Wondering ‘what is the best kitchen countertop material?’ Kitchen countertops have many boxes to tick – not only do they need to look good, but they also need to be strong and durable to withstand the daily wear and tear that results from food preparation, cooking, and cleaning.
A beautiful kitchen countertop is one of the most important components of kitchen ideas and affects the overall look and feel of your kitchen as much as your choice of cabinets or kitchen island.
Which materials stand the test of both style and substance? We’ve asked interior design and kitchen experts for their opinion on the best countertops for kitchens.
The best kitchen countertops
The best countertop for your kitchen is the one that’s most suited to how you used your kitchen, how much you’re prepared to spend, and how much maintenance you’re prepared to give it (e.g. learning how to clean the kitchen countertop).
Susan Spath, president of Kern & Company (opens in new tab) and principal designer of Susan Spath Interior Design, gives two different favorites for different kitchen needs. For a luxurious, top-of-the-range option, her top choice is marble:
‘I absolutely love a marble slab countertop, it is just such a timeless clean look. Marble is a very durable stone. It is the most heat-resistant stone and less likely to crack/break. Also, marble is an easier stone to fabricate, it is softer and easier to carve, allowing us to make decorative edges, etc.’
Do bear in mind that marble is very porous and prone to staining, though. If you want an option that still looks great but is much easier to maintain, Spath’s top recommendation is porcelain: ‘it doesn’t need constant sealing and it will not stain if you leave water droplets, etc.’
‘It makes for a great countertop and it also looks fabulous, as you can also get porcelain slabs that look almost identical to real marble. Additionally, it is also a very cost-effective stone, the price per slab is typically lower than most of the other stones on the market.’
These are just two options. Compare more materials and make the choice that’s right for you.
Granite is probably the most classic kitchen countertop material. It is a natural stone, which makes it extremely durable. A good-quality granite countertop will easily last decades.
Maintaining a granite countertop is very, very easy – just wipe it with a microfiber cloth and warm water. Granite doesn’t normally stain, but if you do notice one, just add some dish soap.
Granite is a great option overall, although some colors now look dated. Lighter, more modern colors cost more, so that’s something to bear in mind
Quartz is the main rival to granite countertops. It’s comparable in price and its low-maintenance properties. Unlike granite, it is man-made, which gives you a much wider choice of colors and finishes than granite. The durability is similar to granite. Quartz is anti-bacterial and hygienic.
Learning how to clean quartz countertops is very easy. Just don’t use anything abrasive – a soft cloth is usually the best option. For stain removal, try a dedicated quartz countertop cleaner (opens in new tab).
Quartz isn’t as heat-resistant as granite, so you shouldn’t put hot pots and pans straight onto the surface. Always line the countertop with a mat. The cost of quartz tends to be a little higher with quartz than it does with granite.
Wood is a great option for country kitchens or for anyone who’s looking for something a bit different on their countertop. Linda Haase, an NCIDQ-certified Senior Interior Designer who serves on the advisory board at The Project Girl (opens in new tab), praises wood as a material that ‘has a warm feeling that will make your kitchen feel cozy and comfortable.’
A variety of wood types are used in countertop making, from maple and beech to iroko and other exotic woods. Of course, sustainability is potentially an issue, so always check if the manufacturer uses sustainably managed, FSC-certified wood.
Wood is generally a budget-friendly countertop material, often costing a lot less than stone. However, the rarer the wood you’ll be using, the higher the price will be.
The main thing to know about wood countertops is that they do require regular maintenance in the form of biannual oiling. Wood stains and scratches easily and failing to maintain it will lead to faster aging and ultimately the need for a replacement. Cleaning is fairly easy – we recommend using a wood cleaner (opens in new tab).
The maintenance is not for everyone, and you have to be a bit more careful with wood countertops. You can’t put hot pans directly on top of them and absolutely can’t chop your veggies without lining the countertop with a chopping board. Wood countertops also can fade in direct sun or become darker as they absorb oil over time, but some people like the aged look.
Laminate is made by bonding a stiff sheet that is made to imitate the look of stone, quartz, or another material onto particleboard. Because it’s so cheap to produce, laminate is cheap for the consumer. It has had a somewhat uncool reputation for a long time, but higher-end options these days will give you a decent look.
