Whether you’re remodeling a kitchen, building one from scratch or just ready to give yours a face-lift, countertops are a central part of the look.
Made primarily from acrylic and polyester, solid surfacing first was sold under the brand name Corian, which is often (erroneously) used as a generic term for it. Today, it’s made by a host of manufacturers and has enjoyed steady popularity over the years.
Pros: Because solid surfacing is nonporous, it’s virtually maintenance free — no sealing or special cleaning required. Although it can be susceptible to scratches and burns, those are easy to sand out. Color and pattern options are extensive, and because you’re not trying for the look of a natural material, you can experiment with vibrant hues such as turquoise or tomato red. Seamless installation means there are no cracks to trap dirt and debris.
Cons: Solid surfacing can have a patently artificial look and feel, yet can approach the price of natural stone. As mentioned above, it doesn’t stand up to hot pans or sharp knives as well as other materials.
Made of paper blended with resins and fused to particle board, laminate has been a kitchen mainstay for decades. In the past, it hasn’t always had a reputation as stylish, but that’s changing: The latest designs on the market mimic stone, butcher block and other pricier surfaces.
Pros: Laminate is one of the most affordable countertop materials, so it’s a good choice if your budget is tight. It’s low maintenance and easy to clean. Its light weight doesn’t require the support of a thick cabinet base.
Cons: Laminate is prone to scratching, burns and, in some cases, staining. With wear and moisture exposure, the layers can peel. Because of the raw particle board core, you can’t use laminate with undermount sinks, and it’s also difficult to repair if it gets damaged.
Once found mostly in commercial kitchens, stainless steel has slipped into vogue within the past two decades. These countertops are custom made to fit your kitchen, so you’re guaranteed a tailored look.
Pros: There’s a reason stainless steel is used in restaurants and other high-traffic kitchens: It’s nearly indestructible, and it resists heat and bacteria. It also provides a very distinctive look that feels appropriate in contemporary and industrial-style kitchens.
Cons: Fingerprints show and must be wiped off frequently, and stainless steel can also dent. It can be loud as pots, pans and dishware clang against the surface. Chemicals can affect its color and cause unwanted etching. Stainless steel is extremely expensive due to the custom fabrication.