01 July 2015

The Top 7 Alternatives to Granite Countertops


Granite has been the mainstay in kitchens and bathrooms for well over a decade. Homeowners were immediately taken by its natural, yet elegant appearance and tough-as-nails durability. However, all things trendy eventually fall out of favor. While the interest in granite will never go away completely, other new (and not so new) countertop materials are giving granite a run for the money.

Just take a stroll through a few model homes, check out the latest counter surfacing products at your local home improvement center, or simply turn on a home renovation television show. You’ll definitely notice a change in preference.

With that in mind, we’ll be touching on seven of the hottest granite alternatives available. Some you’ll recognize, others you may not. Some were born out of a desire for eco-friendly and sustainable materials. Others just look incredibly amazing. So, while it may be sad to see granite step aside, you’ll surely find yourself falling for these stylish granite alternatives.

1. Marble
Marble has literally been around forever, but has recently seen a spike in popularity. Long favored by pastry chefs, its surface remains cooler than room temperature, making it perfect for working with any type of dough. Cararra is probably the most recognizable variety with its neutral white background and gray to black veining. Marble is softer and more porous than granite--meaning it will show wear and stains over time, but many feel those imperfections give it character.

2. Soapstone
Soapstone is a non-porous, soft stone similar in nature to marble and granite. While not as tough as granite, it is still pretty darn durable. It won't stain and is impervious to acids like wine and citrus juice, which can cause etching in granite and marble. Soapstone is typically dark gray to black and some varieties even features faint veining. It does not require sealing but you may want to oil it regularly to maintain its characteristic deep color and sheen.

3. Quartz
Quartz is white hot! It’s harder than nails and beautiful to boot. This is not a natural slab material like granite, marble or soapstone. Quartz is a composite consisting of its namesake aggregate, polymer resins, reflective bits and pigment for color. Quartz counters are stain and scratch resistant, and nonporous. No sealing is required.

4. Glass Composite
This countertop material is the ultimate in recycling! Plain old scrap glass like beer, soda and wine bottles can transform an ordinary countertop into something quite extraordinary. Crushed glass is mixed with concrete or resin to create a terrazzo-like counter surface for your kitchen or bathroom. Composites consisting of larger glass shards give the surface an almost mosaic-like appearance. You can choose standard color options or opt for a custom color combination.

5. Wood
Wood countertops have been around for centuries in the form of butcher blocks. But lately there’s been a shift to wood as the primary surfacing material in kitchens. Maple, teak, cherry, bamboo and wenge are among some of the most durable and beautiful. Wood not only warms up a kitchen or bath, it adds texture that is unmatched in the world of countertop materials. Wood does require periodic oiling to prevent drying and to highlight the grain. It will stain, but can be easily sanded to remove surface blemishes. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lumber to ensure you're getting a product that conformed to environmentally-conscious standards throughout the supply chain.

6. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel works in professional and commercial kitchens, so why not try it in yours? This gleaming material is heat resistant, won’t stain and holds up to years of use and abuse. Stainless is super easy to clean and will not absorb bacteria like natural stone or wood surfaces. The drawbacks are scratches and minor dents--you can reduce the likelihood of damage by purchasing at least 16 gauge steel. Regardless, this maintenance-free metal has a timeless appeal that homeowners adore.

7. Concrete
Concrete countertops are aggregates much like your concrete driveway or patio. While pigment can be added to create almost any color, natural gray remains the most popular. Concrete counter finishes range from slightly rough to smooth and polished. Eco-friendly concrete is porous and vulnerable to stains, so applying a sealer is recommended once a year.

If you’re looking to update your kitchen, you now know you’ve got seven fabulous countertop materials from which to choose. The hardest part will be deciding which one you like the best!
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