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GGCL Guide Best Countertops for Busy Kitchens

Replacing a scratched, scorched, stained, or just plain unattractive countertop can transform any kitchen. Happily, there are lots of options in a wide range of prices. A Porcelain countertop can cost as little as $5 per square foot. Or you could easily spend 10 times that on quartz, granite, or recycled glass.

Consumer Reports tested more than a dozen popular types of countertops to see how well they resisted stains, heat damage, cuts, abrasion, and impact, and found seven that passed muster. Here are the details.

In our
countertop tests, performance varied from one material to the next but there was little difference among competing brands of each type, so be sure to shop around for the best deal on your countertop material of choice. The prices below are per square foot. For the pros and cons of each type, see the numbered entries below.

Countertop Intelligence

1. Quartz
Pros: It mimics the look of stone yet needs less maintenance. Hot pots, serrated knives, abrasive pads, and most stains were no match for quartz, which is a combination of mineral, color, and resin. It comes in vibrant colors in addition to patterns that look like granite and marble.
Cons: Edges and corners can chip, and you’ll need a pro to repair them. Rounded edges help.

2. Granite
Pros: Each slab of this natural material is unique; rare colors and veining cost more. Heat, cuts, and scratches didn’t harm granite in our tests. Polished and matte finishes resisted most stains when properly sealed, so pick the look you prefer.
Cons: Periodic resealing is needed to fend off stains. Like quartz, edges and corners can chip and must be professionally repaired.

3. Soapstone, Limestone, and Marble
Pros: Soapstone isn’t as common as granite, and it’s superb at resisting heat damage. Small scratches can be repaired by sanding finely and applying mineral oil. Limestone (pictured) and marble are classic materials. Limestone also has a natural-stone look without heavy veining or graining, and it resists heat.
Cons: Soapstone nicks, cuts, and scratches easily, and some stains are too tough to be washed away. Limestone and marble also have those drawbacks, and heat damaged our marble.

4. Laminate
Pros: Inexpensive, easy to install, and so much better-looking than you probably remember, thanks to new printing technology and decorative edges. Stains and heat didn’t damage the laminates we tested.
Cons: Cutting directly on it easily and permanently damages laminate, so use a cutting board.

5. Solid Surfacing
Pros: Available in a variety of colors and patterns, it can be used for the counters, sink, and backsplash, creating a seamless look because joints are almost invisible. And like quartz, its color won’t vary much from the store sample. Solid surfacing is resistant to most stains, and small nicks and scratches can be repaired.
Cons: It scratches and cuts easily, so a cutting board is a must.

6. Recycled Glass
Pros: Large shards give it a fun, contemporary look; finely ground glass makes it less busy. Most glass counters we tested resisted stains, cuts, scratches, and heat.
Cons: It’s the only material for which we found a difference among brands. Cosentino’s Eco counters were the only ones that developed a thin crack during our heat tests.

7. Butcher Block
Pros: It adds warmth and is easy to install and repair, but the finish makes a difference. Varnish improved stain resistance, but penetrating oils diminished it.
Cons: Nicks and scratches can easily happen, though they can be sanded out.

 

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GGCL Differentiating COUNTERTOP MATERIAL COMPARISON: CONCRETE VS. GRANITE, QUARTZ,Porcelain Slabs and More

While concrete is not the only option for kitchen countertops, it offers a number of advantages that other materials cannot match, particularly when it comes to versatility. Here, we compare concrete with some of the most popular alternatives.

CHARACTERISTICS TO COMPARE

Here is how concrete stacks up in ten categories compared to other countertop materials like granite and quartz:

  • Heat resistance - Concrete is very heat resistant but avoid placing hot pots or pans on sealed surfaces, since the heat can damage or discolour the sealer.
  • Cost factors that influence the final cost.
  • Needs sealing - In its natural state, concrete is porous and may stain. Applying a surface sealer will make the concrete water and stain resistant.
  • Stain resistant - Spills happen frequently in a kitchen, it is important to have a counter that is not susceptible to staining. A good sealer will protect your concrete from wine, mustard, oil and more.
  • Colour options - Colour options with concrete are nearly endless with integral colors, staining, or both. This gives you the ability to coordinate or match the countertop with other colors in a room.
  • Cast in any shape - Concrete can be cast in any shape and practically any size.
  • Visible seams or grout lines - Large concrete countertops will have seams, but the appearance can be minimized with the use of a colors-matched filler.

COUNTERTOP COMPARISON CHART

 

Granite

Synthetic Solid Surface

Porcelain Slab Tile

Laminate

Engineered Quartz

Concrete

Resistant to high heat

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes
(unless treated with a sealer or wax)

Cost per square foot

$70-$175

$50-$90

$20-$70

$20-$50

$80-$140

$65-$135
(For a standard 1.5-inch-thick countertop.)

Needs sealing

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

Stain resistant

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes, when sealed

Color options

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Unlimited

Cast in any shape

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Visible seams or grout lines

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

No
(when seam filler is used)

Endless edge details

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Accepts inserts and inlays

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Appearance improves with age

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

  • Endless edge details - Contractors can create custom edge forms to replicate any design using moulding products such as extruded styrene or liquid rubber or plastic. Accepts inserts and inlays - Concrete countertops can be personalized with unique embedded items such as pebbles, recycled glass and seashells.
  • Appearance can improve with age - Concrete is not a static material. It will evolve and acquire character over time, developing a warm patina.

