Granite: This natural substance has been the most popular solid surface in recent years. Granite countertops are quarried naturally from the earth as enormous chunks of stone. This means that granite will never be uniform. Depending on individual opinion, this could be a benefit or a drawback. Granite countertops will need to be sealed before they are used and this will need to be repeated year after year for as long as you own the countertop. Granite is a porous stone and can only be considered to be stain-resistant if it has been sealed properly. While some people only seal their granite countertops every 3 years, it’s best to be safe and to do it yearly. If for any reason the sealant on the counter gets compromised, your countertop can get stained. Countertops made of granite are extremely durable, but should not be considered to be indestructible. It is a natural rock and can break or chip if subjected to heavy abuse. For regular day-to-day activities though, and with proper maintenance, this is a countertop that can last for a lifetime and beyond.
Quartz is a man made material that is manufactured with crushed quartz and resin to hold it together. Because of it being man-made, you can get more consistent coloring. Quartz countertops are just as strong as granite but have the added benefit of being more flexible. Quartz is non-porous and does not require any sealing – ever. These stones offer a virtually no-maintenance material solution for countertops. One drawback that you should definitely take note of is these counters can discolor over time when exposed to direct sunlight. If you have a part of your counter that receives some of the UV rays from the sun while another part doesn’t, over time you may see a color difference.
Quartzite is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock. It is created when sandstone is subjected to extreme heat and pressure caused by tectonic plate compression in the crust of the earth. The stone is mined and sawn into slabs which are later precisely cut to become countertops. The tops are polished and sealed for beauty and durability. Quartzite is harder than granite, so it is quite durable. It withstands heat very well. Quartz is hard too, but not quite as hard as quartzite. The resin used in manufacturing quartz countertops is a plastic, so it is prone to melting in heat above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Where quartz has an advantage over quartzite is that it is less prone to denting and chipping because it is more flexible. Both countertop materials can be scratched by sharp objects, and a cutting board should be used. Quartzite requires quite a bit more TLC. It must be sealed before use and re-sealed one or two times per year. Without a proper seal, stains can penetrate into the stone
Marble is also a natural material. It’s durability to granite is very similar, however marble is much more porous. Marble is perhaps the most high maintenance out of the solid surfaces. It must be sealed every year to prevent staining.
Recycled Glass countertops take on a couple of forms. The bulk of the products in this classification are a combination of crushed glass (glass chips) held together in a binder material. The two binding materials have much different attributes and it is important to know the difference. Cement based recycled glass countertops require a sealer that must be applied periodically to protect them from acidic substances like citric juices, red wine and vinegar that can etch the surface. They’re also porous and sealing them helps protect against staining. Resin based countertops provide a non-porous surface and don’t require sealing to protect them from stains or solutions that might injure the surface.
Butcher Block countertops are made of straight cuts of wood which are glued together into thick slabs. There are 3 basic types of wood countertops: Edge grain, where the wood rails run parallel each other. Flat grain is constructed from boards that are laid flat and their full width forms the surface. End grain is made by fusing together the end pieces of small rectangular blocks so that the ends are visible on the surface. This type is considered as the strongest and is most expensive type of butcher block. Butcher block countertops are made of hard wood species walnut, oak, maple, cherry, zebrawood, bamboo and can be finished with either natural oils like paraffin or beeswax or other oils. Butcher block countertops aren’t resistant to scratches or heat, but can be sanded and refinished to bring them back to the original beauty.