By Angela Cabotaje
The modern kitchen is truly the hub of the home. It’s where families reconnect after a busy day, where kids gather after school, and where guests chat over drinks. But beyond this essential role, the kitchen is also a great place to invest.
Pacific-area homeowners who remodeled their kitchens recouped anywhere from 81 to 90 percent in 2013, according to Remodeling, making for a great way to boost a home’s value in the span of a few weeks or months. To get started on the kitchen of your dreams, check out these choice countertop materials:
A great option for contemporary kitchens, stainless steel is versatile and stylish. The sleek look pairs well with just about any color scheme, while the material itself can take hot pots and pans straight from the stove. Another plus: It’s easy to clean and resists stains. Other metal countertop options include copper, zinc, and pewter.
Pros: Resistant to heat and stains; easy care; contemporary look; no sealing required
Cons: Difficult to repair deep scratches and dents
Also known by brand names Formica and Wilsonart, laminate counters are a mid-century modern staple. Today the material is still appreciated for its custom options and budget-friendly price. It’s offered in hundreds of hues and patterns, making it a prime way to incorporate color into the kitchen or to get the look of natural stone or wood at a fraction of the cost.
Pros: Available in many colors and patterns; affordable; no sealing required; durable
Cons: Vulnerable to deep scratches and heat; lacks a seamless design
Natural stone countertops have wide appeal and remain a popular pick for modern kitchens as well as those done in other styles. Granite, though pricey, scores high in durability, strength, and sophistication. Gray-veined Carrara marble exudes elegance, which can work for traditional spaces as well as contemporary homes, but is susceptible to etching, scratching, and staining. Limestone has exotic appeal but is also more porous and vulnerable to discoloration and scratches. All must be properly and consistently sealed, cleaned, and maintained.
Pros: Wide appeal; resistant to heat; durable (granite, in particular)
Cons: Prone to etching, scratching, and discoloration (marble and limestone, in particular); requires regular maintenance; expensive
A maintenance-free option for contemporary new builds and remodels, quartz is durable, sleek, and hygienic. Color, pattern, and finish options vary from brand to brand—some of the most popular include Silestone, Caesarstone, Cambria, and PentalQuartz (Chroma by Pental)—but, in general, the non-porous material is recognized as one of the easiest to care for in the market.
Pros: Contemporary look; various color and finish options; no sealing required; resists scratches, stains, and heat; easy care
Cons: Expensive; can be damaged by prolonged heat
Offering greater design flexibility to fit unique curves and angles, solid-surface and composite materials are other great kitchen countertop options. Corian, an acrylic solid surface that comes in more than 100 colors, repels bacteria, moisture, and stains. Durat comes in 70 different colors and is made from post-industrial plastic for a surface that is 100 percent recyclable. And PaperStone, another non-porous and stain-resistant material, is made from 100 percent post-consumer paper and resin, making it one of the greenest options available. All are versatile options for kitchen design and integration.
Pros: Resistant to moisture and bacteria; easy care; more affordable; easy to customize; contemporary look; eco-friendly (Durat and PaperStone)
Cons: Less resistant to heat and scratching than natural stone
Great for kitchen remodels on a budget, tile counters are perfect for DIYers who want a one-of-a-kind look. Tiles are available in a variety of colors, sizes, and textures. Ceramic tiles can resist stains and moisture, while granite ones allow you to get the natural-stone look at a more budget-friendly price point.
Pros: Available in many colors, sizes, and textures; easy to customize; affordable
Cons: Susceptible to stains and mildew (grout); easy to crack or chip (ceramic); requires regular cleaning and maintenance
Though it’s typically a more traditional material, wood is making its way into modern homes, too. It’s an easy way to add functionality and warmth to any kitchen. Once properly cleaned and sealed, wood counters are food safe and can also withstand heat and chopping. Often butcher block, wood counters are also made from bamboo, maple, cherry, teak, oak, walnut, and even zebrawood.
Pros: Resistant to heat; may be used as a cutting surface
Cons: Requires regular maintenance; vulnerable to scratching, moisture, and warping