If you are thinking about installing new countertops in your kitchen, this question probably crossed your mind a couple of times.
We all know that “beautiful” does not necessarily mean “functional” and luxury might not always equate to durability. Finding the happy medium between the two can be difficult, and with so many countertop options out there it is becoming even tougher to pick one that will last the test of time.
Luckily for you, I took the time to do all the research for you and to take the guesswork out of all of it.
Quartz is the most durable kitchen countertop. It is nearly indestructible to regular kitchen use, is not susceptible to knife cuts, will not chip or crack, and is very stain resistant.
Knowing that, come with me and take a deep dive into how the most common countertops stacked up against one another when it came to durability.
Like I said already, quartz is the big winner.
Although we colloquially call it “quartz,” it technically is engineered stone. Unlike natural stone countertops that are cut from pure granite, marble, or sandstone, engineered stone counters are made from quartz crystals held together with a resin binder. After they are bound together, they are carved out as slabs in engineering labs.
Quartz is tougher than anything else on the market. Unlike granite and other materials, it has a non-porous surface that makes it far less susceptible to staining and cracking. While granite usually needs to be sealed and re-sealed to maintain its durability, quartz does not.
- Not susceptible to knife cuts or scratches
- Will not chip or crack
- Nearly stain-proof
- Mold and mildew resistant
- Heat and burn resistant
- Extremely easy to maintain – no sealing or resealing necessary; very low-maintenance
- Very expensive
- The seams between stone slabs can be seen pretty easily
- Not easily repairable if it does get damaged
2 – Granite
Granite is one of the most beloved countertops on the market today. It comes in slabs and tiles, and for the most part is pretty durable. It is resistant to knife cuts, most scratches, and heat. When polished, a granite countertop can withstand even the most stubborn stains and cleans very easily.
- Commendably resistant to any degree of heat, cuts, or scratches
- Although granite can stain, it still is pretty stain-resistant
- Looks beautiful and is highly sought after
- Unlike quartz, granite is far more susceptible to chipping: one accidental hit to the corner with something like a wine bottle can cause the edge to chip
- Requires maintenance – you will need to reseal and/or polish it from time to time to prevent oil from seeping into the stone
- Unpredictable design – natural variations in the stone could result in the finished product not looking quite like the sample you chose
- Like quartz, it is very hard to hide the seams
3 – Crushed Glass
A fairly new entrant into the countertop marketplace, crushed glass has attracted even more admiration over recent years due its diversity and wide array of color choices that consumers can identify with and choose from.
Glass is naturally tough, but crushed glass has emerged as a prime candidate for countertops – especially if engraved in a clear and durable acrylic or cemented onto concrete. Acrylic gives the look of glass segments floating in water while crushed glass embedded onto concrete gives the look of a mosaic.
- Non-porous, very stain-resistant
- Scratch resistant
- A snap to clean
- Relatively heat and burn resistant
- Very eco-friendly – some use as much as 80% recycled glass
- No two crushed glass countertops are similar, they truly are the most unique countertop available
- As strong as crushed glass is, it actually is quite brittle around the edges – too much weight can crack the surface at the corner
- Foods with a high acid content (think tomatoes) that are left standing on the countertop as well as harsh cleaners can damage the acrylic surface
- Crushed glass countertops are similarly priced to granite and quartz countertops, so they are for sure a more expensive option
4 – Solid Surface
Solid surface countertops, also known as Corian (one of the manufacturers of solid surface countertops), are made from polyester, dense acrylic, or an amalgamation of both.
- The most low maintenance countertop available – does not require special cleaners or sealers
- Non-porous – extremely resistant to stains
- Extremely resilient and repairable – although it could scratch, any damage to the surface can be sanded out easily with no permanent effect
- Can be molded to include a seamless backsplash or integrated sink bowl
- Seamless appearance
- Tremendous variety of color options available
- Not really resistant to heat, particularly hot pans
- Burns easily
- Not an eco-friendly option – made of non-renewable resources through an energy-intensive manufacturing process and unable to be recycled easily
5 – Soapstone
Soapstone countertops are made from quarried stone. It is a steatite stone that includes chlorite, magnesite, and dolomite. Most also contain quite a bit of talc, which accounts for the milky or powdery look and feel of the stone. Soapstone is a natural stone material that has been used for centuries.
Although soapstone is not as hard as granite, it for sure is more pliable. Consequently, it is less brittle and will not crack unexpectedly from stress or weight.
