Read this BEFORE you go countertop shopping!
Choosing a surface material for your countertop is always tough. There are quite a few choices to pick from, but your choice is much more than just "skin deep". It's important to know that your material of choice not only looks good, but doesn't have any hidden cons that would be an issue! So we did some research regarding stone types, and compiled a list of pros and cons from a couple different articles to hopefully help anyone who was struggling with the decision! We also included the MOHS scale rating (a scale of mineral hardness ranging from 1-10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest) to help you understand if the surface is scratch resistant or not. We hope this helps out!
And of course, any S-Box™ would be a perfect match for any surface!
Also, click HERE for an interactive spreadsheet with a price estimator built in to help give you a better idea on pricing out a countertop based on 2020 prices per sq. ft!*
*may vary between slab design and fabrication costs*
One of the main reasons people buy quartz countertops is because they are ultra-durable. If you’re looking for a material that won’t crack, scratch, or get chipped easily, quartz is the way to go.
Quartz comes in at a 7 on the MOHS Scale, meaning it is relatively hard
- Quartz countertops are just as strong as granite, but have the added benefit of being more flexible making them less likely to chip or crack.
- Quartz is non-porous and does not require any sealing - ever. No stains!
- These stones offer a virtually maintenance free kitchen work surface, and are man-made, while consisting of 90% natural quartz.
- Edges and corners can chip, and you’ll need a pro to repair them. Rounded edges help.
- Not very high heat resistant.
- Man-made, so not natural stone.
Pricing: ~$50 to $90 per sq. ft.
Granite is a timeless stone. Every slab is unique, featuring its own individual lines, colors and patterns. This uniqueness enables you to have an individual countertop that won’t exist anywhere else. On top of the uniqueness, it also raises the value of your home! (Click here to learn how to disinfect and clean granite to make sure it lasts a lifetime!) With more than 20 shades of granite to work with, we are sure you’ll find one that blends perfectly with your kitchen's aesthetic.
Granite comes in at a 6 to 7 on the MOHS scale, meaning it is relatively hard.
- Each slab of this natural material is unique. (rare colors and veining cost more)
- Heat, cut, scratch resistant
- Great for a surround for your stove top, as it can handle a hot pan placed right on top of it.
- Undermounted sinks!
- Backsplash options.
- Polished and matte finishes resist most stains when properly sealed, so pick the look you prefer.
- The best part is the sustainability!
- Unsealed granite can absorb liquids and create long-lasting stains
- An unsealed or poorly sealed granite top can also house bacteria
- Yearly resealing is recommended and needed to fend off stains. (a really good DIY sealer kit is this one!)
- Like quartz, edges and corners can chip and must be professionally repaired. Rounded edges are best to prevent this!
Pricing: ~$40 to $100 per sq. ft.
Soapstone is natural stone material that has been used for centuries in countertops. Made from quarried stone, it’s "milky" appearance gives it a rustic feel when compared with the elegant look of granite.
Based on the talc content of a soapstone countertop, it lands a rating ranging between 1-5 on the MOHS hardness scale. Ironically, it's soft nature allows scratches to be easily fixed.
- High heat resistance!
- "Warm" colors look great in country kitchens, but can be used in modern as well.
- While less durable than granite or quartz, it's more pliable which means less chance for cracks under pressure or weight.
- Easy to clean, and non-porous so not as easily stained as granite.
- It can be sealed, but for aesthetic reasons rather than out of necessity!
- Soapstone nicks, cuts, and scratches easily
- Some stains are too tough to be washed away
- Colors range from charcoal to white and between only.
Pricing: ~$70 to $120 per sq. ft.
Limestone bears a remarkable resemblance to marble, an expensive but well loved stone, which explains why it has become increasingly more popular over the years.
At least 50% of limestone rock has a MOHS hardness of 3-4. Whatever the remaining composition is will either make it harder or softer.
- Increased value of home
- White/ tan colors work well with SS appliances
- Origins are interesting (aquatic)
- Not as durable as granite
- More scratch prone
- Discoloration prone
Pricing: ~$10 to $70 per sq. ft.
Marble is an insanely beautiful stone, and instantly creates a feeling of elegance and grandeur in the room. It's no wonder that artist and sculptors throughout the ages have used marble as a medium. But beware, marble is definitely a "low-traffic" stone, it's a softer stone that will be more prone to damage.
Being composed of calcite, marble has a hardness of 3 on the MOHS hardness scale, making it a softer stone compared to granite or quartz.