 

CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS VS GRANITE

Granite is a common material used for countertops. It shares many qualities with concrete countertops including being strong and durable. The costs are similar, with a simple concrete counter being slightly less expensive.

While you can find many different colors of granite, concrete has a limitless palette. Furthermore, concrete can be made to resemble any surface material including granite. In addition to the colors, concrete can be poured seamlessly, whereas granite may need to be installed in multiple pieces, giving you seams across your counters.

 

CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS VS. QUARTZ

Another common countertop material is quartz. Quartz can be customized to your project much like concrete. Since quartz is an engineered stone it comes in a wider array of colors and patterns than granite, but not quite as many as concrete. Concrete is noticeably more cost-efficient when compared with quartz.

Quartz offers strength and durability but cannot match concrete’s versatility when adding texture. Concrete can mimic natural materials like wood, or stone. Along with its color, concrete can take on a very realistic appearance, unlike quartz.

 

GGCL Guide On How to install a preformed countertop

Installing countertops is easier than you might think, especially with preformed models. When it comes to kitchen remodelling, installing your own countertop is an opportunity for self-expression – and money savings. To help you do the job efficiently and with style, we’ve listed the nine simple steps for installing your new countertop, as well as all the essential materials you will need.

Materials required
here are some essentials for a typical L-shaped kitchen countertop with a cut-out for a sink or range top installation:

  • Countertop sections; order standard lengths. Your dealer should be able to mitre cut and machine the fastening-bolt T-slots (underside of the joint).
  • Fastening bolts (for drawing mitre joints tight)
  • Tube of sealant (for caulking joints)
  • End splash and/or end caps (kits, as required). These should be available from your dealer.
  • Non-flammable contact adhesive (for fastening end caps, unless kit has pre-applied adhesive for "iron-on" method)
  • White glue (for fastening "build-up" blocks)

Tools Required:

  • Jig Saw
  • Drill and Drill Bit
  • Block Plane
  • Belt Sander
  • Smooth File
  • Hand Laminate Trimmer with carbide cutter
  • C-Clamps (for holding "build-up" blocks and end caps or splash to glue and screw)
  • Safety Glasses
  • Tape Measure
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Level
  • Square
  • Hammer
  • Handsaw
  • J-Roller
  • Scriber-Compass
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Caulk Gun
  • Heat-Conductive Aluminium Tape

 

Step 1: Fitting to Length
Check for proper length. Allow desired overhang. End caps should be used on all exposed ends (end cap kits). End splashes should be used where top butts wall (end splash kit). Additional material should be allowed to scribe for a tight fit to end wall.


Step 2: Cutting
Cover the area to be sawed with a strip of masking tape and draw a pencil line on the tape to serve as your cutting guide. Use a fine-tooth handsaw (10 to 12 point) and always cut into the laminate surface to avoid chipping. Sand or file the cut to ensure a smooth surface.


Step 3: Build-up
Place your countertop upside down on a flat surface. Choose strips of wood thick enough to allow the countertop surface to match the front build-up. Glue strips around perimeter of
countertop.

Step 4: Applying End Caps
To apply end caps, set household iron at medium heat. Iron cap onto the end of the
countertop with a back-and forth motion. Let set for one minute, and then tap the cap carefully with a rubber mallet. Finish trimming with a fine file, applying pressure only on the up strokes. Complete instructions are included in the end cap kit. To apply end caps using non pre-glued end caps, apply a contact adhesive to both the substrate and the laminate. Roll laminate with a J-roller. Finish trimming with a fine file, applying only pressure in the up strokes. If using a Laminate trimmer with a flush trim carbide router bit, remove excess laminate and file smooth applying only pressure in the up strokes.

Step 5: Making Cutouts for Sinks or Range tops
Place the sink or range top rim on the backside of the
countertop, where the appliance is to be located. Mark all the way around the edge of the rim. Use a jig saw to cut the hole 1/4" to 3/8“smaller than the line. All cutout corners should have clean, chip-free radii. Apply two layers of heat-conductive aluminium tape around range topcut out.

Step 6: Joining Mitres
If your kitchen requires an L- or U-shaped top, pre-cutmitres should be joined at this point in the installation. Apply a bead of sealant to each mitred edge. Tighten fasteners only enough to hold them in place. Align front edges and tighten fasteners. Tap surfaces to align (use wood blocks to avoid damaging the surface). Then tighten fasteners securely.


Step 7: Scribing
The
countertop can be scribed to match the wall surface. The top is provided with a scribe edge on the backsplash for this purpose. Place the top on the cabinet. Use a scriber-compass to mark the top edge of the countertop, then belt-sand or block-plane to the line. This will contour the countertop to the wall. Put top in place, check for level and stability, and then secure to cabinets with wood screws.

Step 8: Installing Sinks
you may find it more convenient to install the sink faucets, 3/8“supply tubing and basket drain now, before dropping the sink into place. This is important if space behind the installed bowl is too tight for easy connection of plumbing fittings. All sinks must be sealed with sealant to avoid water damage to base material.


Step 9: Finishing Installation & Care
Remove excess sealant from sink area or end splash of your new countertop is highly resistant to staining, wear and heat. It is not, however, completely impervious to chemicals, scratches and hot objects.