- Unlike granite, it is non-porous and even less likely to stain
- Easy to maintain – does not require sealing or re-sealing (only a periodic oiling for aesthetic purposes)
- Prone to scratches – due to being soft, avoid cutting directly on it
- Dropping a heavy glass object or iron pan on it could lead to serious damage
6 – Laminates
The surface of this material is extremely smooth. Manufactured as a bond of stratified sheets onto a particleboard core, they pretty much turn out as easy-to-clean plastic-coated pieces. Laminate countertops can be preformed or custom-fabricated to your liking.
Laminates have seen a recent upsurge in purchases and demand due to the the variety of styles, colors, and patterns being offered and the extensive selection of options for people to pick from. New technology in printing and catchy decorative edges have led to the uptick in demand. They also tend to be on the cheaper side.
Although there are definite durability drawbacks to laminate countertops, they still rank ahead of marble due to being easy to maintain and because of their stain-resistance.
- One of the least expensive options
- Plenty of styles available to suit your taste – they can mirror granite, marble, and even quartz
- Very stain-resistant
- Very low-maintenance
- Not scratch-resistant, and damage from scratches and abrasion are permanent
- Not burn-resistant – do not put a hot pot on them without a trivet
- Hard – if not impossible – to repair when damaged
- Despite the current upswing in the use of laminates, 40% of prospective home buyers would be unlikely to buy a house with laminate counters (according to a study from the National Association of Home Builders) – this should raise some eyebrows if you plan on selling your place in the foreseeable future
7 – Marble
Beloved by emperors and artisans alike, marble has been one of the most beautiful and sought-after stones for centuries. Whether pure white or streaked with colorful veins, marble is undeniably unique and stunning, especially when used for kitchen countertops.
Unfortunately, marble is the big loser on my list. It might be incredibly attractive, but with such a high price tag for a stone so prone to scratches, it ends up being the least durable out of all the countertop materials on my list.
- Looks beautiful
- Costs less than quartz and granite, but is still a very high-end choice
- Porous – oils and stains can seep into the stone
- It is softer than granite and quartz and very prone to chips and scratches
- Has etching issues – acids can leave marks
- Once a marble countertop gets scratched, it will be nearly impossible to fix it
- High-maintenance – requires sealing and re-sealing
Finding the Most Durable Countertop That Suits Your Kitchen Needs
Just because quartz is the most durable kitchen countertop does not mean you should immediately run out to the store and buy it for your kitchen renovation.
Simply put, there are a lot of other factors that go into making the final decision.
True, we all want durable countertops that will last as long as we plan on staying in our home. However, not everyone can afford high-end countertops, so you need to know yourself.
Ask and honestly answer: is this really within my budget? If yes, great. If no, either save up and wait to get the countertops of your dreams or compromise a bit and spend less.
Also, finding the delicate balance between price and durability as well as aesthetics and functionality can be a tough call too.
In the rest of this article, I try to lay out three key considerations to help you choose a durable kitchen countertop that is perfect for you.
A – How Do You Use Your Kitchen?
First and foremost, your daily kitchen habits matter.
Do you like to use cutting boards or prefer to chop fruits and vegetables directly on your countertop? This consideration alone might end up eliminating porous materials from your list. (Bye bye marble.)
Is your gas cooker stand-alone or does it sit close to your counter? If it does, you might want to go with a heatproof countertop and ditch solid surface. A quick and careful review of your kitchen setup along with your cooking habits will go a long way in helping you figure out which countertop is best suited for your needs.
B – What Style Preferences Take Precedence Over Durability?
Style is another crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked.
How your new countertop would fit in aesthetically with the rest of your kitchen’s design should be a make or break consideration. The last thing you want to do is select a countertop that looks out of place in your kitchen or causes a mismatch in style.
Remember, contrasting backsplashes are completely fine and will rarely look out of place. However, laminate countertops would almost never work in harmony with undermount sinks.
C – Cost Trumps Durability
Ultimately, cost trumps durability. Your budget should truly be the final determinant of what type of material you buy for your countertops.
Some countertop materials are just too expensive and not really worth your money. A brand new laminate countertop can go for as little as $5 per square foot while a square foot of crushed glass can cost ten times as much. Is it really worth it? Maybe a more affordable option like solid surface is in order. After all, it is extremely durable and cost-effective even if it is not as beautiful as crushed glass.
Whatever you do at the end of the day, try not to fixate too much on all of the downsides of a particular material, and do yourself a favor: try to have some fun along the way!