Whether you are remodelling your whole kitchen, sick of your current countertop or idly browsing for your dream culinary preparation station, you simply need to ask yourself which of the following kitchen countertops fits your lifestyle, budget and design intentions.
The ideal kitchen countertop should be functional, practical, visually stunning and add value to your home. But not every kitchen countertop material is right for you, and there are hundreds to choose from.
But how can you make the right choice when there are so many to choose from? Your kitchen reflects you as a person and the statement you are making in the most-used room in the house. So, let’s break it down to ten of the best kitchen countertop materials.
Stainless steel is an industrial, high performing material used in restaurant kitchens throughout the world. Arguably the easiest to clean and most sanitary option on this list, it’s the reason why you see stainless steel used in operating theatres and cleanrooms as well.
The clean, straight lines of a steel kitchen countertop lend themselves to modern, contemporary kitchens, but could be used as a statement piece in almost any bold kitchen design.
Steel is also a highly practical countertop choice, and with a melting point of over 1400°C you won’t have to worry about your hot pans leaving any marks. And unless your kitchen is of enormous proportions, the steel can be cut and bent to whatever size and shape you want, so seams shouldn’t be a concern.
- Hygienic and easy to clean
- Modern and contemporary
- No chance of marking it with a hot pan
- Not scratchproof
- Not a warm and friendly material
- Dents are difficult, if not impossible to remove
Ideal for a traditional country house look, wooden kitchen countertops are usually selected from hard woods that are selected for their durability and hardness. Woods like black walnut, cherry and maple are excellent choices for their straight grain, toughness and beautiful look.
One of the best things about a wooden kitchen countertop is that it only gets better with age. Although you will have to oil it around four times per year, the colour will become deeper and richer with every application.
Wooden kitchen countertops have been around for hundreds of years, and you may think that they are behind the times and not very hygienic, compared with modern plastics. In fact, wooden countertops are naturally anti-microbial and safe to prepare food on directly.
- Only gets better with age and wear
- Naturally anti-microbial
- Requires regular oiling to keep protected
- Easily stained if not protected
- Could be scorched by a hot pan
Arguably the classic type of kitchen countertop, this elegant and luxurious stone adds class to any size of kitchen. Granite is an extremely durable natural stone that is only slightly porous, meaning that water finds it hard to soak in.
It’s famous for being a “massive” stone, which means it has few holes and fissures inside, making it an ideal countertop material.
Available in a stunning range of colours from black to deep red depending where the granite was quarried, this natural product does require regular maintenance. To keep looking at its best, you will have to reseal the kitchen countertop regularly.
Granite is an expensive material to source and install, but it doesn’t lose its value over time provided it is kept in good condition.
- Classic and luxurious kitchen countertop material
- Can add value to your home
- Completely heat resistant
- Prone to cracking if not sealed regularly
- Easily stained or damaged by modern cleaning products
- Expensive to source and install
- Seams can be an eyesore
Each slab of marble is as individual as a snowflake, with veins and colours that are impossible to recreate from stone to stone. This means that your kitchen countertop will truly be a one off, unique creation.
This comes with its own set of drawbacks though. Depending on the size and shape of your countertops, you may have to connect two or more pieces of marble, resulting in seams. They can be unattractive unless skilfully blended into the design.
Specialist marble countertop installers will be able to hide seams and blend the natural design across two pieces of stone, but it comes at a price. Marble is a premium product
- Spectacular and unique countertop material
- Heat resistant to high temperatures
- A prestige kitchen countertop choice
- More porous than granite
- Susceptible to stains from oils and liquids
- Expensive to purchase
- Requires regular maintenance
Engineered Stone (Quartz)
Another modern hybrid type of kitchen countertop is known as engineered stone. Composed of around 90% quartz, the rest is bonded resins and polymers. This makes for a uniform stone finish to avoid the seam issues found in natural stone.
Completely non-porous and scratch-resistant, engineered stone is considered by many to be the best kitchen countertop material. It provides the look and feel of natural stone, with none of its inherent weaknesses.
As far as practical issues with quartz worktops, they have a slightly lower heat resistance than granite or marble, and can cost almost as much as the real thing. If you’re looking for a low-fuss alternative to stone that looks nearly as good, engineered stone is a solid, if expensive choice.
- Extremely hard wearing
- Uniform in design over long lengths
- Wider range of styles and colours than natural stone
- More resistant to cracks and chips than natural stone
- Seams are easy to hide
- Can be more expensive than granite or marble
- Not as unique as a natural stone countertop
- Less heat resistant due to the presence of resins
A potentially eco-friendly alternative to traditional kitchen countertop materials lies within recycled glass. Steadily becoming popular for its green credentials as well as being attractive, glass is salvaged from the waste stream, crushed and bonded together for a unique finish.
