What are the best countertop choices for a busy kitchen?

glitter_and_gunsApril 9, 2014

I am just getting my research in place for either a full remodel or maybe just a face lift of my kitchen. Either way, the laminate countertops that were in the kitchen when I bought it a year ago are on their way out. And picking a countertop material seems to be the hardest decision that I will make. Maybe y'all could offer some advice?

The parameters - Counter top will be visible from main living area. Everything needs to be painted, so I can work from the kitchen for colors into the living space.

I have a love for darker woods with a lot of age on them - my table is an antique, aged, somewhere between a mahogany and walnut toned table and it will be staying and will be in the same visual area.

I have golden oak cabinets that are in great shape but wouldn't have been my color choice back in 1990 when they went in, still don't like them. I will either replace or am considering having them painted. Want to end up with a darker mink color (between a grey and a taupe).

Flooring will be put in new, so that isn't an issue.

The kitchen is a wide galley with a lot of natural light - skylights, french doors, big window. 6 feet between cabinets on one wall to the other.

And now the hard part - I love the look of marble. It is timeless and clean looking. It has the colors in it that I want. It can be done with a softer looking finish (I think the shiny finishes will tend to look "plasticy" with all the light in my kitchen and I am sure evry etch or scratch will light up when the sun hits it). BUT!!!! I refuse to be the counter top police. I have tweens and teens, a pool, and there are people here constantly. My kitchen is used by lots of people besides me and my immediate family. Over spring break my kids had a cupcake decorating contest with some of their friends - I had bits of fondant stuck to everything. We often have large groups of family and friends over for pool parties. Margaritas will be made. And they will be spilled. I like nice things very much, but I like having a home that people feel comfy in even more. Plus, as often as people are here, I would be nuts if I had to be the only one in the kitchen all of the time.

The good news is that I don't need to worry about resale value - so I can pick what works for us.

So, realistically what are my best choices for counter tops? Thank you all so much for pointing me in the right direction!

This post was edited by glitter_and_guns on Wed, Apr 9, 14 at 10:53

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your best bet is a laminate that resembles marble.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:09AM
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I have honed calacatta marble and I love it.

There are three issues with marble that people talk about--chipping, staining and etching. But only one of them is really an issue.

Chipping--while it is an issue, other natural materials chip too, so I don't think it is fair to say that chipping is an issue unique to marble. It is softer than granite but I had granite before and I had plenty of chips around my sink. I This time around I am trying harder to be careful. I have trained my husband to lower pots into the sink carefully and I keep a cutting board strategically located right above the dishwasher pulled all the way forward. Over the dishwasher is a prime place for chips.

Staining--this one is a really stupid issue because it does not have to be an issue at all. Marble does not stain if you get it sealed, assuming you clean your counters daily! My counters were sealed when they were installed almost 18 months ago and still nothing stains them. Not wine, not tomato sauce. Nothing. Last evening, I found coffee and strawberry juice from the morning that I must have missed when cleaning--I wiped it up hours later and no stains. Sometimes coffee gets under the Nespresso machine. I find it days and days later and clean it without a problem.

Etching is the issue. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. We had a party last year and made margaritas--there are little rings all over the area where the blender and glasses were. We use a lot of lemons and limes and there are little spots on my counters where they squirt past the cutting board. I am very careful about citrus--that is about the only thing that etches every time--but careful doesn't equal perfect. If I am juicing a bunch of lemons, I do it over the sink. I have been able to wipe up citrus within a couple of seconds with no etching.

Honing helps as etching shows more on a polished surface.

Only you know whether the etching will bother you too much to live with it. Does it bother me? A little. Do I wish it wouldn't etch? Yes. Am I the counter police? A bit but I am easing up over time especially because I know that lemons and limes are the real culprits so I can mostly control that. The next margarita party might see a towel put down by the blender and some extra cutting boards.

To me, nothing is as beautiful as marble and I would do it again in a heartbeat. But it is not for everyone.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:16AM
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Seems like it depends on how much wear and tear you can put up with. If you don't mind a few scratches, some etching, etc. then go with laminate or marble. We had laminate at our old house and the scratches drove me nuts!

We have granite now. A dark granite, so very little shows on it, it is supposed to be *very* durable. Last night I decided to take apart our old printer and see what was inside (I have an inquiring mind). I didn't want to risk scratching our nice wood dining table, so I took my little project to the kitchen. Nice to not have to worry about little metal things damaging our countertop!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:26AM
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It's probably not what you want look-wise but a dark, dense bullet-proof granite such as Blue Pearl or Ubatuba would definitely meet your needs. They generally don't ever need sealing, don't stain and don't etch. Lighter granites won't etch but with periodic sealing they won't stain.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:26PM
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We tore out 24-yr-old laminate last summer, and it didn't show any wear. It was ugly as heck, but wore like iron. We're a family of 4 - our 19-yr-old sons were born in this house.

Now we have quartz, and my only (very minor) concern with it is that it isn't as forgiving if you drop something on it. In 7 months we haven't broken anything yet, so maybe my fear is unfounded.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:36PM
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Why not use a marble looking Caesarstone or Cambria etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Little Big House Blog:alternatives to marble

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:42PM
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Another vote for an engineered stone that looks like marble. There are some really pretty ones out there.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:42PM
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We have polished tan brown granite, a dark granite that doesn't stain. I have a busy family of six and live on a farm, so I could not go with a counter that would need to be babied.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:44PM
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