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Kitchen Countertops

Kitchens haven't always been the self-contained unit they are in today's home. In single family homes before the 1800's cooking was done either outside or in a fireplace area which, in many cases, held a large cast iron pot and a couple of smaller ones to boil water for tea. In the winter the fire never was extinguished as it was the main source of heat for the home and therefore the center of activity.

Kitchen countertops evolved from butcher-blocks, rinsing trays and wash surfaces to flat boards that were fastened to a couple of cabinets. These “modules” could be moved about the kitchen depending what task was at hand. Slabs of wood were also put over bins that held potatoes, flour and beans so that vermin couldn't get the food and these were utilized as working surfaces. Therefore kitchen remodeling was a very mobile operation. All you had to do was move a bin, cabinet or the wash basin stand.

The introduction of appliances brought the modern cabinet kitchen into vogue drawing from institutional kitchens that stressed cleanliness. No longer were work surfaces made of wood that scrubbed with saltwater maybe once a week. They began to take on a uniform surface where food could be prepared in a more hygienic manner.

Countertops have evolved from polished wood to polished stone in a few generations but one thing is certain: Kitchen countertops are one of the main ingredients that ties together the design aspects of the entire kitchen.

Types of Countertops

Granite, Marble and Stone

Natural stone is the gold standard of countertops and continues to be the most popular of all the materials.

  1. Granite: If you want a surface that resists dents, scratches and cut marks then granite is your stone. It also accepts hot pots and you can knead dough right on the surface. Unlike the other natural surfaces granite only needs minimal sealing, maybe once a year treatments.

  2. Marble: As the Mediterranean material of choice for centuries marble continues to charm kitchens. Although not as durable as granite it looks very rich and feels great to touch. This surface requires regular sealing.

  3. Slate: A rock that has migrated from the roof to the kitchen, slate is a hard and durable material that has wonderful natural coloring. However, be sure to seal this surface as well.

  4. Limestone: This is most high-maintenance countertop you can own but has an amazing luster. The porous patina absorbs fluids so must be frequently sealed to avoid permanent staining and etching from acids contained in foods and juices. The dolomite-limestone is sometimes called “Jerusalem Limestone” because a lot of it is quarried in Israel.

  5. Soapstone: A quick jaunt through history shows that early settlers on the east coast used soapstone for their own washboards and food preparation surfaces. Soapstone is soft but will not react with food or acids. Stains can be washed out but it is best to rub it with mineral oil to bring out the natural glow.

Solid Acrylics

  1. Better maintenance than stone: The look of natural stone without the price and maintenance woes. However, one should refrain from putting hot cooking pots directly on the surface as they are an acrylic/polyester compound with natural mineral additives.

  2. Faux stone: One of the great features is that almost any stone can be mimicked.

  3. Lighter than stone: The tops can be ordered and made in a complete molded piece.

  4. Seamless: The corner angles can actually be “welded” into a smooth surface unlike other countertops that joint-seams where the countertop is cut for the angle. Cuts and

  5. Dent-proof: Nicks can be sanded out and resealed but it is better to use a cutting board for food preparation.

Laminates

Laminate countertops replaced the old, but durable, arborite countertops and now they make up the majority of counter surfaces in the industry. Laminate is basically a plastic, colored-and-designed sheet glued to fiberboard at the factory and cut to fit each kitchen or bathroom counter. Some countertop companies will also make the top out of MDF, install it and then glue the laminate sheet down. The first way is the most popular. The selling feature with laminate is that wears well and, if you ever get tired of it, the counters are cheap and quick to replace.

Concrete

The great thing about concrete countertops is that, for the most part, they are a one-of-a-kind item. Concrete can be colored, shaped and designed in almost any way that a customer wants and properly sealed, can withstand stains and corrosion. Counters containing fossils, keepsakes and a wide variety of adornments are not uncommon but it is best to keep it simple because a future buyer may not want what you like. In its infant stages as a countertop concrete was extremely heavy and had imperfections. However, the weight has come down so that it is comparable with stone products. The added feature is that concrete countertops can be poured and finished right on the job.

Wood

Believe it or not wood is making a comeback as a countertop. The standard butcher block or “bowling alley” design is being joined by burl, walnut and other woods specially-treated to prevent scoring or denting. They are very rich looking and command attention

There are many other types of surfaces available - stainless-steel for the restaurant motif, copper and acrylics. But if you plan to sell the property anytime afterward the main item of consideration in any kitchen remodel is what a prospective buyer would want.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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