The proper choice of countertop is important for the success of your project. There are 6 major countertop materials: laminate, granite, quartz, solid surface, wood and tile. There are many manufactures of these products with a variety of colors, styles and textures to choose from. It is our job to give you the pros and cons of each material so that you can make the most informed choice for your tops.
We feel that you can mix and match different products for your tops if you like. This can lend itself to more colors and textures and help keep costs down. When choosing a top you need to match your performance expectations with the proper materials. There is not one type of countertop that will meet all of your needs; therefore, you need to prioritize your needs.
You may want to do a top for a desk area and really like the look of stone however, stone can be cold to the touch when resting your arms on it and has little pits that will cause difficulty when writing. A solution might be a laminate that complements the granite in your kitchen or using your granite with a desk blotter pad.
You may like to bake and want a top you can roll out the dough on. To keep costs down, you may do a section with quartz or granite and the balance in a laminate. You may want a seamless material with no seam between the sink and top, your choice should be a solid surface top.
We don't mind pricing one type of material verses another so that you can make the right choice for your project.
Granite countertops bring the warmth of real stone to every kitchen or bath adding both style and function to your home. Granite is a natural product, and comes in a variety of colors and price points. Colors are semi-consistent, with some colors having more variation than others. Granite is available for both surface mount and under mount sinks.
As a countertop material, granite is an excellent choice. It is very scratch resistant and can take direct heat - great for pots and pans right off the stove. Granite is a semi-porous material, so it does require sealant to prevent staining. In addition to entire countertop slabs, loose splash pieces are available for the back and sides of countertops.
Quartz adds a sleek and sophisticated look to you kitchen or bath. It adds that little something extra to really make a home personalized to your style. Quartz is a man-made stone product perfect for countertops.
Quartz is extremely scratch resistant! It does not tolerate direct high heat, but is non-porous, which makes it difficult to stain - ideal for busy kitchens. Quartz comes in a wide variety of colors to match any style or color scheme, and has a smooth, consistent look to it. The stone is available for surface-mount or under mount sinks, and with a variety of edges. In addition to entire countertop slabs, loose splash pieces of quartz are available for the back and sides of your countertops.
Traditionally when you think of butcherblock you think of strips of solid maple glued together to form a top. These tops can range from 3/4" thick to 1' thick. These tops were traditionally used by butchers to cut meat. You could give a good blow to a section of meat with a clever and not chip or dull your blade. Today we know that this is not a sanitary way to use these tops. Bacteria get into these tops and you will get contamination and food illnesses. However, they are still safe and beautiful tops to use as long as you use proper food handling techniques. You can get butcherblock in a variety of woods and they can lend a wonderful sense of warmth to your kitchen. Butcherblock is available in different sizes and can be cut, shaped and assembled to fit any size top needed. A 3/4" x 4" loose splash of the same wood is available if you wish a matching backsplash. Sinks can be drop in or undermounted. These tops can be sanded and a food safe finish applied to keep them looking new for many years. However, water does not get along with wood and you need to make sure that you wipe them off. Butcherblock can also stain and you should not have direct food contact with the tops. We usually recommend that they be used as accent tops and not for an entire kitchen. They are more expensive than laminate tops but tend to be less than stone tops.
Laminate is a plastic derivative made from a phenolic resin. It has a print layer and then a protective layer. The protective layers vary by manufacturer. Laminate has been around since before the 1950's and has evolved into the most common material used on countertops today. It is extremely versatile and is the most cost effective of all countertop materials.
Colors Textures and Finishes
There are different colors, textures, finishes and thickness depending on the application. For countertops, only high density laminate should be used. It is not recommended that you put hot items or cut on laminate tops. Heat will either burn the material or reactivate the adhesive causing the top to delaminate from the substrate. Cutting on the top will scratch it, it cannot be repaired. Sinks are drop in mounted. Some fabricators offer an undermount option. We feel this option is not fully tested and can lead to failure of the top.
Metal transitional moldings are no longer used, so if you are thinking of doing a full wall splash, you need to understand how the material will come together. To maintain your top you can use nonabrasive household cleaners and a sponge. We sell Wilisonart and Formica brands. There are two types of laminate tops in the market, post form and custom.
Post Form Tops
Post form tops consists of a thinner layer of laminate that is vacuum sealed to a formed high density particle board substrate that has a built in back splash and a decorative edge. This type of top gives you a seamless junction between the backsplash, top and front edge. These are all areas that if water gets in can cause damage to the top.
The standard 25" deep top is made in 12' lengths. Anything over a 12' run or a different shape, i.e. right angle will need a seam. Also, only certain sizes and styles of tops are available. It is not a good choice of top if you need to modify the shape. Finished ends will not match the leading edge, for example, an island top will have two decorative edges opposite each other but the other two edges will have a straight edge treatment. This type of top is the least expensive of all tops but does have some wonderful features.
A custom top is simply a top that is made to fit your cabinet area. Custom tops are made with a high density particle board substrate with a buildup layer to give a finished thickness of 1 1/2". This will be a top that may require two different types of seams. The first type of seam is a substrate seam. This is where the substrate is put together to form the shape of the counter. Substrate comes in several standard widths and lengths and must be cut and put together to form the size top needed. The second seam is a laminate seam. Laminate generally comes in several sizes depending on the manufacturer and the style or color of the laminate.
The largest size available is 5' x 12'. When you have a top that exceeds these dimensions, there will be a laminate seam. You should always talk to the designer to establish where this seam will be. There are several factors that guide us as to where the seam may be; overall size of top, accessibility to the work area, type of edge treatment, design on the laminate, location of sink and cooktop and visibility.
With custom tops you can choose different edge treatments depending on your design scheme. You can have a straight edge, a beveled edge with matching or complementing colors, different wood edges with different routed shapes and solid surface edges. Some edges may limit you to the shape of the top; they are limited to specific radius measurements. Back splashes will be separate and are generally 3/4" x 4" with a square edge treatment on the top edge.. They can be made to other measurements and can have an edge treatment to match the countertop. The splash is either glued to the wall or applied directly to the back of the top depending on the application. The seam is then caulked. This will always be a maintenance issue and needs to be regularly checked and recalled.
Solid Surface Tops
Solid surface is a petroleum based product made up of minerals, acrylic resins and colors in different combinations. There are many manufactures of this type of product on the market. Each manufacturer uses slight variations to give their product a unique look. Some manufactures make their own sinks of the same material or they use a competitors' sink. Sinks are generally limited in size and shape and are usually available in three to four solid colors only. Stainless steel and composite sinks can also be used in a drop in or undermount application. Solid surface is an extremely versatile product in terms of colors, designs and fabrication. It is called a seamless material because you cannot see the seams once they are properly finished, these seams are moisture resistant. You can add a feature strip of another color in the front edge, inlay a strip in the top or between the sink and top in an undermount application with an acrylic sink. Other options include a 4" cove splash or a 1/2" tile cove splash which provides a seamless splash application that requires no maintenance. Solid surface materials are very consistent in appearance and are easy to maintain. Minor scratches can be removed and it is a non-porous surface so stains are easily removed with soap and water. It is not recommended for direct heat. Thermal shock will stress crack the product and burn it. Burns and major scratches can be removed buy a fabricator; however, it is not an inexpensive repair. We feature in our showroom both Wilsonart and Staron solid surface tops. However, we can have any solid surface material fabricated for your tops to achieve the look you want.