If you like a DIY project, laminate worktops are easy to fit yourself.
Laminate doesn’t require much maintenance and can take any ordinary all-purpose household cleaner. However, you can’t chop things on laminate and the knife will cut through the thin top layer.
Laminate is an affordable option, but with this affordability comes a lack of durability. You may find that you have to replace your laminate countertop after only a few years because it has peeled or chipped.
Anyone who is worried that glass is too fragile a material to use as a kitchen countertop should rest assured: the glass used in countertop making is reinforced and extremely durable. Not all glass countertops are clear, either: they come in an almost infinite variety of finishes that can imitate anything from quartz to marble. Haase says that ‘if you want a countertop that is easy to clean, then glass is the best option. Glass is also very durable and easy to find in many different colors.’
If sustainability is your main concern, then recycled glass countertops are available. Despite its somewhat exclusive reputation as a countertop material for modern kitchens,
The maintenance of a glass countertop is not necessarily difficult, but it’s somewhat more time-consuming than with other materials. You will need to wipe your countertop after every use, or you’ll soon have staining. In areas with hard water, a glass countertop will likely develop limescale stains over time if not cleaned regularly.
Regular maintenance is the main con, but glass countertops are also prone to scratches.
Marble is a natural stone and, for many people, the holy grail of kitchen countertops. It is a staple of luxury kitchen ideas that can still be reasonably priced, although marble is generally more expensive than granite or quartz. If you want the best-looking kitchen countertop there is, you should definitely consider marble.
One of the best things about marbe is that it always stays cool, which can be very valuable in a hot kitchen. When properly cared for, a marble countertop will last decades.
Now the not-so-good news: marble is high maintenance. It stains easily, and because the stone is porous, the stain can penetrate below the surface making it more difficult to remove. You can remove a stain from marble using acetone, but it will take patience.
For this reason, marble countertops should be sealed with a stone sealer (opens in new tab). Be especially careful with acidic foods like ketchup and lemon around marble – these are likely to stain deeper.
The higher price and high maintenance are the main cons of marble. However, this material is still worth considering for its superb aesthetic value and durability.
Perfect in industrial-style kitchens, stainless steel is a great option for someone looking for hardwearing, easy-maintenance countertop material. Stainless steel should be on your radar if you do a lot of cooking in your kitchen, or if you are an amateur chef or baker. Stainaless steel is naturally antibacterial, which is a bonus. It is a staple in commercial kitchens for a reason.
Learning how to clean stainless steel is easy as pie – you just need a stainless steel cleaner (opens in new tab) and a cloth.
Stainless steel is prone to scratching, so over time it may start looking a little tired. Also, stainless steel is obviously not to everyone’s taste and can look somewhat clinical in a more traditional kitchen. You may want to only consider this material if you like your kitchen design modern.
Ceramic worktops are a very versatile option and are often chosen instead of marble thanks to their low-maintenance profile. One of the biggest draws of ceramic or porcelain countertops is that they come in at the widest possible range of price points, from the very cheapest to high-end options similar to marble in cost.
Ceramic is a very hygienic material, which is important in any kitchen.
Ceramic countertops are very easy-maintenance – just make sure you wipe down any spills quickly as they can stain. Avoid cleaning ceramic countertops with bleach.
Ceramic can scratch quite easily, so if you like quick food prep, this may not be the best option.
What material is the most durable and highest quality?
According to Linda Haase, the most durable and highest-quality countertop material is quartz, ‘although the price tag can be high. Quartz has a very low porosity level, meaning it won’t stain easily. It’s also resistant to heat, which makes it an ideal material for use in kitchens where hot pots and pans are often used. Quartz is also very durable, with the ability to withstand scratches and dents without chipping or cracking.
‘However, quartz may not be the best choice if you’re looking for something more affordable. It’s also important to note that some people are allergic to quartz. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative, consider marble or granite countertops instead.’
Which countertop material is the easiest to maintain?
‘The easiest kitchen countertop to maintain is a solid surface, like granite or marble. These materials are naturally stain-resistant, so you can wipe them down with a damp cloth, and that’s usually all you need to do.’
‘If you do have a spill, the best thing to do is use cold water and a non-abrasive cleaner. You should also make sure to wipe up spills as soon as possible because if they sit for too long, they can stain the countertop permanently.’