Embedded in either resin or concrete, chips of glass can create a completely fresh look for a contemporary kitchen, or blend into a more traditional kitchen dependent on the colours and finish chosen.
Besides, it’s durable and a doddle to keep clean, being totally non-porous and difficult to scratch. This might be just some of the reasons that the crushed glass type of kitchen countertops is a growing trend amongst homeowners.
- An innovative use for recycled glass
- Can be formed into almost any style or shape
- Available in various colours and finishes
- Non-porous and easy to maintain
- Prone to chips and cracks
- Difficult and expensive to repair
If you want to create a premium look on a tight budget, laminate is the answer. Available in a dizzying array of styles that mimic everything from end-grain butcher block to brushed steel, the options are almost unlimited.
Made by gluing together slabs of MDF boards, laminate kitchen countertops are then covered in a decorative top layer of paper. This paper is coated in hard-wearing resin to ward off scratches and stains.
One of the great advantages of laminate countertops is that it doesn’t require much in the way of maintenance. No oiling or treating is required to keep them looking good. The downside of them however is that they are easily scratched, you can’t repair damage and they are in no way resistant to intense heat.
- The most affordable countertop option
- Available in a huge range of styles and colours
- Hygienic and maintenance-free
- Easily scratched
- Not a premium kitchen feature
- Not heat resistant
Becoming an increasingly popular choice, poured concrete combines robust practicality with ultra-modern stylings. You can choose to acid stain the surface, stamp designs into it and seal it so that it’s not as liable to stain as other natural stone will.
You might not expect to see this industrial material in a kitchen, but its unique properties mean it can be poured into almost any shape using a mould. You could create a one-piece kitchen countertop with integrated sink, draining board and LED lighting round the edges.
This unrivalled flexibility can allow your imagination to run wild to create a truly unique kitchen countertop design, but is not something that should be attempted as a DIY project. It might seem like a utilitarian choice, but the art behind mixing and pouring concrete forms comes at a premium price.
- Visually stunning contemporary countertop material
- Ability to form to almost any shape
- Can be etched, stamped and dyed
- Non-porous if sealed
- Expensive to manufacture and install
- Prone to cracking and lifting if it isn’t properly cured
- Liable to become stained over time
One of the most affordable types of kitchen countertops on the market that offers a wide variety of styles are known as solid surface. Originally patented as Corian, this versatile material offers almost invisible seams
Rather similar in manufacture to engineered stone, the majority of the bulk is made from marble dust, bonded with strong adhesive. Solid surface kitchen countertops can be cut and trimmed with regular power tools, and are therefore more appealing to the DIY kitchen fitter.
Another completely non-porous countertop material, solid surface is low-maintenance and easy to keep clean. The disadvantage of this material compared to quartz is that it is more easily scratched and marked over time, and doesn’t quite hold its value in the same way as a natural stone.
- Relatively inexpensive option for kitchen countertops
- Durable and scratch resistant
- Repairable if scratched or dented
- Seam-free installation available
- Not heat-resistant
- Liable to wear over time
- Not scratch-resistant
Sheets of copper are cut to the size of your kitchen countertop to precisely fit the surface, and can be folded over the edges to give a deep and luxurious look without weighing as much as a stone countertop would.
Used in hospitals throughout the ages, copper is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, making it a perfect material to have in a kitchen. The fact that seams can be avoided or hidden leaves little space for germs to multiply as well.
Just like an old penny, copper is tarnished by oxygen and can react with acidic substances, leaving stains. Although some people might say that the tarnish adds character and a weathered look, it might not appeal to everyone.
Another metal on this list of kitchen countertops similar to copper is brass, with similar properties but creating the same striking visual statement.
- Breath-taking kitchen countertop material
- Anti-microbial and anti-bacterial
- Takes on a patina over time
- Heat and water resistant
- Easily scratched and dented
- Patina not to everyone’s tastes
- A noisy worktop material
What Should You Choose?
If you take away one thing from this rundown of the best kitchen countertop materials, it’s that they are as unique as the kitchens they live in.
Let’s say you have the time, money and patience for the classic looks of natural stone. It will pay you back in luxury, elegance and heat resistance. But be prepared to get your hands dirty keeping them sealed and cleaned.
But if all this talk of sealing and scrubbing makes you want to give up and order a takeaway, you’ll be more at home with a modern engineered stone or laminate kitchen countertop. You’ll have to make do without heat-resistance and settle for a less than luxury appearance, but it will save you money as well.
And this is before we throw the eco type of kitchen countertops into the mix. Stainless steel can be recycled infinitely, and about recycled glass is literally made from your old discarded pasta sauce jars. It’s all up to you.
Let’s be honest, there is no best kitchen countertop material, only one that is most suitable for your needs and your style.