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Best countertop surfaces

Thinking about upgrading my kitchen this year and am leaning towards granite, but am willing to consider other alternatives - am intrigued by the soapstone discussion and am also wondering what your experiences have been with synthetic materials (Corian and the like)? Pros, cons, etc. all greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. I did 4/5ths concrete -knowing I might later regret its trendiness- and 1/5th butcher's block. The concrete has been great - indestructible and good-looking, shows no wear at all. The butcher's block I can't bear to chop on, so it gets used infrequently when I need a "warmer"/softer work surface..

    - Soapstone looks beautiful. I don't know anything about it though.
    - Stainless steel IMO is ridiculous - constant watermarks and dents.
    - Don't use limestone in kitchens - acid (lemon etc.) etches it.

    That's all I've got :-)

    5 Replies
    1. re: spigot

      Spigot, I have been interested in the concrete for years, we're thinking about redoing our kitchen and I am wanting it for the countertops.

      While I'm not asking for what you paid for it, did you find it to be terribly expensive?

      1. re: TarheelYankee

        Sorry TarheelYankee to be so late with this response; I've been away from the boards.

        We actually did it ourselves. Because we are insane. Did it based on an article in one of the Taunton magazines; it worked out really really well but was not easy. My husband's a project guy and, derangedly, enjoyed the process :-)

      2. re: spigot

        Concrete sounds great - in your typical community who would you contact to install a concrete countertop? Doesn't sound like something you would get from the Home Depot or Lowes.

        Is your husband available??

        1. re: spigot

          hi, wondering if you still feel positive about your concrete counters. we have them in our house and having trouble with the finish....looking to hear about others experience. thanks :)

          1. re: corriesue

            we had concrete countertops installed by a local guy. he messed up the seal and could never fix. we have spot and scratch marks and nobody seems to know what we can do other than sand down and start over which would create horrible mess in my house. I would like to know if i could cover the concrete with galvanized metal. we only paid the guy half of the money.

        2. Doesn't anybody consider Formica anymore? So many colors, patterns, and finishes--is it just out of fashion now, considered to be tacky or cheap?

          8 Replies
          1. re: blue room

            That's what we have now (and have had for 20+ years). We're just looking for a change!

            1. re: phoebek

              I worked in a cabinet shop at one point and sat every day in front of sample boards for three or four different brands of plastic laminate. There was an amazing variety of colors and patterns. I think that's probably what I would go with if I were remodeling, simply because it's inexpensive and easy to come by and easy to coordinate with a color scheme.

              But given that my house is 96 years old and I have sort of a picture in my mind of what I want in my kitchen, something retro-ish but usable, I don't know what would work here.

              1. re: revsharkie

                What about linoleum? It's environmental and gets better with time.

                http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/knowh...

                1. re: chowser

                  Can you use linoleum for a countertop?

                  I'd actually like to do this, because I found some linoleum that I like better than any of the plastic laminates I've looked at. But I don't think linoleum would hold up to the scratches, knife marks, hot pans, stains, and other daily stresses to which I subject my kitchen counters. Or would it?

                  Anne

                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    No personal experience but I've been reading a lot about it as an environmental choice, plus it's improved considerably since the 50's. You would have problems with cutting on it but I never cut on my granite either. I don't lay hot pots/pans on granite and I clean up messes before they stain, too. I guess it depends on how hard you are on the countertop--if you're cutting on it, putting hot pots on it, etc. it wouldn't be a good choice. But, I think it's better than linoleum.

                    http://db.inman.com/inman/content/sub...

                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      AnneInMpls, go for it! That article that chowser linked to has some amazing sources for alternative countertop materials.
                      If you are reasonably careful about using cutting boards and trivets for hot pots, there is no reason on earth why you can't have something creative and interesting. I've had matte white Formica for 20 years and it's in perfect condition. I raised 2 kids worth of arts and crafts and science projects on the island, one husband's Mr. Fix it projects, and daily serious meal preparation and entertaining - some pretty large scale.

                      The linoleum, according to that article, is inexpensive enough that if it doesn't hold up, you can afford to replace it without too much pain. Do it!!!

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Alas, I have really bad countertop habits from living with old Formica counters that were already yukky when I moved in. I put hot pots on my counter, I scratch it, I drop cast-iron pots on it, and I let pomegranate juice stains sit for days. Actually, it's amazing what my Formica counters will put up with, and how much I can fix with a Magic Sponge.

                        So I either need to retrain myself (a hopeless task) or look for something really sturdy.

                        But thanks for the link - this is helpful stuff! I'm definitely going for real linoleum when I redo the floors.

                        Anne

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          my mother had battleship linoluem on her counters back in the 40's and she loved it. It is waterproof with the correct finish on it.

              2. The best and cheapest as of late is manufactured quartz, IMO. Do the research on it and see. Compare this to Formica and you'll think Formica was made by sweatshop, 3rd world children.

                1 Reply
                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  Formica is selling a quartz product. I don't get what you mean about the 3rd world children and the sweatshop-- ?

                2. I have half marble, half butcher block. I love them both but they are high maintenance. I use cutting boards on the butcher block because I can't stomach scraping it up-- it is dark walnut with a fancy edge. The white marble is great but you have to clean up spills pretty quickly. If I was going to do it again and wanted easy maintenance, I would probably do granite.

                  1. good ole granite works for me. it resists heat and nicks from a knife. i wanted limestone; however, i found out that the maintenance was huge. you have to "oil" it every month because it is so porous.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: strephking

                      The tile place we went to today said that limestone and marble are both too porous for kitchen use. . . isn't it awful when you have to give up something you love for the sake of practicality!

                      1. re: phoebek

                        The tile company probably didn't sell either of those. Bars, bakeries have used marble forever. It was common in fine homes. It's used for floors in public buildings for goodness sake! Limestone is not a problem with reasonable care. Several of my neighbors have had it for years and love it. It gets a lovely patina.
                        You don't give up fine antiques because they have wear marks from loving use. Get what you adore and don't abuse it.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Actually, they sold both, just didn't recommend them for kitchen counter use. But I wasn't considering either, anyway. . .

                          1. re: phoebek

                            I believe the tile place. As a former geologist, I know that marble is metamorphosed limestone, both made of cacareous materials (shells and corals, e.g., from eons ago). They are alkaline (basic), the opposite of, and dissolve in acids. I am sure the finish they but on marble is good, and it would wear up to fire, etc., but I wouldn't want to get too many scratches and drop vinegar or lemon jc on it too much.

                        2. re: phoebek

                          When we redid the kitchen a few years back I really wanted limestone and the tile place we visited gave us a sample. We tested the usual kitchen culprits - red wine, mustard, ketchup, vinegar, lemon juice - on it and knew it would be ruined in a month. We went for Formica. If we redo in the near future, I think we might do concrete.

                        3. re: strephking

                          What finish do you have on the granite and how do you take care of it? Does it get water spots?
                          TIA

                          1. re: SLO

                            I have granite, and it came straight from the granite yard pre-finished. I've had it a little less than a year, so not really long enough to be really tested, but long enough to know that mine doesn't get water spots. Thus far I haven't re-treated it. I also chose a fairly dark grained granite, not sure if a lighter grain would have made a difference.