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A Guide to 7 Popular Countertop Materials (page 1 of 2)

It can be tough to choose the right countertop with so many materials available on the market. Here's a guide to seven popular materials to help you decide what's best for your kitchen.

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Granite

Granite may have more competition than ever before, but its popularity is still unquestioned. The beautiful, strong surface of granite has a natural grain, which gives each installation a unique look. The downside is the fact that it's porous, which means a yearly sealing is required. Stains should also be wiped up promptly.

Price range per square foot: $60-$100

Courtesy of Sarah Barnard Design

Wood

Wood's calling card is its beauty and warmth, and it's surprisingly durable, since scratches can generally be buffed out. According to manufacturer Craft Art, the enemy of the wood countertop is a Crock-Pot without a trivet — you must protect the surface from direct heat. During installation, it’s important to give wood room to breathe; don’t jam it in where it can’t move (say, with walls on three sides), or install it directly on top of a substrate, as it will warp.

Pricing reflects the range between a thinner unfinished wood countertop you can install yourself and a thick finished custom wood countertop, which is more difficult to source. The countertop shown is distressed black walnut with a tung oil finish.

Price range per square foot: $35-$250

Courtesy of Craft Art

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel fits a number of looks, from modern industrial to country farmhouse. Plus, it can take the heat: 800 degrees of it, in fact (although we don't recommend you actually test its limitations). It technically can rust, according to manufacturer Craft Art, but that happens at such a slow pace that it will still outlast you by a long shot.

Care for stainless steel countertops is actually similar to that for wood: You can’t bleach it or use other caustic chemicals, but you can completely disinfect it with vinegar and water. The countertop shown, made by Eskay Metal Fabricating, has a built-in backsplash and drain board as well as an apron front with a marine (raised) edge to catch liquids. It comes standard with a wooden core; you can install it yourself just as you would a laminate countertop.

Price range per square foot: $70-$150

Courtesy of Courtesy of SpecialtyStainless.com

Engineered Stone

Engineered stone typically uses about 90 percent quartz in a manufacturing process that yields a tough, durable product. It’s marketed under the brand names Caesarstone, Cambria and Silestone, among others.

“It’s my number-one choice,” says contractor Jeff Streich of Prime Renovations in New York. “I used to favor natural stone, but in Manhattan, where resale value is most important, engineered stone has almost no drawbacks. It’s strong, it’s beautiful and you don’t have to seal it.” He suggests, for example, that in a kitchen where you envisioned white marble, Caesarstone Blizzard offers a crisp-looking alternative that will stand up far better to heavy use.

Price range per square foot: $60-$80

Courtesy of Caesarstone

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