Be counter productive by choosing material wisely

There are plenty of options to choose from for countertops in kitchens and bathrooms.

It is important to decide which material will hold up to your kitchen activities, and has a price your budget can handle.

And remember, your counters influence the palette for your room and can dictate other choices such as cabinets, backsplash, paint and even flooring.

Budget friendly

Plastic laminate: Although it’s sometimes looked down on by stone lovers, plastic laminate still has a serious fan base. The wide range of customizable edges and finishes means it can work in any design. Its affordable price makes it a winner for many. However, it’s not the most durable of countertop materials, and so it may not be best for heavy-duty cooks.

Tile: Also one of the more affordable counter choices, ceramic or stone tile is durable, and one of the few do-it-yourself countertop options. Maintenance can be difficult, though, with all that grout, but choosing a durable, dark-coloured grout can make things easier.

Wood: For some, wood and countertops just don’t seem to mix. But a high-quality wood with the right kind of sealant can make for a beautiful, warm and long-lasting countertop. The price varies substantially depending on the type of wood you choose.

Mid range

Granite: There are plenty of reasons granite counters are so popular — this natural stone has plenty of character, with unique grains, colors and customizable finishes. When properly sealed, it’s one of the most durable options out there. Prices can go up quickly with more exotic slabs and difficult installations.

Stainless steel: Professional chefs love stainless steel because it’s non-staining, heat-resistant and easy to clean. While it certainly makes fingerprints and scratches stand out, it’s a great choice for hardworking kitchens that don’t need a perfect look.

Zinc: Although not overly popular, this metal has warmth that has made it popular for centuries. Zinc’s tone darkens with time, adding patina. Its antimicrobial properties make it a smart choice.

Copper: While uncommon, a copper countertop is surprisingly easy to clean and maintain. However, it’s not for perfectionists — since it’s a “living” surface, it reacts to different substances, creating a blend of matte reds, browns and greens. But for those who love the look, the mid-range cost is worth it.

High end

Engineered quartz: Perfect for those wanting a custom look, engineered quartz comes in just about every shade imaginable. This product combines ground quartz, resin and pigments for a tough, non-porous material. Ecofriendly attributes makes it a safe bet for green homes.

Soapstone: Often used in laboratories for its resistance to stains, chemicals and bacteria, soapstone is a durable and natural choice for a kitchen. It might be expensive, but it can be a lifetime investment.

Marble: A a beautiful, classic look, marble always seems to be in style. For lovers of white kitchens in particular, a marble counter offers more variety than almost any other material. Marble is known more for the patina it develops with use than for its durability, as it’s a softer stone than granite, and can scratch and stain easily.

Concrete: Pigments, stains and dyes can create concrete counters with colour and visual texture. With the right sealant, a concrete counter can be well worth its cost.

Recycled glass and cement: Although itexpensive, this unique combination is a great way to add character to your kitchen. Ecofriendly, durable and customizable, this material is a top choice for featured areas, such as serveries or bar areas.

Whatever you choose, my last recommendation is to make your choice early in your decor planning as it will influence many other choices — from cabinets to flooring.

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.     

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