One of the easiest ways to liven up a kitchen or bathroom is to update its countertops. Out-of-date, drab, or worn countertops have a tendency to bring down the style of any room. However, bathroom and kitchen countertops need to do more than just look beautiful—they need to be tough. Regularly splattered with food and water, wiped down with cleaning products, or scalded with hot pans and curling irons, bathroom and kitchen countertops face a daily gauntlet of wear and tear.

As you shop for countertops, consider the susceptibility of each material to damage. Does the countertop have a porous surface that will encourage bacteria and mold buildup if not cleaned regularly? Will you be able to rest hot pans on the surface? Also, honestly assess how much you’re willing to maintain and care for your countertop, as some materials require regular attention. From the daily bombardment of food and cleaning products in the kitchen to an array of personal hygiene supplies in the bathroom, sometimes the best countertop is a durable one.

The following chart provides an overview of the benefits and drawbacks of some popular countertop materials:

  • Luxurious material with natural beauty

  • Resistant to stains

  • Durable

  • Available in many colors and patterns

  • Very porous unless sealed

  • Should be resealed periodically if used heavily

  • Patterns in stone can be inconsistent

  • High-end, luxurious material

  • Stains easily

  • Not practical for kitchens or baths that see heavy use

Cultured Marble
  • Economical alternative to natural marble

  • Resistant to stains when properly finished

  • Easy to clean

  • Available in integrated sink and countertop units

  • Cannot be resurfaced to remedy any scratches in the marble surface

  • Most economical of countertop materials

  • Easy to clean

  • Resistant to stains

  • Can be trimmed or accented with wood or tile to enhance the look

  • Can be painted with epoxy paint for an inexpensive update

  • Susceptible to burns, dulling, and deterioration

  • Scratches and chips are permanent

Solid Surface
  • Very popular countertop choice for its stonelike appearance and seamless surface

  • Can include decorative features such as crushed stones

  • Available in integrated sink and countertop units

  • Susceptible to burns or damage from heavy objects

  • Fine sandpaper is needed to fix minor abrasions

  • Creates rustic charm

  • Can be used as a cutting board in food preparation

  • Very porous

  • Susceptible to water damage

  • Difficult to clean

  • Needs to be sealed to avoid bacterial growth

  • Resistant to stains, discoloration, and burns

  • Wide range of colors, sizes, and styles to choose from

  • Grout between the tiles traps dirt, water, and stains

  • Mildew can settle in between the tiles if grout is not regularly cleaned

  • Completely nonporous surface

  • Does not require sealing

  • Does not require a substrate (like a subfloor for countertops) to be installed underneath the stone

  • Needs to have mineral oil applied during the first month to bring out natural beauty

  • Limited color choices

A quality bathroom and kitchen remodeling specialist will be able to help you find the right countertops to suit your unique style and daily routine. No matter what countertops you choose to bring into your home, be sure to follow manufacturer recommendations for care and maintenance. Avoid letting spills and stains sit on the surface, and regularly clean between any seams to avoid bacteria and mildew buildup.

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Sources: National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI); National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

For more information on our sources, please contact us directly.