Alternative Countertop Materials

By far, the most popular countertop materials today are granite, marble and quartz. These materials are preferred by homeowners because they’re durable, beautiful, long-lasting and have high value. They “wow” home buyers and retain their beauty for decades – or longer.

…but for some homeowners, there’s always some curiosity about the alternatives. Installing something different and unexpected is one way to express individuality and personal style. Some homeowners just want to be different, while others are looking for the perfect material to show off their beautiful kitchen or bathroom. Knowing those alternatives, including a few pros and cons about each, can help you decide whether a countertop material is right for you.

Wood

There’s nothing warmer or more natural than wood. This durable, earthy, rustic material is a natural addition to farmhouse-style kitchens, Tuscan style kitchens and kitchen islands everywhere.

Wood is a surprising countertop material in some ways. It’s sensitive to water, so you’ve got to be careful to clean up spills as soon as they occur. Wood also dries out easily with excessive use. Oiling your wooden countertops on a regular basis is a good way to keep them in good condition. Fortunately, wood is very forgiving and can be sanded or scraped with a razor blade to remove stains. Refinishing your wooden countertops can keep them looking beautiful for decades to come.

Concrete

Concrete has a distinctive appearance that some homeowners love. It’s very utilitarian, but has a unique edginess that pairs well with natural materials like leather, copper and wood. Some homeowners like to combine their concrete countertops with other industrial features like pendant lighting featuring Edison bulbs, exposed brick and open shelving.

The downsides? Concrete is porous and can stain. It requires sealing to be protected. It’s also prone to hairline cracking (which can often be repaired). Finally, it can be noisy. Pots and pans clanking against it can make normal cooking a very loud experience indeed.

Recycled Materials

Recycled countertops are the preferred material for homeowners who prioritize sustainability. Many recycled materials can be used to make countertops, including glass, paper and even metal. These materials are combined with resins to create a hard, durable surface.

Recycled material countertops are low-maintenance, typically require no sealing, and have a unique appeal for people who prioritize eco-friendly home systems. Some recycled materials come in solid colors, while others are flecked with pieces of material dotting the surface in interesting patterns and colors. You choose.

Pyrolave

Pyrolave is a natural volcanic rock that’s been glazed and fired like a ceramic. It’s incredibly durable and difficult to chip. It’s also non-porous, so you don’t have to worry about bacteria hiding in the cracks of the counter.

Pyrolave comes in solid colors that can’t be changed or refinished. If you ever tire of the color your counters, you’ll have to replace them. This countertop material typically comes in vibrant, bold shades that may not appeal to all audiences. If you’re worried about selling your house soon, Pyrolave may not be the safest choice. It can also be very expensive.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the countertop of choice in professional kitchens. It’s got a cool, industrial appearance that looks right at home with a professional stove and stainless steel appliances. It’s also entirely resistant to burns, melting or staining. If you’re looking for a long-lasting countertop that requires little maintenance, stainless steel is a great choice. One more benefit: it’s entirely recyclable, which means that your counters can have a new life when you decide to replace them with something else.

The downside? Stainless steel scratches easily. Even high quality stainless steel will scratch over time, but the higher quality the steel, the more durable it is. You can rub out some scratches by lightly oiling the surface of the steel with olive oil. Some fine scratches can be removed with a mild abrasive pad. Deeper scratches are there for life unless repaired by a pro.

Laminate

Laminate countertops are an affordable option for homeowners seeking a material that is beautiful, flexible in its appearance and customizable to the space where it’s being installed. Laminate has been around for decades and has made big strides in its durability in recent years. Even if you think you know what laminate is like, you may not – unless you’ve installed laminate in your home sometime in the last decade.

Laminate isn’t as durable as natural materials like stone. It can be melted, chipped or scratched, so it does need to be properly cared for and treated right. Over time, it can delaminate. When this starts to happen, it needs to be replaced.

Zinc

Zinc is a soft metal that’s easily stained by fingerprints and liquids. Over time, little, everyday stains change the countertop surface, creating a patina that’s similar in some ways to the patina that develops on soapstone. Zinc can be polished to a shine, or left with a matte surface. This unusual metal is beautiful and distinctive in its appearance. It looks just right in industrial kitchens and in more traditional kitchen settings.

Epoxy

Epoxy countertops are customizable, beautiful and long-lasting. Some homeowners install their own epoxy countertops, while others hire a contractor to do the work for them. Epoxy can be installed over older countertops, so it’s a popular material for homeowners who want to revitalize their old countertops without paying for all new. Epoxy can be made to resemble certain types of stone, or it can come in solid colors. It can stain, so spills need to be cleaned up as soon as possible.

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