Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Countertops: Making the Right Decision

By James O Donnell

Even the most decisive person will flounder when it comes to certain decisions. But floundering when you are choosing the material for your kitchen countertops is a very bad idea. The kitchen is a vital part of every home. It is the room in which many spend most of their time. So it has to be given the attention it deserves.

Always consider both function and aesthetics. Don't limit yourself unnecessarily. Some of the most pleasing kitchens feature a combination of countertop materials; don't feel like you are limited to one. You might find that using one material for your island and another for the remainder of your countertops is the best option for your particular needs. Contrasting colors can often add the final touch that gives it the finished look you're envisioning.

There are plenty of options to consider:

1.Granite is a popular choice that has recently experienced a price drop (making it even more popular). It offers a beautiful texture and movement. Proper sealing during installation will ensure that the porous nature of the natural stone will rarely result in stains (but don't go leaving water on it overnight and press your luck).

2.Engineered Stone: man-made product composed of quartz particles. This material is heat and stain resistant and very easily maintained. Uniformity is exact since it is a man-made material and prices run very similar to granite counterparts.

3.Solid Surface: the only type of countertop with no seams. Color is solid throughout this material so that when it is scratched, you can sand the scratch out. The negative is that it will definitely scratch. Another positive is that the sink is integrated into the piece (again no seams).

4.Ceramic Tile has the positive of many, many design options. But it comes hand in hand with an uneven finished surface and grout that has to be constantly cleaned. Tile countertops also end up chipped and cracked without any easy repair options.

5.Laminate is an inexpensive choice and it comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. Some of the options can look very nice, but all are susceptible to being chipped and cut. Cutting boards are a definite requirement.

6.Wood or Butcher Block is beautiful and can be functional depending upon the function required and placement in the kitchen. Most often wood is used as an accent and not for the entire kitchen. It is desirable in many different decors due to the wide variety of wood types and stains available.

7.Stainless Steel is found in many contemporary kitchens. It is durable and easily cleaned. It is heat resistant. But it is very easily scratched.

8.Concrete is mixed with color and poured into molds to fit the area so it is a perfect choice for unique spaces and odd shaped kitchens. It's amazingly durable, heat and scratch resistant, but can crack.

Knowing your options is the first step. Next you have to make use of the knowledge. Your choice of material depends upon your taste, your space and your use of the space. So don't depend too heavily on the specific tastes and opinions of others. If you are going to pass the decision to someone else; pass it to a professional after you've had in depth discussions of your individual style and function requirements.

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