Guide To Kitchen Countertops: Part 2 of 3

We continue with our guide to kitchen countertops with part two covering stainless steel, marble, concrete, and recycled glass countertops.

 

7.  Stainless Steel

AVERAGE COST: $76 - $160 / Sq. ft.

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Pros:

Eco-friendly
Low maintenance
Durable
Stain resistant
Heat resistant
Anti-bacterial

Cons:

Shows fingerprints
Susceptible to scratches
Expensive
Loud surface

 

WHAT IS IT?

Stainless steel is an alloy of nickel, steel, and chromium that gives off a metallic shine. Often used in restaurant kitchens, it’s a popular countertop material in part due to the popularity of stainless steel appliances; it complements appliances and provides a high-end look.

ECO-FRIENDLINESS:

Stainless steel is not inherently green due to the impacts of mining, particularly the mining of chromium. Additionally, it takes a lot of energy to produce it. However, it is 100% recyclable or it can be repurposed.  

Color and Style:

Traditionally, stainless steel just comes in a silvery gray shade. Stainless sheets can come in varying colors like copper, bronze, blue, black, and red, but when it comes to countertops, it doesn’t seem the grading of colored stainless steel is suited for countertops. But don’t let that get you down, stainless steel does offer various finishes and patterns allowing you to give it more personality.

Cost & Availability:

Though lightweight, the price of stainless steel is comparable to solid-surface countertops and concrete, ranging from $76 - $160 per square feet depending on quality and thickness. As for availability, it’s likely that you will find a stainless steel fabricator in or around your area, you can also order them from some home improvement retailers.

Durability:

Culinary chefs will tell you that stainless steel is extremely durable and that it is! Stainless steel has a non-porous surface, so substances cannot penetrate into the material making it water resistant. This also means that it is not a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and common household germs, giving you a completely hygienic surface for food prep as long as the surface is cleaned regularly. Additionally, stainless steel is heat resistant, and of course, stain resistant.  However, stainless steel does dent and scratch easily. After some wear and tear, a scratch will most likely appear and you will want to cry, but it’s going to be the first of many. You can also expect to have some dents some time too, and the best way to avoid this is to have it installed professionally. With a tight installation, the risk of dents decreases.

Maintenance and care:

Depending on whom you ask, stainless steel can be high maintenance or low maintenance. Stainless steel will maintain themselves and you’ll never have to worry about stains as long as you own it, but the thing about stainless steel is that smudges and fingerprints will show. If you are someone who is bothered by these smudges and fingerprints, be prepared to wipe down the surface of your countertop more often. For daily cleaning use a non-abrasive towel with a mild cleaner. A mild abrasive may be used for a more thorough clean.

Installation:

Average lead-time: 1-5 weeks (depending on complexity)

Installing a stainless steel countertop is manageable for DIYers. However, professional installation is recommended. A tight installation will help prevent the likelihood of dents and provide a better sound buffer as stainless steel can be quite loud when impacted.

 

8. Marble

AVERAGE COST: $125 - $150 / Sq. ft.

Pros:

Natural material
Each piece is unique
Available in a range of colors and veining
Heat-resistant
Historic favorite in kitchens
Works with many different design aesthetics
Develops a patina over time (a con to some)

Cons:

Susceptible to staining
Susceptible to scratches
Requires ongoing maintenance
Etches if exposed to acidic liquids
Expensive
 

What is it?

Marble is a natural stone composed of calcium carbonate. Slabs, rather than tiles are typically used for countertops, where the dramatic veining can be displayed. Marble has a classic look that seems to be timeless. Marble is also a favorite amongst bakers as it's naturally cool temperature makes it great for pastry making.

Eco-friendliness:

Mining of stone disrupts local ecosystem and depletes finite, nonrenewable resources. However, you can salvage marble slabs, which makes them a little greener. You can also choose marble that is mined near your region to reduce emissions related to transportation.

