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Help: What's the Right Countertop?

c
counterwise Jan 3, 2010 11:08 AM

Hi - I am new to this website and am searching for countertop suggestions. We are installing a new kitchen from floor to ceiling, and are going for a classic country style (in-frame cabinets, range cooker etc). I really love to cook and cook all the time but am hopelessly messy, which leads me to think that I need a very durable and easy to clean countertop. (We also have little kids). But I strongly dislike granite (too hard, cold and shiny and I'm not really into the patterning). My favorite look so far is Pyrolave (enamelled lavastone) but it seems like its going to be very expensive and would take too long to obtain from the supplier. So, I guess I like a more matte, opaque finish, as Pyrolave provides. Any suggestions? Wood would be great but I'm afraid I just can't take care of it properly. Thanks so much!!

  1. r
    rainey Jan 6, 2010 01:03 PM

    After living with it for 2 years -- and wanting it all my life -- I am thrilled with my soapstone. My great grandmother had a soapstone sink I've never let go of emotionally.

    The feel is lovely. The strength and durability of stone is wonderfully practical and soapstone is like black velvet to other stones' "Las Vegas". Finally, soapstone develops a patina that makes it even more organic and wonderful over time. But, be forewarned that "patina" thing includes scratches and dings. That's what I remember and wanted so it's OK with me even if it's not right for everyone.

    There's no question it's expensive, but if it's an option (I had to wait until I was 60 to get it) I encourage it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rainey
      p
      puddin head Jan 6, 2010 09:42 PM

      ditto on the soapstone! Had ours for 3 years now. It sure does chip and ding if you are as careless as I am, but chips can be fixed eventually, and the total lack of upkeep is a major plus for me. I am a sloppy cook, and I love that I won't stain the soapstone surface.

      As for the expense. Yes, I had the shakes as I wrote that check out, but I have yet to find another stone I would be happy with. And my kitchen is tiny, so probably only has 1/2 the counter of a standard suburban kitchen.

    2. a
      andrewtree Jan 6, 2010 12:08 PM

      We have just installed paperstone, a very 'green' option and not cheap though I don't know how it compares with other materials. I am an avid cook and am delighted with its performance. Smooth enough for pastry/bread making, hard enough to take the wear and tear, easy to clean and has a matt finish.

      1. visciole Jan 5, 2010 12:55 PM

        I know I'm in the minority here, but I think Formica looks great in country kitchens. I like plain old white. And it's inexpensive, so you can spend more on good kitchen cabinets.

        1 Reply
        1. re: visciole
          RetiredChef Jan 6, 2010 07:16 AM

          I'll be in the minority with you and say I LOVE the look of white tile in a country kitchen, just hate cleaning it.

        2. o
          onocoffee Jan 4, 2010 07:11 PM

          Over the years, I've used the gamut from formica to corian to concrete to stainless to wood and granite, but if you're looking for an authentic country feel, I think wood is the way to go. Wood looks great, though it can mar due to use - but that's part of the authentic look, isn't it?

          1. g
            gordeaux Jan 3, 2010 07:04 PM

            Your quote:
            "I really love to cook and cook all the time but am hopelessly messy, which leads me to think that I need a very durable and easy to clean countertop."

            SCREAMS dark granite.
            If you choose otherwise, and whatever you get stains, or fades, you'll have to accept the fact that dark granite would not have stained or faded, but you chose against it.
            Quartz might be something you should consider.

            14 Replies
            1. re: gordeaux
              pikawicca Jan 3, 2010 07:12 PM

              My quartz hasn't stained or faded, at all.

              1. re: pikawicca
                shanagain Jan 4, 2010 10:05 AM

                I love ours too. Beautiful,

              2. re: gordeaux
                RetiredChef Jan 5, 2010 07:55 AM

                I had dark granite and it stained, had to get it professionally removed and refinished. 9 months later a crack started to form where hot pots were routinely put on pads.

                Like the OP I find granite ugly, cold and especially the dark colors they are not conducive to food prep like lighter colors are.

                We went with a light colored quartz product in our new home and nothing seems to stains it, even red wine that was spilt on it and left for 24 hours wiped up clean. And since it was custom manufactured we have no seams anywhere, even the sinks are made out of it so cleaning is an absolute breeze.

                1. re: RetiredChef
                  shanagain Jan 5, 2010 08:38 AM

                  Also, environmentally friendly. And less expensive than Corian. We were considering Corian as granite was out of our budget (unless we went the leftover slab route), unto my husband came over with a sample of LG Viatera granite in "Cabo" - which was $2 less per linear foot than the corian. In a lot of great kitchen-planning decisions, it's high up on the list. (Also high - we have a large microwave that I really like, so we have an under-counter microwave cabinet instead of the popular hood/micro combo. Love love love.)

                  1. re: shanagain
                    Chemicalkinetics Jan 5, 2010 09:18 AM

                    Shanagain,

                    Dumb question. Why is it environmentally friendly?

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      shanagain Jan 5, 2010 09:30 AM

                      Not dumb at all and you give me a good chance to clarify:

                      Generally, when people are considering quartz, it is as a replacement for granite. And since quartz is (I think - put me at about 97% sure) the most plentiful mineral on the surface of the Earth, it is considered a "greener" solution than granite.

                      Of course, I'm sure in a year or two it'll come out that the resins used to "bind" the chips of quartz together into the slabs are hellaciously bad for the environment somehow (because, that's how science rolls - just enough to mess with what you thought were good decisions earlier!), or that there are bandito quartz cartels causing upstart revolutions or something... but for now, it is an environmentally "cool" process.

                      1. re: shanagain
                        Chemicalkinetics Jan 5, 2010 09:43 AM

                        Shanagain,

                        Got it. Thanks.

