Kitchen Countertop Surfaces 101
03/27 Design Tips

Kitchen Countertop Surfaces 101

The pros, cons, and all the info on different countertop options!

Countertop surfaces have come a long way since the days of formica (a countertop founded in 1912!) and we’re so glad it has! With all the options out there now, it can be tough to know what material is going to be best for you and your home. We’ve created a list of what you need to know, so you can pick the perfect surface for your spaces.

MARBLE

  • Porous surface – meaning it will stain.
  • Easily stained and etched.
  • Classic and timeless.
  • Needs to be resealed every 1-2 years.
  • Heat resistant, but not as effective as granite or options. May experience slight burn, cracking from thermal shock, or color discoloration.
If you already have marble and you’re wondering how we recommend cleaning, check out our guide!

Design by Distinctive Kitchens

Quartz

  • Man made surface.
  • Stain, scratch, heat, acid and impact resistant.
  • Comes in an array of colors and options.
  • Non-porous surface, it doesn’t need to be sealed.
  • Very practical, durable and easy to maintain.
SM MMH Quartz.jpg

From our Modern Mountain Home

Quartzite

  • All natural stone.
  • Needs to be sealed and resealed once a year.
  • Available in a variety of colors, tones and variances in spotting.
  • Sister surface to quartz.
  • More expensive than quartz.

From our Mountainside Remodel

Soapstone

  • Dense and non-porous.
  • Susceptible to scratches and nicks, but the small imperfections can typically be buffed out with sandpaper.
  • Typically found only in gray tones with varying veining patterns.
  • Develops a patina with use.
  • Recommend applying mineral oil occasionally to help disguise small surface scratches.

Design by Rafe Churchill

Butcher Block

  • Sanitary when properly sealed
  • Provides great work space for chopping and baking
  • Heat resistant
  • Gorgeous when mixed with other surfaces
  • Adds warmth and character

From our Robin Road Remodel

Concrete

  • Stain, heat and water resistant when sealed
  • Customizable in thickness, edges, color and texture
  • Not your typical countertop surface
  • Seams can be filled so it’s one continuous surface
  • Will patina over time

Design by Joanna Gaines

Granite

  • Comes in wide range of colors and variations
  • Polished or matte
  • Spills wipe up quickly
  • Non-porous material after it’s sealed
  • Affordable

From our Midway House

Limestone

  • High maintenance.
  • Potential to burn.
  • Spills need to be cleaned up quickly.
  • Etching is fairly common.
  • Variety of beautiful, natural looking options.

Design by deVOL Kitchens

Show Comments
39 Comments
Studio McGee
  1. We built a new house last fall and did quartz in our kitchen (Whitney by Cambria) and I LOVE how practical and beautiful it is. I love the look of marble but I’m a complete disaster in the kitchen so quartz made the most sense for us. Love the guide you’ve put together!

      1. yes we did, I went with a marble looking porcelain subway tile in a herringbone pattern, and I’m really happy with the way they look together.

  2. Perfect timing! I just picked my countertops today. Quartz waterfall (marble look) for the island and butcher block for the wall sections.

  3. What are your thoughts on the new-ish Formica fx line? I have never seen it in person and I’m curious how good/bad it is…

  4. I love the timeless beauty of marble but for practical purposes I think it would be just too high maintenance in addition to it being very expensive. I am sorry you didn’t feature the new Formica fx line too. It really has come a long way and they have one finish called Calcutta Marble that really gives marble a run for its money. Until you touch it, its hard to tell its isn’t marble plus the cost is very affordable for homeowners on a tighter budget.

    Personally, I vote for Quartz or Granite.

  5. I’m in the process of building and trying to decide what to do with my countertops. I have a dark navy island where I was thinking of doing butcher block and white back counters with a white Quartz. I’m hoping it will look great. Any input?

    1. I just did a kitchen remodel last month and used white quartz on surround counters and butcher block on my island. The dark walnut is a show stopper and the first thing people comment about. It totally made my kitchen feel like home. The quartz is great too! Spilled cranberry juice and it left zero mess behind.

  6. Great post! We just put in Quartzite countertops, what is the best way to clean them? I’ve been getting mixed feedback from different sources. Thanks!

  7. We’ve had Quartzite (white macaubus) on our island for the last 2.5 years and I LOVE it! I have 3 kids and a messy husband and I never worry about anything with them – red wine, vinegar, ketchup, lemonade…all things that would etch marble but does nothing to the Quartzite. In response to a previous poster, I just wipe it with a Clorex wipe to clean.