- Heat resistant
- Breathtakingly beautiful
- Bountiful throughout the world and naturally occurring
- UNIQUE as in no two slabs are the same, and if taken care of can last an extremely long time.
- Marble is brutally heavy
- More fragile compared to other stones
- Marble is on the softer side making it vulnerable to nicks, cracks, and scratches.
- DO NOT DROP ANYTHING HEAVY ON MARBLE
Pricing: ~$40 to $100 per sq. ft.
Porcelain countertops are made from non-porous ceramic clay that contains various minerals, such as kaolinite and silica. The material is baked in temperatures ranging from about 2200-2650 Fahrenheit, which produces a durable countertop material that is resistant to scratching, cracking, UV light, and gives it a high resistance to heat!
- resistant to scratches
- Resistant to cracking
- UV light resistant which makes them great for outdoor use
- Low maintenance, heat "proof"
- The patterns on porcelain countertops are only surface-deep; they do not extend through the full body of the slab, meaning that they tend to lack depth
- You can still scratch them with ceramic knives; doing so will reveal the pattern’s skin-deep nature
- Porcelain countertops tend to be very thin, which necessitates visual tricks such as mitered edges to make them appear more substantial
- Many of the porcelain countertops in the United States are imported from Europe, which means higher costs for you that don’t necessarily go towards getting a superior material
- Because it is so thin, it may be more expensive to have fabricated. Some opinions from stone fabricators we talked to is that the surface can easily be damaged in transit and while being cut. But this could vary between fabricators.
Pricing: ~$60 and $100 per sq. ft.
7. Solid Surfacing
Available in a variety of colors and patterns, it can be used for the counters, sink, and backsplash. Solid surface's material goes all the way through, from top to bottom and as a result, it visually fares better after impact than a multi-layered product like laminate.
Solid Surface gets a 3-4 on the MOHS scale, making it more on the soft side
- It easily creates a seamless look due to joints being almost invisible.
- Its color won’t vary much from the store sample.
- Solid surfacing is resistant to most stains, and small nicks and scratches can be repaired with an orbital sander and fine grit sand paper.
- It scratches and cuts easily, so a cutting board is a must.
- Easily damaged by heat, can be dented, and can be stained.
- Can handle water's boiling point, but can warp at 250 degrees.
- NO dry hot pans or wet hot pans should be placed on this surface.
Pricing: ~$37 to $67 per sq. ft.
8. Recycled Glass
Due to it's eco-friendliness, recycled glass countertops have become more and more popular lately. A stylish top, utilizing big chunks or finely ground glass is a refreshing look compared to natural stone.
No MOHS rating.
- Large shards give it a fun, contemporary look.
- Will not lose it's color or break easily, but leans towards being more durable.
- Finely ground glass makes it less busy.
- Can be embedded in concrete for a tough yet stylish top, or can be encased in a tough, durable and clear acrylic.
- Ecofriendly (mostly)
- Can't handle a ton of weight
- Can be affected by acidic substances such as tomato sauce when acrylic.
- Leans more towards the expensive side, but is generally less than marble, quartz, granite, and concrete.
- If not wiped down regularly, can develop water spots which will dull the glass
Pricing: ~$50 and $80 per sq. ft.
Concrete can be cast into any shape and pigmented, stained, or textured with all kinds of shades and finishes; you can even embed tiles, stones, etc.
Concrete has a 5-7 on the MOHS scale.
- Easily reinforced with fiber, or rebar
- DIY friendly
- Can be patina'd for a rustic look
- Can be casted into any shape or size, pigment, shade or finish.
- Very customizable for that perfect surface look.
- Cracks can be fixed
- 28 day cure time
- Can form stress cracks as house settles
- If not reinforced can form stress cracks
- Susceptible to scratches
Pricing: ~$65 to $135 per sq. ft.
10. Butcher Block
Warm and accommodating, butcher block is an affordable countertop material with a bunch of benefits. Properly maintained countertops will reward you by aging well. But without proper upkeep, they can dull and crack.
No MOHS rating, but we think it would fall somewhere around 2-3, considering how easy it is to damage when using a knife.
- It adds warmth to a kitchen
- And is easy to install and repair
- But the finish makes a difference
- Varnish improved stain resistance, but penetrating oils diminishes it.
- Cheap per sq. ft.
- Nicks and scratches can easily happen, though they can be sanded out.
- Shorter life than stone without proper maintenance
Pricing: ~$30 to $40 per sq. ft.
We hope this helps inform those who have been thinking about renovating a kitchen about a few of the many options available for countertop surfaces!