Don’t Make this Decorating Mistake: Kitchen Countertop Selection

I love designing beautiful kitchens for my clients. Every one of the many choices that go into a kitchen is important, the countertops play a surprisingly large role in making the space beautiful and functional.

When you stop and think about it, our counters often cover a large area in our kitchens – especially when an island is involved. They’re one of the first things you see and they’re probably the most-used surface whether you tend to cook from scratch or simply plate your daily takeout meal there.

With more countertop options on the market than ever before, I find homeowners can get excited to make an important style statement with their selection. At the same time as those options now allow you to carry design and color trends into the kitchen from other less utilitarian rooms, the choices also bring with them more opportunity to make a choice that ends up being hard to live with.

In addition to choosing the right look, it’s important for you to think through a few less obvious things before you commit your counters to a lifetime in your home.

In my experience, these are the biggest mistakes to avoid.

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Mistake #1 Thinking marble is for kitchens

I know that with the marble trend going strong for several consecutive seasons now, this isn’t what you want to hear. And I don’t disagree that in addition to being on trend at the moment, marble is a classic, timeless choice that’s worth its weight in elevating any kitchen’s overall look and feel.

But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to marble counters. An especially porous stone, marble is the exact opposite of stain resistant. Just about anything can leave an obvious stain as the stone sucks in any liquid that touches it (and because it drinks it in deeply, sanding down the stained area is rarely a viable solution). Even more problematic is etching from acidic substances. Vinegar, lemon juice, and even some wines can render your marble counter dull and in need of special products and treatments to restore its luster. And don’t even think about putting a hot pan on a marble counter, as it will scorch – though on the plus side, marble is considered the very best surface for rolling out pastry dough, since it remains cool to the touch even on the hottest of days, keeping dough from deteriorating into a sticky mess.

That all said, if you don’t mind your counter showing wear or if you’re happy to do everything possible to keep them looking beautiful (I’ll talk more about how under Mistake #3), marble counters could be the perfect choice for you.

On the other hand, if you’re pining for the classic beauty of marble in your kitchen but want them to look pristine without all the work, you’re in luck. There are many options for lower maintenance counters that truly look just like marble.

Quartzite, for example, is a natural stone that has all the beautiful colors and veining of marble, but is much more resistant to etching, staining, and scorching. Quartz counters are a manmade option (comprised of ground quartz stone and a binding agent) that offers great durability and is readily available in selections that closely mimic marble. Porcelain sheets are another beautiful, durable option. They’re about 30% stronger than granite and come in a large selection of colors and styles, including many that resemble marble.

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Mistake #2 Not considering the seams

No matter what material you choose, you’ll most likely need more than one piece of it to cover your counters, meaning there’s going to be a seam or two. While seams are pretty much inevitable, you don’t want one running down the center of your island or an inch before the counter’s end! Ideally, it’s best to place them where perpendicular counters meet in a corner. This location makes it as inconspicuous and un-awkward as possible.

To make sure your seams end up where you want them to be, review the layout drawing your installers make of the slabs prior to installation. Sometimes installers will try to opt for the easiest solution which isn’t always the best placement of the seam visually, and – short of tearing up your new counters and starting all over again –  it’s something that can’t be changed once it’s done.

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Mistake #3 Choosing a countertop material without weighing the commitment of caring for it properly

I find many homeowners pick their counters just for the looks, without realizing they’re signing up for some level of maintenance to keep them looking beautiful.

As mentioned earlier, marble requires a relatively high level of commitment to preventing it from becoming stained and worn-looking. At a minimum, it needs to be sealed once every 6 months (though even that won’t make it completely stain and etch-proof). When stains do occur, they need to be treated right away using a poultice paste made specifically for marble, which needs to be covered with plastic wrap for 12 to 24 hours to soak up the stain. On a daily basis, marble requires only special non-acidic, non-abrasive cleaners. If you know you’ll enjoy taking care of your marble counters properly and are committed to doing so, you can keep them beautiful for years to come.

Even if you want to avoid marble and the TLC it requires, you need to know that most natural stone (including granite) requires at least a little regular maintenance such as periodic sealing (soapstone, which is prone to chipping and scratching, doesn’t need to be sealed, but it does have to be treated with mineral oil).

Although many of the manmade options tend to be easier to take care of, there are always precautions to take to prevent damage. For example, quartz products usually don’t require sealing but they will scratch. You’ll want to avoid abrasive cleaning methods and never cut foods on them directly. You’ll be able to tell a lot about any of these products’ maintenance requirements from their manufacturer’s warranty.

No matter what options you’re considering for your kitchen counters, be sure to do a little extra homework before it’s all said and done. By getting out ahead of these pitfalls, you’ll make a choice that will let you enjoy the look and function of your kitchen so much more.

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