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How the hell do you choose a countertop?

Written on 06-07-2016

A quick Google search and you'll find all sorts of pros and cons to various types of countertops. That's cool and all, but which style and look is the right one for you? There are so many options! Maybe it's not always about facts and figures. You just want to find something that sends the right message, or represents the right lifestyle.

First up: Wood Butcher Blocks

I love the look of butcher block countertops. I've known some earth friendly vegan-esk types who have butcher block in their kitchen. You can see it in the glimmer of their eyes that their kitchen pays homage to mother earth. The earthy tone and rustic feel turns an ordinary kitchen into the 'all natural and organic' isle at the local mom and pop grocery store.

Depending on your taste, you can choose from a variety of woods such as Douglas fir, red alder, western maple, Oregon myrtle, pacific madrone, northwest orchard walnut or African hardwoods Blend. Chose between side grain style or end grain.

Madrone
Butcherblock
Greendepot
Myrtle
Butcherblock
Greendepot
Staff selected butcher block countertops

The amazing thing about butcher block is that, when compared to quartz, it's so cheep it's practically free. Take your quartz countertop quote, knock off two digits and that is your butcher block price. (I might be exaggerating.) You can probably install it for yourself, which is another reduction in the bottom line.

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After a few years of dings and stains, the surface can be sanded down to reveal a new layer of wood. Or you can rip the countertop out, throw it in your fire wood pile and buy a new one. The downside is it has a short life span. Reviews online say that regular maintenance is required to keeping it's beautiful appearance. You can read more on thekitchn.com for a guide on maintenance.

Recycled Glass

Get this, you can combine recycling and style into one. Some brilliant mind came up with the idea of manufacturing a solid surface by mixing shattered recycled glass with a binder such as Portland cement or resin. The results vary between mild and wild, or white to bright.

The look of a glass blend countertop looks traditional from afar, but playful when examined upon a closer look. How bold you want the look really depends on the size of the glass pieces embedded in the surface. Larger pieces of glass create a busy surface that draws the eye in and dominates the design. Smaller pieces of glass compliment the surrounding design. It's like you're saying that you want to use eco-conscious products in your home, but maintain a familiar look that you might see in a traditional kitchen.

S 2067
Epoxy Countertops
Terrazzco
S 3022
Epoxy Countertops
Terrazzco
Staff selected glass composite countertops

If you're like me, when you hold a sample of shattered glass, you lightly rub your fingers across it to see if you might get cut. When it feels smooth, you rub a little harder just to be sure. But no blood, this stuff it perfectly safe.

Prepare to pay a little more than quartz or granite. Typically if something is earth friendly, such as recycled glass, you're paying extra money to keep something out of the landfill. Trashing the earth is cheap and easy. Saving it is hard. Consumers are so accustomed to affordable earth trashing products. The maintenance is similar to granite, in that it requires a sealant every 5 years.

It isn't limited to countertops either. Try it on back splashes, vanities, window sills and commercial retail spaces.

Sleek Quartz

If you're into contemporary design or clean lines, I recommend a single color quartz. I love a solid grey or solid white quartz counter top. Mmmm mmm. 'sizzle....' That was the sound of my finger touching a quartz countertop, because it's so hot.

Lunar Landing
Geo Flecks
Daltile
2003 Concrete
Classico Collection
Caeser Stone
Staff selected quartz countertops

Quartz is durable because it's made from one of the hardest minerals on earth. The quartz is mixed with polyester resins and formed into slabs. They come in a variety of colors and styles, and if you so desire you can achieve more unity in the look than compared to a granite or marble. The resin give them a stain resistant, nonporous quality so there is no need to stain them. However, expect to pay a little more for quartz.

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Solid Glass

Think 'big statement'! When I think of glass countertops with back lighting, I think of warm sun and margaritas at noon. What better way to say 'I make handfuls of cash and still have time to party!'? Float it, back light it ,or back paint it. Glass countertops are a unique and rare finish that provide quality properties such as being heat resistant, stain resistant and scratch resistant. Being a comparable price per square foot as granite, they are just as easy to maintain.

Craco
Glass Kitchen
Natura
Glass Kitchen
Staff selected solid glass countertops

I personally think you have to be careful with solid glass. It can look amazing but only in a select setting. It's blueish or aqua hues tend to dominate the space. I would love to prepare my favorite fish dish, while looking out a window to the ocean on a clean solid glass countertop. Solid glass wouldn't fit into a high altitude mountain cabin, looking out the window upon a bear eating a skier.

I've also seen it used as a kitchen back splash and it looks great.

Stainless Steel

Ohhhhhh if you want something really really sexy, consider stainless steel. It is no longer just for commercial kitchens. It looks good. It stays clean. It's rich. It's contemporary. No one will ever question your cooking skills again once they watch you prepare cereal on a commercial kitchen style countertop.

I toyed with the idea of putting stainless steel into my kitchen until I was warned about the high price of fabrication. I was worried that it wouldn't fit into the bungalow style of the neighborhood. I did like the idea that the reflective surface would make my relatively humble kitchen feel a little larger.

I can list all the benefits of steel, or I can simply say it's tough stuff. Drop an atomic bomb on it and it will survive. You'll have to explain to the United Nations where you got an atomic bomb, but the countertop will be fine.

After the fallout has settled, the surface will still work great but it will take on scratches. After a while the surface will dull, so when you install a stainless steel countertop, just think of the shine as a 'pre-patina' surface.

Travertine

If the countertop styles listed above freak you out, travertine is a safe design. Most houses designed to be sold fast include a kitchen or bathroom lined with a travertine, or similar product with a neutral look. It's a natural stone so it adds quality to the home, and it's neutral enough not to scare the timid buyer.

Torreon
Travertine
Daltile
Staff selected travertine surface

It is a type of limestone that is very porous and almost looks like marble. The mix of iron and other impurities can provide a variety of walnut, gold, cream, coral, beige and ivory colors. You can finish your countertop as either a single slab of stone, or with travertine tile.

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