Replacing Countertops

Ceramic tile, butcher block, solid surface, natural stone, granite and laminates - here's an overview of the choices you have to consider when choosing a new countertop material.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Replacing Countertops

The most difficult part of choosing a new countertop is the wide selection of counter materials. Today the most popular materials are ceramic tile, butcher block, solid surfacing, natural stone, granite, and laminates, all available in a tremendous array of colors and textures. Take your time, look around and discover what you like before making the decision about what to use in your new kitchen project.

Ceramic Tile

This ageless material has never been more popular as a counter material than it is today. It resists stain and heat and the choices in sizes, colors and designs boggle the mind. Some will say the downside of a tile countertop is that it's a hard surface and unforgiving when you drop a glass or dish on it. The 4 1/4-inch and 6-inch square tiles are the most used size for counters. When choosing tile also consider the color of grout that will act as seams holding the tiles together. Experts suggest epoxy grout because it resists staining. Don't stop at tiling just the counter. Choose larger companion tiles to make a bold statement as a backsplash behind the countertop and range.

Butcher Block

There's no other material than wood that can create the warmth and appeal of this natural material. As a countertop, maple butcher block is long-wearing and develops its own patina over the years. Of all the counter materials wood does require the most maintenance. Periodic oiling is needed to keep up its appearance, but it's also the only material that can be easily repaired. A burn spot or blemish can be sanded and refinished to look as good as new.

Solid Surfacing

This synthetic material is 1/2-inch thick so it's the same all the way through, a notable feature for a countertop. This makes it a tough surface that can withstand scratches and stains because the defect can be sanded out. You'll find solid surfacing calls attention to detail with curved and routed edges.

Natural Stone and Granite

The most popular types of stone used as counter material are granite, limestone, slate, soapstone, even marble. These are the most expensive materials that create a distinguished and elegant work surface. Consider using one of these natural materials for a designated work area. For example, marble is often used for a section of counter designated for a baking center.


Post-formed laminate countertops have been around for years and are sold pre-stocked in popular sizes, colors and patterns. The counter comes with a pre-formed rolled front edge and a backsplash that's an integral part of the countertop. Since there's no seam between the backsplash and counter crumbs and dirt don't get caught in a tight space that's difficult to keep clean.

There's an almost infinite selection of laminate colors and patterns available for custom installations. The material is sold as thin sheets and glued down with a contact adhesive on a base of particleboard. It's a popular choice and lends itself to custom treatments such as straight or curved edging with wood or solid surfacing.

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