Choosing Countertops for Your Kitchen
by Pamela Cole Harris
Description: Tips for choosing countertops for your kitchen.
Are those funky pop-art brown circles that decorate the top of
your kitchen counter just 10 years of coffee stains? Is that
unusual stripes a result of years of cutting vegetables? If
so, it's time to replace that old countertop and give you and
your kitchen a lift!
There are many new options in countertops today (from affordable
to "that costs more than my entire house!" expensive). Here it
is an easy guide to help you find the right options for your
kitchen (and your pocketbook!):
1. Ceramic tile - Ceramic tile is made of clay that that is
dried and fired in a kiln. It comes in a variety of wonderful
earth tones or colorful glazes.
The best thing about it: If ceramic tile is installed
correctly (emphasize correctly!), it's heatproof, scratch
resistant, water resistant, and long-lasting.
The worst thing about it: Some glazes react to foods or
household chemicals. Grout hard to ensure these substances
will not seep between tiles. Ceramic's hard surface can
easily chip glassware (So try not to throw the good crystal!).
2. Plastic Laminate - Plastic laminate is resin-impregnated
paper bonded to a particleboard core. As you might imagine,
plastic laminate is relatively inexpensive. It comes in a wide
range of colors and textures and bought in ready-made sections
called post-formed, making it easy for do-it-yourselfers.
The best thing about it: Plastic laminate is durable, easy
to clean, stain-resistant, moisture-resistant, and inexpensive.
The worst thing about it: Laminate can be easily scratched,
scorched and chipped. High-gloss laminate shows dirt and
water spots (ugh!). And the laminate backing can be seen
at the seams.
3. Stainless steel - For more durable countertops, choose
stainless steel that's at least 18 gauge and contains at least
8 to 10% nickel. Keep in mind that matte stainless steel is
easier to keep clean.
The best thing about it: Stainless steel is waterproof and
heat resistant, easy to clean and durable.
The worst thing about it: Stainless steel can easily be
scratched and dented. Stainless steel countertops can't be
used for cutting (because it's so easily scratched!) If you
have a complicated countertop with holes and cut outs, it will
raise the cost considerably. Using flat stainless steel
sheeting and adding a natural wood edge will reduce costs.
4. Wood - Butcher block countertops are made from strips of
edgegrain or endgrain maple or oak that is glued together to
make a solid surface.
The best thing about it: Wood is beautiful, natural,
relatively easy to install, easy on glassware and china,
reasonably priced, and ideal for cutting surface.
The worst thing about it: Wood can easily burn, scratch and
dent. Wood countertops shouldn't be used near water (Using
them near the sink will cause them to warp). Polyurethane or
permanent sealer can be used on eating areas, but don't use it
on cutting surfaces (use an oil finish for cutting surfaces.).
5. Stone - Stone is very good if you're working with dough (or
HAVE a lot of dough!). But it can be very (make that very)
The best thing about it: Stone is strong and durable,
heatproof, water resistant, and easy to clean.
The worst thing about it: Stone can be very heavy, so you
must have a strong base. Stone needs to be custom installed
(Choose an installer with a strong back!). Oil, alcohol, and
any acid (lemons or wine) will stain marble or damage its
finish. Granite, however, will stand up to all of these.
6. Solid surface - Solid surface countertops are made of
polyurethane or acrylic with mineral fillers. The countertops
come in sheets approximately one half inch thick.
The best thing about it: Solid surface countertops are
durable, water resistant, nonporous, easy to clean, bacteria
resistant, and mold resistant. Small blemishes or scratches
can be sanded out.
The worst thing about it: Solid surface countertops are
easily scratched and discolored by heat. They are also
expensive (But not quite as expensive as stone). Like stone,
they need firm base of support.
Whichever countertop surface you choose, be sure to take into
account your needs, your pocketbook, and the tendency of your
family to spill, drop, burn, scratch, stain or dent the surface
you choose. Now go out there and decorate!
Pamela Cole Harris is an editor, writer and eco-decorator
with 35 years experience. Visit her website,
http://www.homeandgardenmakeover.com for remodeling,
eco-decorating and design advice the financially challenged
and creatively deficient. Or for original, fresh content
unique to your website, visit http://www.pamelacoleharris.com.
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