                    2. re: shanagain
                      RetiredChef Jan 5, 2010 09:46 AM

                      Just FYI, the quartz we had installed was more expensive than Corian and the cost was comparable to high end granite.

                      1. re: RetiredChef
                        shanagain Jan 5, 2010 09:50 AM

                        You must have much better quartz than I, RC.

                        1. re: RetiredChef
                          d
                          DGresh Jan 5, 2010 01:41 PM

                          when we looked into counters, we found the same thing; the idea is that you would choose quartz for it's maintainance properties, not cost. Though I haven't found the granite we put in to be "high maintainance" at all.

                          1. re: DGresh
                            shanagain Jan 5, 2010 01:58 PM

                            I am really shocked, but the one thing we decided not to do was the bullnose edge or scalloped edge - ours is straight-edged, and just shy of an inch thick, but not the "upgrade" - and I love love love it. and I swear I will shut UP about it already.

                            OK, see, I'm editing so the "shutting up" thing isn't law yet - our quartz was $43/ sq ft (not linear as I mistakenly said above - I had cabinets on the brain there).

                            1. re: shanagain
                              d
                              DGresh Jan 5, 2010 02:36 PM

                              just as a reference point, we got a "standard" grade granite (not one of the fancy ones), with a straight edge, for (AIR) $65/sf. The quartz was about the same.

                      2. re: RetiredChef
                        g
                        gordeaux Jan 5, 2010 07:31 PM

                        Glad to hear the quartz lovers weighing in here. I recommended that the OP look into quartz, but I wtasn't 100% sure on the maint / or staining issues. I had a feeling it was pretty much worry free.

                        Anyway, RetiredChef, sounds like you had a bad exp indeed. My stone guy gave me a lifetime warranty against staining for my stone. He offered it on several of his darker stones. After I told him my cooking style (commercial cook in a home kitchen) he made it perfectly clear why dark granite was the perfect stone for me. There is NO maint needed, and it is guaranteed against staining or the cracking you described for life. He told me I could pick anything I wanted, showed me all the stuff that wasn't currently in his warehouse, that he could order, the whole variety of price points, showed me the most expensive, lusl looking dframatic stuff (that was priced accordingly,) but in the end, he told me that if I wanted my function (stain free, worry free) over form (fancy looks,) dark granite was the only logical choice. The sim styles of quartz were all of the high priced variety.

                        1. re: gordeaux
                          RetiredChef Jan 6, 2010 07:15 AM

                          We bought the home with the granite countertops already installed so we had no warranty. I am no expert on granite but imho, if there is cheap/crappy granite, I think that is what we had.

                          But that's not the reason I dislike granite, it's just a personal thing, I don't think it looks very nice (we are all entitled to an opinion).

                    3. pikawicca Jan 3, 2010 05:16 PM

                      As I've posted before, I love my Cambria quartz countertops: tough, easy to clean, drop dead pretty.

                      1. PegS Jan 3, 2010 05:04 PM

                        The Pyrolave is quite pretty - looks like tile.

                        I wouldn't discount granite, though. Stone sold as granite comes in a huge range of appearances and durability. I wanted something matte, like soapstone, but more durable. I ended up with Cambrian black granite in an antique finish. It's super hard, not shiny (more of a waxy appearance, with some metallic bits) and since it's not stark black it hides messes fairly well. The other kind I was looking at was Nordic black, again in an antique finish, for the same reasons.

                        1. d
                          dmd_kc Jan 3, 2010 04:11 PM

                          If you don't like how hard granite is, then by all means don't get one of the many rock-hard options (including all natural stones, quartz, tile or concrete). The hardness was a major consideration for me in my recent remodel, too, so I compromised on half soapstone and half butcher block. I have the stone from the range to the sink, and everything else is wood.

                          I've retrained myself to use the block for most of my prep, and I love it. No worrying about chipping or breaking glass items. If it were practical to have the main sink in it, I'd do all butcher block, but I have two friends with their sink in **extremely** expensive wood that's delaminated after years of use.

                          I don't know if the look works for you, but it sounds like one of the Corian-style plastic products might be best for you. There's absolutely nothing wrong with plastic laminate either, except the edges, which are prone to chipping and delaminating also. There's no 100% ideal, I finally decided.

                          1. s
                            shallots Jan 3, 2010 02:01 PM

                            The best countertop is what you can afford without going into debt.
                            An additional limit is how long you plan to be in the house, does the cooking lay out you have now work in your for-ever kitchen or does it need tweaking?
                            You don't have to drop thousands of dollars for the fanciest surface.
                            It's your kitchen and the colors and styles should make you feel good, not guilty.

                            1. shanagain Jan 3, 2010 12:29 PM

                              We have quartz, it's actually a reconstituted quartz product, which you may not like for the patterning. Recently I saw some "makeover" show which used soapstone, which was gorgeous but cost-prohibitive in my part of the country.

                              1. a
                                alienor Jan 3, 2010 11:56 AM

                                for any years we had formica as we didn't havee the dollars to upgrade. i considered corians my next countertop but after careful pricing, monitoring for care, etc. i chose granite. i am completely satisfied. hot pots can be put on the surface. i don't have the extra shiny type, but have a busy pattern with a very low shine. i can go days without applying anything more than a sponge. i highly recommend it and it also blends well into most kitchen redesigns.
                                just my opinion

                                1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 3, 2010 11:17 AM

                                  Actually stainless is the easiest to clean, but you will hate it because it will be absolutely anti-country style.

                                  http://kitchenideas.com.au/stainless_...

                                  It is, however, very easy to clean which is why many restaurant kitchens are stainless.

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