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It’s a place to put your red hot pots and pans. It’s where gallons of messy foods and discoloring liquids are spilled each year, where the sink overflows and where you cut the vegetables when you can’t find a cutting board. The kitchen counter is where cans land when they fall out of the cupboard. It’s where you stand to get things off the high shelf. It has to be tough.

The counter is the main surface in the most visited room in the home. It’s where the guests always end up. It’s a place to put your drink during the kitchen party. It’s where the food gets laid out for the buffet. It’s where your new friend stirs sugar into their coffee. It has to look good.

The kitchen counter is also the place where you sweat the most. It’s where you’re dealing with hunger, dishes and groceries all at the same time. Food’s coming in and food’s going out while the garbage piles up. You’re home from work to feed the family and hoping you can spend some time together before you all drop off to sleep. It has to be easy.

Fortunately there are a number of countertops that are tough, good-looking and easy. None of them are perfect but some will suit you better than others, so before you agree to the first thing that catches your eye, shop around a little. Your kitchen counter is the hardest working surface in the house and it deserves respect.

Here’s a quick run down of the main players in today’s wide world of countertops. All of them have proven themselves to be durable but sadly, nothing lasts forever. Chips, cracks and stains will happen, so weigh your lifestyle needs against your budget and personal style to find the one that will fit your kitchen.

1. Granite – This is the new darling of the kitchen reno. Granite is a natural solid stone countertop that can be had in a selection of colors. Extremely durable and nice to look at, granite is also heat and waterproof. Cons: It resists stains and scratches but not entirely. Seams are visible. Granite can be high maintenance and has to be resealed every year. Imported and expensive.

2. Quartz – Beautiful quartz countertops offer many of the same benefits as granite, but come in a wider range of colors. These counters never need resealing or polishing. They resist scratches, heat and stains. Cons: Seams are visible and installation is expensive.

3. Polished concrete – Customizable counters can be had in any shape or size you want and will take on any color you care to tint them. These seamless counters are heat and scratch resistant and they look good. Cons: They also stain easily and are very expensive. Can be hard to find skilled tradespeople.

4. Solid surface – Usually acrylic, these counters are solid all the way through and give you a durable surface without seams. Waterproof. Small scratches can be sanded away. Wide range of colors and designs. Cons: Though these counters can look solid, they can be scratched easily and become damaged by heat and knives.

5. Recycled glass – Looks great. This alternative to natural stone combines colored recycled glass with concrete to make an attractive countertop that’s good for the environment. Cons: Properties are similar to granite so while it resists heat and scratches, it stains easily and needs to be resealed regularly. Expensive.

6. Laminate – The old standby, laminate is cheap and versatile. Made of plastic layers bonded to paper or particle board, it comes in an endless variety of colors and patterns. Somewhat durable. Cons: Can be permanently damaged by heat and knives and shows scratches easily. Once ruined, it can’t be fixed.

7. Tile – Why don’t we tile our kitchen counters more often? Tiles make a durable, easy-to-clean counter that is inexpensive and can be done yourself. Ceramic is heat and scratch resistant. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Cons: It also chips and cracks easily, and makes a poor cutting surface. Though tiles come clean, grout becomes stained.

8. Wood – Comes in a range of colors and finishes with maple and oak being the most popular. Makes a fairly easy-to-clean surface and gives a nice warm effect to the room. Can be damaged by heat and water but can also be sanded and resealed. Makes a good cutting surface. Cons: High maintenance countertop that needs regular oiling.

9. Stainless steel – Great looking modern counter top. Heat resistant and durable. Seamless. Easy-to-clean. Cons: Also expensive and noisy. These counters dent easily and dull knives.

Expect time to add character to the countertop you choose just like anything else in your home. No matter what material you decide on, make sure it’s one you love and you can’t go wrong.

For many, their kitchen is the most important room in their house. And most real estate experts agree that the best way to improve or raise the property value of a house is to remodel the kitchen. The four major components of a kitchen remodel usually involve replacing the major appliances, installing new floors, replacing or re-facing the kitchen cabinets, and installing a new countertop. Let窶冱 focus on that final component 窶 replacing your current kitchen countertop material with a new one.

Naturally, it involves more than just running off to the store to pick out a new countertop for your kitchen. You will first need to consider how much you want to spend. You also need to think about how much time and effort you窶冤l need to spend to maintain your new countertop. Finally, you窶冤l want to seriously consider the style and look you want in your kitchen. Whatever type of countertop you install, it will be the focal point of the entire room.

