Choosing a Countertop

Pros and cons—and costs—of 10 countertop materials

Your guide to the many stylish options. (Hint: Quartz rocks.)

Published: July 15, 2015 12:00 PM

Cambira Cardiff cream quartz countertop

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As chameleons go, quartz is impressive. The man-made stone offers an increasingly realistic look mimicking materials such as marble, granite, concrete, and more. But quartz offers easier maintenance than those materials. Combine those qualities with granite fatigue and you can see why quartz is gaining in popularity. Quartz is also among the top-rated countertop materials in Consumer Reports’ tests.

To test durability we stained, sliced, scratched, scorched, and nicked 14 materials, including a new ultra­compact surface called Dekton. (Get all the details on Dekton countertop cracking in our tests.) We found big differences among materials but little variation among brands, except for recycled glass, so we’ve rated materials. Here are the pros and cons of 10 countertop materials, listed here in alphabetical order.

Style file: A glossary of materials

It might be eco-­friendly, it adds warmth, and it looks great at first, but it’s easily stained, scorched, and nicked. Check if you can use near a sink, be­cause moisture can warp it. Some may need mineral­oil beeswax reapplied.

Varnished butcher block was very stain­ resistant but terrible at every­thing else. Oil­-finished wood was better at resisting heat, but stains spread and were impossible to remove. Not a good choice for a sink area.

It’s custom ­formed, so quality may vary. Concrete chips and scratches easily, and can develop hairline cracks. Topical sealers can protect it against stains but not heat. Penetrating sealers can handle heat but not stains.

The real deal. Each stone slab is unique. Heat, cuts, and scratching didn’t harm the granite we tested, but corners and edges can chip; let a pro repair them. Polished and matte finishes resisted most stains when properly sealed. Gran­ite needs periodic resealing.

Inexpensive and stylish options with decorative edges abound, including Formica’s cool Jonathan Adler Collection. Stains and heat didn’t damage the laminates we tested, but cutting directly on it does, and abrasives can mar.

It’s attractive but impractical in a busy kitchen. Limestone resists heat well, but it nicks, cuts, and scratches easily, and even a high­ quality sealer didn’t fend off stains. So blot spills immediately and periodically reseal.

Marble takes on a patina, to some, but others see it as marred. Small nicks and scratches can be polished out, but marble chips easily and needs to be resealed periodically. On sealed marble most stains wiped away with water.

This mix of mineral, color, and resin is meant to mimic stone but is more du­rable and requires less maintenance, making it a good choice for a kitchen that gets a lot of use. Hot pots, serrated knives, abrasive pads, and most stains were no match for quartz.

Large shards create a bold look; finely ground glass looks subtle. Resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches, but chips and stains can be a problem. And un­like other recycled ­glass counters we tested, Cosentino’s Eco line developed a thin crack during our heat tests.

It’s not as common as granite—and it’s stunning at first. It resists heat dam­age, and small scratches can be sanded finely, then coated with mineral oil. But it nicks, cuts, and scratches easily, and some tough stains won’t wash away.

*Published in Consumer Reports 2015

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