"I want to remodel my kitchen, but I’m not a big fan of the look of granite counters. What other materials should I consider?"
Answer from Ross Sanders
While granite is very popular right now because of its visual interest and long-term performance, there are a variety of other materials worth considering.
Quartz - My favorite countertop material is quartz as it is not only attractive but also comes in a broad range of colors. Quartz countertops come from natural stone that has been crushed and compressed with a resin to create a dense, durable, but beautiful surface. Additionally, quartz resists heat, stains, acid, almost anything you can throw at it.
Wood - Polished and engineered woods still have a place in the kitchen, but they are becoming obsolete as a countertop material. Typically very porous and soft, wood requires sealing and frequent maintenance to avoid damage and protect from nesting bacteria. That said, wood countertops can be quite beautiful and great effects can be achieved using natural edges and inlay.
Concrete - Typically poured in place due to weight and fragility, concrete countertops are heavy and require a very skilled artisan to create. They tend to have an industrial look, but can be colored to reflect your personal style. This material requires sealing and maintenance, as well as a very strong support and the custom nature means high costs in most cases.
Metal – The most common metal countertops are stainless steel and copper, with aluminum and other metals showing up occasionally. Despite their hard nature, they are prone to scratching and staining which means that they must be sealed and maintained. To provide visual weight to a metal countertop, the edges must be turned down which in turn adds cost and the possibility of awkward corner seams. There is generally a high cost associated with this material.
Plastic Laminate – Almost any color or material you can imagine is available in a plastic laminate finish and it is typically very cost effective. Laminate is easily installed over an engineered wood substrate and offers numerous options for edge profiling. While the material is not super-heat resistant, it is easy to clean and maintain.
Solid Surface – Despite coming in on the upper end cost-wise, these products typically perform very well long-term. They resist heat, staining, damage, and can be lightly sanded to remove stains or scratches. Solid surface countertops are available in 1” + thick or thinner, as well a cheaper 1/4”-3/8” thick versions. There are lots of edging options, and the color is “through”, so cutting into it won’t result in exposing substrate or a non-matching color.
Recycled materials - Crushed glass in a lightweight epoxy or concrete slurry results in interesting countertops. Availability and color choices can be limited and the cost tends to be high but as more companies get involved, the prices may come down. Recycled materials can be difficult to work with particularly when altering it to fit sink holes.
Your local home improvement store will likely stock samples of most of these countertop materials so I recommend checking them out in person to see what inspires you.