The very first type of countertop that pops into the mind of every anxious kitchen renovator is granite. However, there are many countertop materials to choose from 窶 and granite is only one of them. These days, a kitchen remodeling hopeful can select tile, stone, acrylic, concrete, stainless steel, and laminate, even wood!

GRANITE

Let窶冱 start with the most popular: granite. Granite countertops are the most popular but also the most expensive. Why? Besides the beautiful surface, granite is extremely heat and scratch resistant. A granite countertop is very durable and will last a long time. A granite countertop will never go out of style and granite slab installation will greatly increase the value of the house. The drawbacks? Other than the expense, granite is a natural stone and it is porous. A sealer will be required to prevent staining. One alternative is to use granite tiles in place of a massive slab. The cost savings on the tiles is high. It is important to not use the granite surface as a cutting board as it will dull the finish (and ruin a knife or two.)

OTHER NATURAL STONES

Besides granite, there are other various stone surfaces that can be used on kitchen counters. Quartz, marble, limestone, soapstone, and slate surfaces are very popular today. Marble is smooth and cool, perfect for food preparations directly on the surface. It窶冱 not as durable as granite and requires more sealing maintenance to protect from staining. Slate is very durable and has such a unique surface that it can really stand out in a kitchen. As slate has been used as a roofing material, it doesn窶冲 require as much sealing protection, but some upkeep is still needed. Limestone is very porous and spills must be treated quickly to prevent staining. It has a natural, weathered look that can deepen and darken over time. Natural quartz has a look similar to slate but does not stain or scratch as easily. Engineered quartz has been gaining popularity as well, but the costs are considerably more (engineered materials are a quartz composite product mixed with epoxy, polymers, and small stones or pebbles for a unique look and feel.)

TILE

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tile has been popular in kitchens for decades. It comes in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and designs. The tiles can be a small as a square inch and as large as six square inches. The tiles are durable and also have some of the same heat and scratch resistance qualities as granite. The porcelain tiles are usually more expensive than the ceramic tiles, but the porcelain tiles are more durable and the hardest fired type of tiles. Drawbacks of tile? It can chip easily, more expensive than laminate alternatives, and the grout can be an issue. When putting the tiles together, there are grout lines between each of them and grout can stain very easily. It will require a lot more maintenance to keep it looking good. Because of the grout issues, the ability for the tiles to break and chip easily, and the overall cost, it is best to leave the installation work to a professional.

CONCRETE

Concrete is not only for sidewalks or driveways. A concrete countertop is pigmented and can be polished into a smooth and shiny surface that can resemble any natural stone. The counters can be molded in a factory or cast on site. Concrete is rather porous and needs to be regularly sealed, similar to granite, to resist stains. It can be made into any shape and have any thickness. Concrete is also heat and scratch resistant. The counters can be made in a variety of colors and textures. Drawbacks on concrete? The sealer that is required is not the only protection needed. The sealer needs to be waxed every one to three months to prevent stain and water damage, so maintenance can be extensive. You cannot cut on the concrete surface without leaving marks. Concrete is also very expensive.

STAINLESS STEEL

A restaurant would probably be the first thing one would think of when it comes to a stainless steel kitchen counter. But there is a reason most restaurants use this material. Durability, stain and water resistance, low maintenance, a myriad of size and shape choices are just a few of those reasons. It窶冱 also very easy to clean and you can put a hot plate or pan on the surface without worry of damaging it. Drawback 窶 many don窶冲 like the 窶彿ndustrial窶 look of it. It can be rather expensive to have made. Cutting on it can leave marks and it can be easy to dent. It窶冱 important to make sure the surface is at least 18 gauge and has eight to ten percent nickel in it.

WOOD

Sometimes called Butcher Block Countertops, a wood counter is usually made from strips of maple or oak that has been glued together. But just about any hardwood can be made into countertops. Bamboo countertops are the latest trend! Wood counter material has a warm, beautiful look that can come in a variety of shades and textures. It窶冱 perfect for people who want to cut directly on the surface of their counter. It can be sanded and resealed in the event of any deep cuts, scratches or stains. It can be easy to install and the prices are reasonable. Drawbacks? Wood is not very hard and can easily burn, scratch, or dent. The wood can warp or turn black near sinks from regular water contact. And it requires regular sealing.

