Whether you’re a first-time buyer or replacing an old countertop, making the right decision for your kitchen is critical in ensuring the most valuable room in your home functions as properly and beautifully as it should.
Countertop surfaces vary greatly in appearance, cost, and functionality, and we’ve collected the pros and cons of Ireland’s most popular countertops to answer our most frequently asked question: “What type of countertop is right for me?”
Pros: Renowned for its beauty and sculpted into art for more than 3,000 years, marble’s extremely diverse colourations and veining allows it to both compliment and look startlingly at-home in any kitchen.
The main benefit of marble is truly its classic, elegant aesthetic. It can breathe life into an otherwise incomplete space, and although it’s less expensive than granite and other natural stones, the value it adds to your home is hugely disproportionate to its cost. Marble can be honed or polished – while the honed variation is less bright and reflective and has more of a matte quality, many customers prefers the sheen of polished marble. The diversity of look and feel of marble is a reason it’s been the stone of choice for millennia, but marble owners should know that honed marble surfaces are more prone to staining but suffer less scratching than polished marble.
Cons: Marble is more porous than other surfaces like its famous counterpart, granite. As a result, it’s extraordinarily easy to clean – simple water and dish soap solutions often do the trick – but it’s also more vulnerable to nicks and scratches than other surfaces. Intense heat can damage marble, and along with its porous cousin, limestone, it can suffer staining if not sealed and cared for properly.
Pros: Boasting a dizzying variety of colours, each slab will vary in pricing in relation to its rarity and style, and no matter the look, granite is extremely durable and beautiful to match.
Resistant to heat, cuts, nicks and scratches, granite can withstand extremely heavy use and is a surface of choice for many busy kitchens. Granite can be polished or honed to a matte finish, and though we recommend you properly seal and reseal your granite countertop, it’s surprisingly resistant to stains.
Cons: The corners of granite countertops can be chipped by the occasional accident and must be repaired by a professional tradesman. While the surface is tough, the corners and edges should be paid careful attention.
Pros: Quartz is a strong, gorgeous surface capable of withstanding intense heat, knives, abrasive pads and virtually all stains. Engineered as a composite of several minerals, resins, and colours, quartz is the heavyweight of kitchen countertops and is well suited for those seeking a modern, functional kitchen countertop.
Cons: Despite being engineered against the weaknesses of its alternatives – namely scratching and staining – quartz edges and corners can still chip, and like granite, you’ll need a professional tradesman to repair them.
Pros: Limestone is a classic, stylish surface– that much is obvious. What’s less obvious, however, is that unlike marble, limestone is resistant to heat, making it fantastic for kitchen countertops. Generally found in neutral, white to off-white colourations with tight graining and not too much veining, limestone is a tasteful surface which doesn’t always feel the need to draw attention to itself. Like it’s other stone cousins, it can be cleaned by a simple solution of water and bleach or dish-soap.
Cons: Limestone generally requires more upkeep than granite or marble, and as it’s more porous than most stones and often lighter in colour, keeping the surface professionally sealed is imperative to ensuring the surface remains stain-free. With that in mind, however, limestone is not fragile by any means, and is less prone to scratching than marble.
Pros: As a non-porous material, soapstone is immune to the staining its counterparts suffer. It’s a sturdy material unintimidated by the pressures of daily cooking and use, and despite its beauty soapstone is a workhorse of a surface, with an easy-to-clean, low-maintenance nature that suits any kitchen.
Cons: As the stone is fairly soft, measures should be taken to avoid using dropping heavy pots and pans or using knives directly on the surface. With proper, common-sense precautions, soapstone is an enduring, less-easily stained sister surface to granite.
Pros: Solid surface countertops were engineered to be cost-effective, non-porous alternatives to natural stone or laminate, and as a result they imitate the beauty of various materials while improving upon their utility. Solid surface is an intriguing option as it can be seamlessly integrated into kitchens, bathrooms, countertops or walls, making it extraordinarily versatile. Unlike the natural stone surfaces from which it finds its inspiration, solid surface countertops are truly solid – from the surface you touch and use as a workspace to where it affixes to your home, the material is made of the same stuff all the way through. This makes it particularly attractive when compared to laminate as well, where it serves as a hardier counterpart.
Cons: Somewhat sensitive to heat, solid surface countertops can warp and deform if hot pans are placed directly on its workspace. Owners should also take care to use cutting boards and avoid moving heavy plates or objects across the surface, as it can be scratched easily.
Pros: Laminate is inexpensive, easy to install, and comes in virtually any colour or appearance you could desire. Laminate countertops have come a long way since their inception around 70 years ago, with higher definition graphics and better embossing slowly transforming laminate surfaces from budget countertops to those found commonly in high-end homes. Essentially a laminated graphic on top of several layers of particle board and condensed resins, laminate is not a stone, but is actually closer to a hard paper. As a result, laminate is so easy to install that many simply do it themselves at home, though professional installations can help avoid tricky and irreversible accidents.
Cons: Unlike solid surface, where nicks, scratches, and overall damage can be sanded out, laminate countertops are effectively impossible to repair once damaged. The cost difference between laminate and other countertop surface materials often justify its vulnerabilities, as it’s most likely cheaper to replace laminate surfaces than repair or replace expensive natural stone countertops.
Pros: Butcher block countertops are far less expensive than their natural stone counterparts and create stunning kitchen experiences. They’re easy to maintain, naturally anti-bacterial and very durable. An attribute obvious in light of their namesake, you can chop and cut food directly on your butcher block counter, although using cutting boards is always advisable. As wood is naturally heat resistant, you can safely place many hot pans on butcher block, and in the worst-case-scenario of burn-marks being left behind, a simple sanding and waxing can erase virtually all damage.
Cons: Butcher block kitchen countertops require regular sealing and occasional disinfecting. The latter can be done with simple water-based solutions that use ingredients commonly found in kitchens across Ireland. The sealing must be done with waxes or mineral oils, and special attention should be given to determining which kind of solution works best with the kind of wood you’ve chosen in your climate.
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