Color and Style:

Marble is usually light in color. When marble has few impurities it will be white in color, and different mineral deposits will make marble vary in color from gray, yellow, bluish, or black in color, so it has quite the color variation. Like other countertops, it gives you the option for a variety of edge profiles and three different finishes (matte, polished, and leather).

Cost & Availability:

The cost of marble typically ranges from $125 - $150 per square feet, like jewelry the price varies depending on demand and availability, as well as the thickness of the slab. Marble countertops can be found at countertop retailers or with local fabricators.

Durability:

Marble is known for its patina more so than its durability. Marble is on of the more porous metamorphic stones, which makes it prone to staining and it has a low abrasion rating, meaning it scratches easily. The stones makeup also makes it sensitive to acidic solutions, which can result in etching. Although, on the plus side, marble is heat resistant, strong, and generally doesn’t chip or dent.

Maintenance and care:

Marble requires constant maintenance to avoid staining, etching, and scratches. You’ll want to seal your marble every year or two to keep it protected. Daily care is best limited to a non-abrasive towel and warm water or cleaners made specifically for marble, as mentioned before it’s sensitive to acidic products and can cause etching.

Installation:

Average lead-time: 1-3 weeks

As far as installing a marble slab yourself, I highly recommend against it. Although there are many guides and videos out there to help you, it really isn’t an easy DIY project and can cost you more in the long run. Go with a pro and save yourself the time and headache.

 

9.Concrete

AVERAGE COST: $70 - $140 / Sq. ft.

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Pros:

Customizable
Heat resistant
Scratch resistant
No visible seams
Industrial look

Cons:

Expensive
Susceptible to stains (if not sealed)
Periodic maintenance
Hairline Cracks
 

What is it?

Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, and an aggregate, typically sand. It is a highly durable material and can be poured into custom shapes. Concrete countertops generally are appealing to people who want something unique and personalized. What’s nice about concrete countertops is they have a natural, rugged look and texture, rather than a manufactured appearance.

Eco-friendliness:

Concrete isn’t a very green material. Cement production and transportation are extremely energy intensive. Sealers for concrete can sometimes give off high-VOC emission, so seek out low-VOC sealers for better indoor air quality. At the end of it’s life, your concrete countertop can be reused or cut for other projects. Moreover, unwanted concrete can be crushed to create new aggregate, this saves energy over mining resources to produce new concrete, and keeps it out of landfills.

Color and Style: 

Concrete offers the ability to customize your countertop shape, edge detail, finish and color in almost any way you choose, and they are often cast right in your kitchen. Over time, concrete countertops do patina and like mentioned before, some people welcome, while others scream, “it will look bad!”

Cost & Availability:

Concrete countertops can carry a pretty hefty price tag, but generally, they are no more expensive than granite or marble. If you are looking to make a concrete countertop more affordable you can limit custom features such as embedded drain boards, color, unique shapes, and finishes. Although do keep in mind the long-term value of concrete countertops, as they are durable, it is unlikely that you will need to replace it. As for availability, it is highly unlikely you will find a concrete countertop at your local home improvement store, so seek a fabricator in your area. 

Durability:

Treated well, a concrete countertop can last a lifetime. It’s important to have your countertop sealed as well to reduce the potential for staining and harboring bacteria. While concrete on its own is heat- and scratch-resistant, the same cannot be said when treated with a sealer or a wax. Harsh soaps, hot pans, and surface cutting can compromise the sealer, but like with any countertop you would use a mild soap, and trivets and cutting boards. It is also worth mentioning that concrete may develop hairline cracks, however, these cracks typically don’t compromise the countertop structurally.

Maintenance and care:

A properly sealed concrete countertop has the same daily maintenance requirements as a laminate countertop surface. Following the general rule of using a mild cleaner and non-abrasive towel to avoid damaging the sealer. However, do keep in mind that the type of sealer used will influence maintenance requirements. For example, the use of penetrating sealers don’t protect the surface from contact spills, it just prevents it from staining right away, which means if not wiped down, it can leave a stain. Concrete countertops should be sealed periodically.

