A Beautiful Countertop Completes Any Kitchen
It’s almost impossible to imagine a modern kitchen without a countertop. Indeed, a countertop is no longer simply the place in the kitchen where food is prepared, and it's become such an integral part of the look of the kitchen that an unattractive and badly installed countertop can ruin a kitchen’s looks. On the other hand, a beautiful countertop can make an otherwise pedestrian kitchen shine. Countertops now come a great many materials and an endless assortment of colors and patterns that beautifully complement the overall decor of the kitchen. Indeed, lots of homeowners plan the look of their kitchen around the material, color and texture of their countertop. It is also good to remember that the entire countertop doesn’t need to be made of just one material. Some materials, such as marble, are great for rolling out pastry, while a section of butcher block in another area of the room might be just the thing for prepping meats and vegetables.
A standard countertop is 25 inches deep and placed atop a 36 inch high cabinet or kitchen island. Standard as opposed to luxury materials include laminate, solid surface, tile and butcher block. Laminate counters are made by pressure bonding laminate sheets over particleboard. Most of these types of counters come with an integral backsplash and edges. Popular edges for laminate counters are waterfall, radius edge and roundover, though some homeowners opt for a different and complementary material for the edge such as wood.
Solid surface counters are molded from acrylic and resin, and some come with an integral sink, backsplash and dish drain. Because they are solid, without the layers found in laminate counters, they can be made into interesting shapes with regular power tools. They are durable and easy to maintain, but one characteristic to be wary of is their propensity to expand under heat. Because of this, manufacturers suggest leaving an 1/8 of an inch gap between the edge of the solid surface counter and the kitchen wall. Hide the gap with a backsplash. They are a nice alternative to the choice of quartz countertops.
Though luxury countertops may have the same dimensions as standard countertops, they are made of more sumptuous materials. These include:
- Natural stone such as marble, granite and soapstone
- Porcelain or ceramic tile
- Metals such as copper, brass and stainless steel.
Concrete is becoming more and more popular as a countertop material. Though some people like the industrial look of plain concrete, others are having their concrete counters polished, stained or dyed. Some are split level and have trivets embedded in them to accommodate hot pots and pans.
Granite countertops come in many colors beside the familiar salt and pepper and is still used for large areas of counter space. Marble countertops are good as an inset, for it is softer than granite. Soapstone is so soft that the homeowner can remove scratches and dings with sandpaper. Yet it is utterly resistant to hot utensils and chemical spills. Porcelain tile is hard, beautiful and waterproof. Sunlight won’t fade it because the color is baked in.
How a countertop is maintained depends on what it is made of. Most natural stone counters have to be sealed every year or so to protect them from stains and should be washed now and then with a pH neutral cleanser. The same is true of concrete.
Porcelain tile is waterproof and can be cleaned with a mildly abrasive cleaner. If there’s grout, it needs to be sealed to protect it. Laminate counters can be washed with a cloth dipped in dishwashing detergent and tepid water, and stains can be removed with a paste of baking soda and water.
Soapstone does not need sealant, but mineral oil brings out its beauty. Metal counters can be wiped with a drop or two of dishwashing detergent or a gentle cleansing powder then dried completely. Solid surface counters should be washed with a cloth that is just damp and dried. They are one of the few countertop materials that can be cleaned with ammonia or a very dilute solution of water and bleach.