Help! Which countertop material to choose!

acgummadApril 17, 2013

My family is HARD on countertops in terms of exposure to stain-inducing foods. We drink lots of tea, and live off of from-scratch Indian food, where ladles and spoons covered in turmeric set down on the countertops are a daily occurrence. In all of my research, it looks like granite stains, quartz stains, marble is soft and stains, formica stains, corian is just ugly, and more modern materials such as stainless steel or zinc won't go we because we have a traditional Spanish kitchen.

What is a workhorse of a countertop material that is stain, heat, and scratch, resistant, and is virtually maintenance-free??

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I think you have 3 options:
1) Dark colored quartz- Where did you hear it stains?
2) Corian- Why do you think its ugly?
3) Change your habits- Don't be a slob, put something down so your ladles and spoons don't go directly on the counter. In addition to being messy this is unsanitary if the utensils have just touched raw meat.

I think number 3 is the best way to go.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 10:57PM
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How do you feel about soapstone? It is heat-proof and stain-proof. However, it can scratch.

There is no perfect counter material.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 11:27PM
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I agree with Angie, sounds like you might be a candidate for Soapstone. Except for the scratching, (which can easily be sanded out, if you want) it meets all your criteria. It is a "living" surface, and as long as you accept that, you're good to go.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 12:08AM
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I have three teenage boys who are NOT neat in the kitchen. I have had white-ish quartz counter tops for six months and there is not a stain or scratch on them!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 12:52AM
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Yikes--turmeric really stains. I had a permanent stain in my previous kitchen floor after some curry sauce dripped or fell of someone's plate. When I found it at the end of the evening, it was impossible to remove. Maybe a dark color would be the answer, but I think you need to provide something as a designated landing spot for all ladles and spoons.

Incidentally, I may need to get stronger reading glasses---I thought it said that LADIES and spoons covered in turmeric end up on your counter. I was really wondering about that for a moment.

Finally, I would love to be at your home when you're cooking some of these meals---I'm sure I could learn a lot, and I love Indian food and curries of all types.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 1:19AM
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Get one of the dark, bullet proof granites such as blue pearl, uba tuba, or absolute black. They don't need to be sealed and don't stain.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 1:40AM
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I agree with weissman and would do the same! And your kitchen sounds like a lovely, fun, happy place!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 7:07AM
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Blackish granite. It can crack though if something very hot gets put on it. Rare but it can happen.

I put spoons and utensils directly on my white diamond granite and no stains. I find dried stuff all the time that no one cleans up. It comes right off.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 7:18AM
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As far as I know composite countertops like quartz and corian are nonporous, so even old stains can be cleaned.

Mine is quartz, cleans very easily and doesn't scratch.

But I'd recommend lighter colors. Though not plain ones, say like silestone Zen series, but something like zirix, quasar, etc. where any stain can blend with the design until cleaned. On dark surfaces they might appear as lackluster spots.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 1:48AM
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I suggest you order samples of quartz countertops that you like and test them yourself. Put a blob of your messiest sauce on it overnight. Try to create a coffee mug ring. I ordered bunches of samples from Cambria and Caesarstone, but I eventually went with a dark leathered granite because it was less expensive and less likely to chip (although chips can be repaired in granite or quartz). I can't imagine my countertop scratching or staining, and my family is not at all careful. Just this morning my daughter was using permanent markers to color on a thin piece of paper. Of course it bled through, but I'm not worried about a stain. You can also get samples of most granites to test, and many have sealers that last for years. Even if it does stain you can likely get it out. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:19AM
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weissman's got the answer, but I must say I love Corian, though I've never had it.

We've had a lot of chatter around here lately about Uba Tuba. Gosh, I love that granite, even it was once over-used. It is almost impermeable to staining, reasonably priced, and sooo easy to maintain. Assume Ab-Black would be the same, and might be better w/Spanish style.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:31AM
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I went with the dark granite (volga blue) because I like the look of granite and wanted the most "bullet proof" I could get. It's new so I can't speak to ability to take teens in action.

Which do you prefer? I think you can find a solution in a number of materials--pick the one you like best.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:42AM
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I echo the suggestion of a dark quartz that has some pattern in it. Maybe something like the attached pic.

Quartz seems to be the lowest maintenance material, and stains clean easily with Soft Scrub.

This link below the picture gives you a nice comparison of the most popular countertop choices.

Here is a link that might be useful: kitchen countertops

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 12:29PM
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I have a Corian countertop in my bathroom and a 15 year old Formica in my kitchen. Honestly I think the Formica performs better. Red wine stains clean up pretty easy on my Formica. On my Corian countertop, I had a ink stain from a price tag on the bottom of bottle that has never come out completely and it does scratch. When I redo my kitchen I am leaning towards quartz. If I wasn't worried about resale value I would go with Formica.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 2:03PM
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Wow, these replies have been really helpful.

Realism - 'Don't be a slob?!' I am actually a neat-freak, but I'll assume by your assumption that if there is a dirty spoon on the counter that it must be me who set it there, that you have neither children or guests in your home. Ever. I simply can't control how anyone behaves in my kitchen other than myself, so no, this isn't slobbery so much as it is foresight and proactiveness on my part to secure a material that can take a beating from a plethora of people.

So, my biggest 'oh no!' about these replies is that so many of them refer me to dark colors - uba tuba granite, soapstone, volga blue (which I LOVE but would never go in my kitchen)... we have a Spanish colonial house - architecturally authentic, and the kitchen is truly Spanish. Not Spanish STYLE, but really spanish, in that the cabinetry is all totally dark, open shelving on uppers, tile is reclaimed from an old palace in Seville in the south of Spain.... in other words, dark countertops just aren't a match for this. It's not traditional for this style for one thing, and it wouldn't be a good design fit with really dark cabinetry.