    We have marble countertops in 4 of our bathrooms and they’re beautiful (and slightly etched), I love them but I need to be more worry-free in the kitchen.

    Lastly, we just put Neolith (marble lookalike) in our laundry room 2 weeks ago so I can’t speak to durability, but it’s beautiful. My very experienced fabricator said that even he has difficulty telling the difference between Neolith and marble at first glance.

    Love your work Shea!

    1. Nancy,

      I’m about to install Neolith in my kitchen. Any comments on how you like it thus far? Did you get polished or silk? Also, what color did you opt for? It’s new in the New Orleans area so I’m a bit nervous – I’ve read some scary stories about installs that weren’t done well. Thanks for your feedback!

      Holly

      1. I have polished Calacatta. It’s really beautiful but we’ve only had it a few weeks so I can’t comment yet on its durability, likelihood to scratch, etc. I do know from my very experienced fabricators that it’s more difficult to install than natural stone, so I’d recommend you use someone who has a lot of experience with Neolith. I read a lot about Neolith on the Houzz forums before choosing it, so I suggest you check there as well. Good luck!

  8. I have marble for bathroom counter. I’ve sealed so have haven’t really had a problem with staining, and the etching turned out not to bother me that much (which was a surprise). What has bothered me to the point that I would not choose it again is the ‘stun’ marks. Nobody told me about stun marks. I have a gray marble, and dropping items on it has caused white marks that look like a ‘chip’, but they are pretty much un-fixable (I’ve had stone experts look at it). And when I say ‘drop’ I mean a nail polish bottled slipped out of my hand from about 6" above the surface and bounced a few times on the counter. I understand not all marble ‘stuns’ – so check this out before you have it installed.

    I’ll use Quartz or Quartizte next time.

  9. Building a new house. In November I picked marble carerra for back side kitchen tops, bathrooms and laundry room. I saw this blog last night and started to 2nd guess :-(. There coming to install next week. I went to the shop today and found a quartz I love as well. I have 2 kids, 3 and 6, am I crazy for going with marble? I have till this Friday to change my mind. I’m a little OCD and from the mix reviews I’m reading on marble I feel like keeping it clean is going to run my life. HELP

    1. We took home a sample of marble and put some stuff from the fridge (wine, soup, lemon, etc.) on it to see what would happen. We quickly decided it didn’t fit our lifestyle. We went with Colonial White granite instead, which isn’t as lovely as marble but fits our lifestyle much better. Don’t be tricked into thinking that granite or quartz are stainproof though!!! I’ve seen stains on both when they’re in lighter colors.

    2. Amanda, I think only you can decide if the etching will bother you, because know that marble WILL etch. I knew it would bother me in the kitchen (and I would be stressed trying to prevent the etching by watching my kids, husband and guests constantly), so I opted for Quartzite (white macaubus) which is PERFECT for me. It’s real stone, looks very similar to marble, and is bullet proof. I did use marble in all of my bathrooms and there are far fewer substances used in bathrooms that will etch marble so there it’s really not much of an issue. Things commonly used in kitchens that causing etching are red wine, vinegar, lemon juice/lemonade, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard…this list goes on.

      Good luck with your decision!

      1. I should add, keeping marble clean really isn’t a problem. I’ve had a few stains on my marble in my bathrooms and I’ve gotten them all out with a hydrogen peroxide paste. Etching is permanent, which was the concern for me.

        1. Nancy, thank you for replying. I made the decision to change to Quartz :-). The marble I was going with was Brazilian carrerra and I changed to super white quartz. I feel like 1000 lbs have been lifted off my shoulders. A little more expensive, but I know I was going to be over my kids and guests shoulders with the marble. I’m having it installed in bathrooms and back countertops in kitchen. Thank you again for commenting, I feel I have made a better decision 🙂

  10. We bought our house with concrete countertops. How often does concrete need to be sealed? Do you happen to have any good resources on maintaining? Thanks 🙂

  11. We remodeled our kitchen and originally planned to go with quartz, but after seeing real marble, I fell in love with the natural beauty of stone that cannot be replicated in a man-made product. We’ve had it for 3 months and we’ve had etching even though we are very careful, but no staining. We had a honed countertop and polished island so that we could have some contrast and interest. I really love the honed surface and it’s much easier to take care of. We used a Carrara marble, which is not expensive. The quality of the stone is comparable to higher priced marble, but it’s very common and affordable. You have to decide whether the look of marble outweighs the extra care and imperfections. I look at the marble as a piece of art in my kitchen and the beauty is worth it to me.

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