Countertop materials have come a long way since the days of plain laminate tops with drops in stainless steel bowls. There are now high-definition laminates that resemble stone or have texture and depth to them. These laminates are more durable than the laminate you grew up with, and they can be finished with some upgraded edges like a bevel or a roundover. Karran© has a line of sinks in either acrylic or stainless steel that can be undermounted, giving a clean look and feel to the tops. For clients on a budget, laminate tops can be dressed up enough that at first glance, they look like stone.
In recent years, so many clients wanted to upgrade from laminate to granite that builders began offering basic granite colors as the standard. Granite comes with some great features – there are more options for edge treatments when working with stone, and many fabricators offer long-term or lifetime sealers which help prevent staining and don’t require resealing. Granite ranges from very uniform colors and patterns to exotic stones with vibrant colors and wild graining. Many stone yards offer granite that has been finished with a leather or honed texture. Granite requires very little maintenance if treated with a specialty sealer, but it is susceptible to staining if not.
Marble & Soapstone Countertops
Marble and soapstone have become more common in kitchens, and they have their own unique characteristics. Carrara marble is by far the most popular marble. With a white base and soft gray veining, marble offers a quiet elegance. The one downside is that it is much softer than granite and is more easily stained. On the other end of the spectrum, soapstone will never stain, and it offers a couple of finish options. Soapstone can be left to patina on its own or can be treated with mineral oil to more quickly develop a natural patina. When treated, most soapstones range from dark gray or black, sometimes with tinges of green. Soapstone may develop scratches, but these can be buffed out. If the countertops have been oiled, those areas will need to be treated until they reach the same color and patina as the rest of the tops.
By far the fastest rising contender for countertops is quartz. Very durable and resistant to staining, this material is the go-to option for clients looking for little or no maintenance. Edge and sink treatments are the same for quartz as they are for granite. Many of the quartz suppliers are now manufacturing colors that have movement to them, simulating natural stone. Typically a little pricier than standard granite colors, quartz countertops make up for the cost difference by offering incredible durability – your countertops will look beautiful for years with virtually no maintenance!