LAMINATE

Formica is the most common name for laminate counters. It窶冱 made of a thin layer of plastic glued to particleboard or wood. Plastic laminate counters are very inexpensive, lightweight, and available in an endless supply of colors and patterns. It is very stain-resistant and, as a plastic material, it is easy to clean. Because it comes pre-formed, it can be easy for a do-it-yourselfer to install. Drawbacks to Formica? While these counters are somewhat durable, they do not last forever. Laminates are not heat or scratch resistant but they are stain resistant. Abrasive cleaners can dull and scratch the surface. Warping or water spots occur with excessive exposure to moisture. The color or pattern can fade with time.

ACRYLLIC/SOLID SURFACE

Solid surface counters are manufactured tops that are custom-made for any application. Popular companies include Corian, Avonite, and Swanstone. These surfaces are durable, water resistant, easy to clean, non-porous, and are even resistant to mold and bacteria. And nicks or scratches can be sanded away. Drawbacks include problems handling hot pans on the surface, high expense, and the excessive weight requires a good strong cabinet base (similar to natural stone.) Some do not like the plastic or 窶彷ake窶 look of the material, but the material does have a wide range of colors to choose from.

Replacing the kitchen countertops is only one step in your goal to renovate the kitchen, but it is considered the biggest step by many. You can really make a statement about your kitchen and your home with the right selection of countertop material. Of course, once you take care of those worn out counters that came with the home, it will really make those old cabinets, flooring, and appliances stand out! It窶冱 all just part of the process of increasing the value of your property. When you窶决e ready to take the plunge and install those granite countertops, contact ConstructionDeal.com to find a local countertop professional to handle the work.

Homeowners who are seeking to increase value to their homes enjoy the durability and easy maintenance when upgrading to granite countertops. Granite is the most durable of all stones, second only to diamonds. Granite, being created from molten rock, can withstand the heat from a hot pot without a trivet. The hardness of the surface is excellent for handling dough and confectionery. While durable and low maintenance, however, they are not impervious to damage.

Properly installed granite countertops should last a lifetime, one justification for the higher costs associated with the material and installation. The granite suppler should provide personalized instructions for care with each slab, since all granite is made up of many different minerals. Even if two different stone slabs come from the same part of the world, there will be variances in the granite that require different kinds of attention.

Proper care ensures the longevity and beauty expected from this premium product. In addition to the polished finish, it’s possible to get a 窶徂oned窶 or flat finish. Although a honed finish can be very attractive, it is not recommended for kitchen use. Over time, everyday use will tend to lend a polish to some areas, and the additional necessary sealers will distract from the beauty of the surface. A polished finish is easiest to maintain with regular care that includes proper cleaning and the use of sealers to prevent staining.

Care for a polished finish begins with daily attention to what is placed on the surface.

Granite countertops are hard and can withstand a falling can of soup, but the polished surface is a bit more delicate. Never use the granite as a cutting surface, always use a cutting board. Avoid allowing acidic foods such as lemon juice, vinegar and soft drinks to be left on the surface for any amount of time, as they can etch the surface. Another thing that removes the polished shine are harsh cleaning products or abrasive cleansers (liquid or powder). To clean the surface without leaving streaks, use only a small amount of warm water with a ph balanced dishwashing liquid.

Although granite is extremely hard, some of the minerals in it may be very soft. The existence of different minerals is what makes the granite easy to scratch, be chipped or break along the grain. In order to protect the surface, it is recommended to avoid dragging pots, pans or appliances across the stone. Scooting something across the countertop that has even a grain of sugar under it will scratch the polished surface. Scratches allow stains to mar an otherwise beautiful surface.

Once a year, a penetrating sealant should be applied. Regular polishing will keep the finish gleaming. Use a penetrating sealant recommended by the supplier or the home builder. Avoid using a stone sealer that will not penetrate the stone, as it will create a cloudy surface that will have to be removed by stripping the entire countertop, using harsh solvents. Remember, the glossy shine isn’t caused by a coating on the surface, but by expert polishing using diamond polishing tools.

If there is minor damage to a granite countertop, it can be resolved by the homeowner. If a pot or pan leaves a grey or black mark on the surface, it can be polished out using fine steel wool. If a glue-like substance is stuck on the countertop, it is possible to scrape it off with a credit card or single sided razor blade. Small marks made during the removal can be polished out with a fine steel wool. If the granite is chipped or cracked, a professional should be called in to perform invisible repairs.

In addition to its strength, granite is a very beautiful stone that adds color and warmth to any kitchen. With just a little care to protect their beauty and utility, granite countertops will last a lifetime.