Countertop Buying Guide – Kitchen Hill

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Countertop Buying Guide

If you're designing a new kitchen, you're probably questioning which is the best kitchen countertop material for you. You may already have your wall colors picked out, cabinets designed and an idea of what look you want from your kitchen countertop.

But which countertop material – quartz or granite, marble or quartzite – will suit not just the look of your new kitchen, but how you will use it, too? The options may seem endless, but it’s worth taking the time to get this hardworking surface right.

Think about how you plan to use your kitchen: will there be lots of cooking, or is your aim to entertain and impress lots of guests? If you use your kitchen primarily for cooking, what's your food preparation style – making everything from scratch with lots of cleaning in between, or is your approach more hands-off, sparing your kitchen surfaces constant cleaning and wiping? How you answer these questions will impact your choice of kitchen countertop material. Follow our guide to choosing the best kitchen countertop types for you.

 

How To Choose The Best Kitchen Countertop

Your kitchen countertops will be used for preparing, serving and, potentially, dining and will need to withstand regular, intensive cleaning. They’re a natural focal point in your kitchen, complementing the kitchen cabinets and kitchen flooring, and have become a key part of the design process. You’re going to be using them multiple times a day, so it’s important to choose a kitchen countertop type – or types if you're picking more than one material for your kitchen – that you like the look of, as well as a surface that will suit your lifestyle.

So, as well as just considering looks, consider the following:

Are you prepared to maintain countertop that need it (ie, marble, wood) or do you want a maintenance-free material?
Do you tend to put hot pans straight on the work surface or do you tend to use a trivet?
Are you prepared for the upkeep of a high gloss work surface or would a matt finish be better suited to your family (ie, you have small children who like to touch everything)?

 

Granite Countertops

What is a granite countertop? For some, nothing beats the beauty of natural stone, its veining and colouring unique to each slab. Marbles are classically beautiful and luxurious, tend to be rarer and therefore more expensive.

Best used Any area of the kitchen, including around the sink and next to the hob or oven. A large expanse of glossy granite makes a striking island countertop

Best look It’s a luxury material that never falls out of fashion and suits traditional and modern styles. Choose from a classic polished finish, or a honed matt for a more contemporary look.

How durable is a composite countertop? Granite is hard and resistant to heat and scratches, but it must be treated with respect to prevent damage. The best of all the natural materials, it can withstand high temperatures, is water resistant and impervious to most stains, but wine and citric acids must be cleaned up at once to avoid damaging the stone. and will usually need to be protected by a special sealant.

Flexibility and fitting With advances in modern technology, granite can be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes, although it is very heavy to transport and difficult to manoeuvre.

Does granite require any initial treatment? Granite requires an initial sealing, and then another about 10 years later.

How do I look after a granite countertop? One great thing about granite is that it’s very low maintenance. You can clean it using a damp cloth and a mild detergent.

Price From approx $49 per square feet

 

Quartz Countertops

What is quartz? A man-made alternative to materials such as granite and marble, industrial tecniques are used to fortify natural quartz with resin to create a truly hard-wearing and customisable countertop.

How good is it as a kitchen countertop? One of the most attractive features of a quartz countertop is the combination of a natural stone look and feel with the low-maintenance properties that are usually expected from synthetic materials. Quartz is actually even more durable than granite, in the sense that it is even less prone to chipping and requires only occasional resealing. However unlike granite, it's not great with heat, so it won't be suitable for you keeping hot pans or trays on.

Ease of maintenance As with granite though, quartz surfaces are pretty easy to clean and maintain; for every day cleaning all you will need is a cloth and warm soapy water.

Best look Dramatic colors such as dark grey and blue look fabulous in modern and contemporary kitchens. If your room design is quite traditional, stick to neutrals such as cream.

Flexibility and fitting This countertop can be thermoformed into different shapes without joints to create streamlined, seamless countertop runs. Fabrication is done by specialists and arranged by Kitchen Hill. Templates will be taken once the base units are in place and it can be one to two weeks before the countertops are ready to install.

Price From approx $59 per square feet

 

Quartzite Countertop

What is quartzite? Quartzite is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock. It is created when sandstone is subjected to extreme heat and pressure caused by tectonic plate compression in the crust of the earth. The stone is mined and sawn into slabs which are later precisely cut to become countertops. The tops are polished and sealed for beauty and durability.

Durability Granite often gets all the credit for being a durable countertop material. Just because granite is durable doesn’t mean that other countertops aren’t. In fact, quartzite isn’t just durable; it is actually stronger than granite. While granite is generally at 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, quartzite is between a 7 and an 8. Marble is generally around a 3 or 4 on the same scale, and quartz is a 7. In fact, quartzite is the hardest of all countertop materials.

Density is an important factor in countertops. Even though both granite and quartzite are porous, quartzite is denser, which means that there are fewer pores. Due to its density, quartzite rarely needs to be sealed. While some contractors will say quartzite doesn’t require any sealing, the occasional application of a sealer will prevent any potential damage. Staining is less likely with quartzite, however.

Best Look Quartzite’s appearance is similar to that of marble. Many people want a durable countertop, but they don’t like the darker flecks found in many granite options. Quartzite doesn’t usually have many, if any, dark spots. Typically, like marble, quartzite is white or grey, or a combination of the two. Exotic colors are also available. Quartzite can come in blue, violet, emerald, and brown.

Maintenance As far as stone countertops go, quartzite is one of the easiest materials to maintain. For daily care, quartzite countertops should be kept free of any spills. All cleaners used on quartzite countertops should be non-abrasive to prevent stripping off the sealant.

Price From approx $79 per square feet

 

Marble Countertops

What is Marble? Without going too far down the geology path, it  is essentially a crystaline form of limestone. The whiter it is, the purer the limestone from which it was formed. It’s whiteness, combined with its relative softness, makes it the perfect material to carve with. It’s worth noting that not all marbles are white.

Performance Because it is formed from limestone, itself a porous rock, marble too is porous; more so in fact than granite. This porosity makes it a poor conductor of heat, giving it one of its major and unique strengths; its ability to keep cool. This makes marble superb for working pastry, and for Artichoke clients who commission us to make kitchens that perform as well as they look, marble is a serious consideration. Typically, a marble work surface will be 4 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature of the room.

Looks Marble is generally considered the most beautiful of the accessible stones used for kitchen work-surfaces. There is an elegance and understated beauty in marble that the brashness of granite cannot compete with. It can be striking without appearing vulgar, which as anyone interested in fashion will know, is a trick that’s hard to pull off. Over time, it will also create its own unique patina which many (including us) see as a pro.

Feel Due to it’s poor heat conduction, marble is cool to the touch. There will be a subconscious reaction to this in the main, but it is an important attribute, particularly during Summer months. It also has a softness to the touch which is hard to explain.

Staining Open pores in marble make it prone to staining. There is no product available that will stop this, but there are products such as Lithofin, that will render the surface oil and water resistant while slowing down the rate at which liquids like red wine can seep into the surfaces. Acidic liquids will attack the surface of marble and they must be wiped off the surface immediately.

Cleaning for most marble surfaces is best done using warm soapy water and a soft cloth. A particularly grimy surface may need no more than rigorous cleaning to remove residue. Avoid using abrasive sponges.

Price Marble is widely accessible and comes at many different price points to suit most budgets.