So, having explained that, I DO need something lighter to offset very dark cabinetry, and to complement the plastered, creamy white-washed Spanish glazed walls. So, if something light is my option, THEN what would you suggest??

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:41PM
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Sail-away, I loved your reply. Totally gave me the laugh I needed today. I would totally cook for you!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:42PM
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Get some samples and try to destroy them, lol. That's what I do.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:46PM
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I have tropic brown granite for 12 1/2 years. It is a darker variety, it looks black from a distance. It looks as good today as it did when it was installed. NO stains, no etching you can set cast iron pots from the oven on top of it, no problem. It doesn't need to be sealed and shines up easily when you just spray it with a little cleaner. I did say, NO STAINS at all after 12 1/2 years and I put everything on it without reservation. I can't for the life of me understand why you all want to baby your countertops, it would drive me insane, I'm too busy and there are too many people who use the kitchen. And it is a kitchen, not a showplace, designed for work and food preparation which is inherently messy, preparing food does not make you a slob!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:57PM
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Light granites can be sealed to prevent stains - sealing isn't a big deal - you just need to do it every six months or so.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:01AM
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What counter do you have now? How has it held up?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 7:45AM
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Would copper work? Seems it could fit with your traditional Spanish kitchen - and I think the changing patina is beautiful.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 9:58AM
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To satisfy all your requirements, I would say Corian is the best fit. After twenty years of Corian, there was never a stain that I couldn't get out. Even grocery bill ink came out after a quick wipe with Soft Scrub Gel with Bleach, no damage to the Corian. It can scratch, but those from every day use were not obvious unless you looked at the counter closely at eye level. It's the most durable countertop I've ever used. I'm not sure what the aversion is to Corian; the new colors look quite nice to me.

I thought quartzite was supposed to be durable and low maintenance? As long as you get quartzite (and not marble that was mislabeled), it reportedly holds up well, and you could get the light color your crave.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:09PM
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Holly- Kay

I have Corian and I hate it. Maybe it is just that the color is blah but it scratches easily. I found that out making Thanksgiving dinner several years ago when I mashed potatoes in a pottery mixing bowl. I was turning it to even out the mashing and later when I transfered the finished potatoes to my slow cooker I saw the horrible scratches. They have seemed to soften a bit over the years and are not as noticeable. I have a mid tone granite in my other home and I don't baby it at all! It has never stained.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:15PM
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Planning a remodel, but still love my silver sea green granite. It's indestructible and I hope to find something else that can take a beating, but I too want lighter this time around.

Agree with Snookums, get some samples to punish. I'm currently torturing a sample of White Ice, but so far so good, but I haven't tried turmeric!

Maybe pick a color granite that is already spicy in color, with a lot of gold, rust or movement. Wouldn't see any staining. Do those colors go with your palate?

Have Corian in a bathroom love the integrated sink because there is no seam or lip to clean, but other than that I think Corian is blah, dull, plastic looking and can't wait to get rid of it. That material doesn't sound like a good fit with an authentic Spanish kitchen.

I'm also curious, what type of countertops do you gave now?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:22PM
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I am glad to hear this tumeric warning! I have never used it but picked some up a couple weeks ago. It's supposed to be very healthy! Had no idea about the staining though and will have to test first, lol.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:42PM
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For Spanish style, choose a tile counter. Larger format porcelain, and with epoxy grout. It will stand up to everything you can possibly dish out to it.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 2:28PM
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Won't do tile for countertops, it's just not me. I have formica now, it came with the house. It's held up remarkably well, but it stains. I tend to use those Clorox gel pens whenever I've got turmeric stains to clear up, and that works.

Don't remember who, but someone made a suggestion of granite with a lot of movement in it, because it hides well. I think this is a great idea. I would love to look at some honed granite. I think the polished variety is simply going to look, well, too polished.

I've also got my eye on a new Caeserstone called Dreamy Marfil. It's wonderfully creamly, and veiny likely marble, but obviously has the strength and durability of quartz. Any thoughts on this one?

Also, can anyone tell me the difference between Caeserstone and Cambria? Are these simply different brands of quartz?

Also, 'gramma', would love, love, love to do copper countertops, but have no clue how to do that for a reasonable cost. Copper costs a fortune. I'm trying to figure out how to get the sink for less than $3K.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:07PM
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acgummad-There is a GW member here, circuspeanut, who DYI'd her own gorgeous copper counters. You might find it interesting; I'll link the post:

Here is a link that might be useful: copper countertops

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:24PM
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Oh my-lanta, I can't believe she put that much work into it! They look incredible, and how impressive that she took that on herself. Thanks for sharing this link, leela. Really helpful.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:54PM
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Yep, Caeserstone and Cambria are both quartz (as are Zodiaq, Silestone, and Hanstone).

Order a sample of one or more of these (I paid about $20 for a 12"x12" sample of Cambria), and put it to the test. I smashed some blueberries into my Cambria sample and let it sit overnight - it wiped right up in the morning.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:03AM
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Just a caution that honed granite stains much more than polished and does not hold up as well.

The Dreamy Marfil is pretty. Ditto on the different brands of quartz. There are some nice pattern in Cambria that you can see here

Here is a link that might be useful: Cambria Design Palette

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 2:09PM
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Thanks much, ann and sweetremodel. Very helpful posts. Will plan to look at some other quartz samples across the various brands, and will backseat the honed granite unless I see something I can't live without.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 8:50PM
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If you have a Granite Transformations franchise in your area, get a few samples from them. I tested one of granite and two of recycled glass for a few weeks before deciding on the blackest glass. The installers ripped out the old countertop completely and built a new base, so no worries about any gaps or shifting. Maintenance is a damp cloth, maybe a little Dawn detergent.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 8:20PM
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