The Best Man-Made Countertop Materials
Granite and quartz may be winning the countertop wars, but other options available include laminates, solid surfacing, stainless steel and recycled glass.
In 2014, interior design professionals reported to the National Kitchen and Bath Association that for the last few years they have most often installed granite and quartz countertops. However, many other options exist.
Advancements in manufacturing, printing and technology mean that man-made countertop materials are not what they once were; several synthetic countertop materials look just as good to the untrained eye as natural stone, if not better. With the busy lifestyles many people lead, this is a huge benefit: Composite counters do not require the same upkeep as do natural stone products.
Laminate counters have evolved and grown up. Top manufacturers, inspired by granite and quartzite, have introduced new product lines and patterns that try to capture the look and movement of natural stone through veining and dramatic colorations. Edge options have expanded beyond square or bull-nose, and some laminates even allow for undermount sinks, an impossibility in the past.
In 2014, Consumer Reports said that 56 square feet of laminate counters, including installation, cost a fraction of the price of granite or quartz, between $560 to $2,240, versus a range of $2,240 to $5,600 for granite or quartz. Additionally, laminates are easy to install and hold up well against stains.
Recycled glass counters can endure high heat without cracking or scorching, are naturally resistant to scratches, mold and mildew, and have an eco-friendly feel. The various types of recycled glass counters include those that look like clear or colored glass, but are thicker than the glass used for standard windows and doors; and those that contain 85 percent recycled glass content, which is mixed with binders and resins. With shiny pieces of glass floating within the body, the latter more closely resemble quartz or solid surface counters. Pricing for these counters is similar to that of quartz and granite, with some styles costing more.
Resistant to bacteria, mildew and stains, solid surfaces are both nonporous and durable. Made primarily from acrylic and polyester, the composition allows for near seamless installation and, though scratches and stains can be cleaned and buffed out with relative ease on-site, cutting boards and trivets are still recommended accessories. Depending on the brand, color, pattern and edge style, solid surfaces can result in a minor cost savings or require an investment similar to stone or quartz.
Stainless steel counters are often used in commercial settings and chefs’ kitchens because of their antimicrobial properties and quick-and-easy cleanup. Steel is also highly reflective, helping to bounce light around the space. It can be retrofit to any counter design and even continue seamlessly up the wall as a backsplash. However, stainless steel will scratch and etch over time, so it's not a wise choice if you want an unmarked, perfect finish. Cost will vary pending the gauge and thickness of the steel, as well as the substrate and composition of the counter.