Installation:

Average lead time: 2-5 weeks (depending on complexity)

Building a concrete countertop requires planning and knowledge of concrete and sealers. Even though it can be a manageable DIY project for some, It's highly recommended that you hire someone who specializes in working with concrete to get the best results. 

 

10. Recycled Glass

AVERAGE COST: $75 - $105 / Sq. ft.

Pros:

Eco-friendly option
Unique look
Heat resistant
Stain resistant
Scratch resistant

Cons:

Relatively expensive
May require periodic resealing
Susceptible to chipping
May not be a timeless look
 

What is it?

Recycled glass countertops can come in two styles, solid glass or terrazzo style that consists of crushed glass (glass chips) held together in a binder. Terrazzo style glass surfaces are separated into two categories, cement-based or resin-based.

Eco-friendliness:

When we hear “recycled glass,” there is a natural inclination to assume it’s a green option and no doubt it definitely is, but lets dig a little deeper. Not every aspect of some recycled glass countertops is as earth-friendly as it could be. In terrazzo style countertops, there are varying percentages of recycled glass in the countertops depending on the manufacture which can range anywhere from 80%-100%. Additionally, there are pitfalls to the cement and resin binders used. Cement-based products are energy intensive and resin-based products are problematic because they are derived from non-renewable resources unless it was formulated from plant-based sources. It’s also important to mention potential VOC emissions from the binders themselves, compromising indoor air quality. However, there are manufacturers such as Vetrazzo that offer zero VOC emission counters. So, when shopping for a recycled glass countertop, you should be aware of how green it is by asking about the composition of the surface.

Color and Style:

Recycled glass countertops have a unique look, and each countertop is its own piece of art as each slab contains pieces of glass that are different finishes, colors, and sizes. Manufacturers of recycled glass countertops offer a nice variety of colors and edge profiles. Some manufacturers do offer the ability to customize your surface by allowing you to choose the glass chips and binder colors in order to complement your color scheme. Although I do focus on chip-based recycled glass countertops, there are solid glass countertops that are made from recycled glass too. 

Cost & Availability:

This countertop surface may not be for you if you have a tight budget, recycled glass countertops range from $75 - $105/sq. ft. When it comes to availability this countertop surface is relatively easy to find, home improvement retailers tend to carry at least one brand, and you are likely to find it in a showroom as well. If you want to source materials locally, you can also seek out a company, which can make a countertop for you, however, pricing is usually similar to choosing a countertop from a manufacturer’s stock. 

Durability

Recycled glass countertops are a relatively new product and haven’t been thoroughly tested for longevity; however, its durability seems comparable to granite. It withstands heat, stains, and scratches really well. However, some homeowners have reported pieces of glass chipping from their countertops particularly on the edges due to heavy impact. If this is a concern, choosing a thicker edge profile can decrease the chances of it happening, or instead you can go with a solid recycled glass countertop. One thing to watch out for is leaving acidic substances on your countertop that may etch the matrix of the surface, but this is nothing a little clean up can’t prevent. However, if your countertop does become damaged most brands offer some type of warranty.

Maintenance and care:

This surface is easy to maintain daily. Again, like many other countertops it’s recommended that you wipe down the surface with a mild cleaner, wipe acidic substances up immediately, and although it withstands heat and scratches quite well, use a cutting board and trivets. However, depending on the brand, it may need to be resealed periodically, particularly cement-based products. Check manufacturers maintenance and care guide to see if the product you are interested in needs to be resealed, each brand is different!

Installation:

Average lead-time: 2-3 weeks

Installation of a recycled glass countertop is similar to any solid countertop such as granite, marble or quartz and it is possible to install yourself. However, installing the countertop yourself will void any warranty that comes with it. Moreover, there is the risk of chipping or damage if you install it yourself. So, it’s highly recommended that an authorized fabricator install it for you.

To read part 1 Click Here