; end finishing and front edge choices can be pricey.

Some brands on the market include Formica, Nevamar, and Wilsonart  

Image From Devos Custom Woodworking

6. Wood Or Butcher Block

Wood countertops will always be appreciated for bringing warmth and beauty to any room. Wood surfaces are pricey, but worth the cost if you want that certain look, the hardwoods most often used for countertops are maple and oak. It cost anywhere between $50 to $200 per square foot.

Pros: it’s easy to clean; smooth surface; can be sanded and resealed as needed.

Cons: can be damaged by standing water which can cause dark areas to form on the surface; wood can also stain over time; if not sealed properly it can absorb food odor; scratches must be oiled or sealed according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Image From Toronto Home

7. Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel creates a more modern and industrial look for your kitchen and it blends well with most any décor, highlighting wood cabinets beautifully. And it provides a heat resistant, anti-bacterial surface that requires minimal maintenance. Since these counters are constructed to your specifications, you have the luxury of a seamless countertop. It cost anywhere between $75 to $160 per square foot.

Pros: impervious to acids and oils, takes hot pans; durable; easy to clean.

Cons: expensive; noisy; may dent; fabrication is expensive; you can’t cut on it.  

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8. Soapstone  

Soapstone is generally dark grey in colour and has a smooth feel. This naturally quarried stone is softer than most other naturally occurring minerals. Although soft, soapstone is a very dense (non-porous) stone; more so than marble, slate, limestone and even granite. It is often seen in historic homes but is also used in modern homes as both a countertop and sink material. It cost anywhere between $50 to $200 per square foot.

Pros: rich, deep color; smooth feel; non porous, somewhat stain resistant.

Cons: requires regular maintenance with applications of mineral oil; may scratch, chip and crack; and darken over time.  

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9. Marble

Marble adds a sophisticated element to any room. It is a warm and soft stone with a high price tag. Because of its extremely high price it’s only used on select areas of countertop, such as an island, and not the entire kitchen. It cost anywhere between $60 to $170 per square foot.

Pros: waterproof; heatproof; gorgeous.

Cons: expensive; porous; stains easily unless professionally sealed; can scratch; may need resealing periodically as per manufacturer.

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Concrete counters work well for those who have creative, unusual shapes in their design plan.  Countertops are either pre-cast in a shop or built on site: If pre-cast on site the contractor is able to form the countertop to the client’s particular needs-colors, inlays, radius edges, curved corners, etc. It cost anywhere between $75 to $200 per square foot.

Pros: heat and scratch resistant; can be color-tinted; looks exotic and unusual; new treatments eliminate cracking; additives reduce porosity; new finishes are more decorative.

Cons: mid to high range on cost due to custom work; cracking is possible; can look somewhat industrial; porous but can be sealed.

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One Response

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  1. Juliette Samuel
    Jul 27, 2010 - 12:04 AM

    Although I love my marble counters, I was recently in a home that had stainless steel and I loved the way it looked. I told my son about it and since he likes clean and simple lines, he’s considering having them installed in his first condo.

    Juliette Samuel


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