Marble and travertine countertops are traditional and chic choices for the bath. Softer and more porous, these stones work well in areas that won’t see a lot of stains, and they need regular sealing.
Engineered Stone Also known as quartz, engineered stone imitates the look of natural stone by combining small stone chips, resins and other pigments. These surfaces have quickly become some of the most popular options in countertops because they deflect stains better than natural stone—without the use of a sealer. While quartz surfaces won’t stand up to heavy impacts like granite will, quartz is highly resistant to scratching, scorching and staining and is also easy to maintain.
Some of the key manufacturers of engineered stone are CaesarStone USA, Cambria, DuPont Zodiaq and Silestone, which recently expanded its selection of granite-look surfaces in the Mountain Series (starting at $60 per square foot installed).
Solid Surface Made of resins and combined with mineral fillers, solid surface counters mimic the look of quartz counters, concrete or natural stone. They are non-porous, stain-resistant and provide design versatility, and countertops and backsplashes can be incorporated into the countertop seamlessly. Scratches can be filled in or buffed out if small enough. On the downside, hot pans can discolor the material if left on the counter for too long, so trivets are a must.
Wood counters create instant warmth in a kitchen. Photo courtesy of Grothouse Lumber Company.
Wood The warm, natural appearance of wood countertops makes them a perennial favorite in homes across the country. Maple, cherry and walnut are popular species used for these surfaces; each plank provides a unique grain and character. Ideal for cutting and chopping, butcher block counters, like those by John Boos, are simple to install and surface scratches are usually easy to repair. If left unsealed, wood counters need to be treated regularly with mineral oil (just like you would do with a cutting board) to keep them from drying out.