Quartz countertops are synthetic countertop materials made popular by brands such as Dupont and Cambria. This material is composed of pulverized waste rock plus resins for hardness and binding. Thus, quartz countertops are not solid slabs of quartz mineral but instead are an engineered stone product. Many quartz counters have antibacterial agents added. Quartz is rapidly overcoming solid-surface material as a convincing alternative to natural stone for countertops.
Solid surface is a synthetic material originally created as an alternative to stone, designed to resemble granite and other natural stones. Solid surface is made mostly of blends of synthetic acrylic and polyester materials, sometimes with a small amount of natural stone dust blended in.
A laminate countertop is formed from a thin layer of plastic laminate material bonded to a core of particleboard or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Laminates are made by many manufacturers, including Formica and Wilsonart, and hundreds of color and style options exist.
Ceramic tile counters are made from individual clay-based tiles adhered over a cement-board core using thin-set mortar adhesives. For kitchen countertops, grout seams make tile a less-than-ideal countertop material, but newer ceramic and porcelain tiles are available in large sizes that can help minimize the number of seams and make for easier upkeep.
Solid slab granite is the most popular option for natural stone countertops. Beginning life as a quarried slab of solid natural stone, granite countertops are fabricated to specification and installed by professional crews.
Concrete countertops are an unusual countertop choice, but one that gives a home a one-of-a-kind look. They are usually fabricated and poured on-site by a specialist crew who creates forms to match the space. The result is a perfectly seamless countertop. Not only that but the concrete can be colored and textured, if you wish, or the concrete can be highly polished to a shiny gleam.
Marble's unique appearance and veined patterns make it one of the most attractive natural stones. Marble is a relatively soft and porous stone that must be carefully and consistently sealed if used for kitchen countertops. Like granite, marble is available in three forms—solid slabs, modular marble, and marble tiles. As with granite, solid slabs are the best choice when a continuous, low-seam surface is desired.
Stainless steel countertops are not just for restaurants anymore and have entered the home. Stainless steel counters are custom-fabricated to precise specifications and installed by technicians specializing in this material.
Recycled Glass Slab
Recycled glass slab countertops are made from a blend of recycled glass melted down into slabs for use in countertops. These countertops come in a variety of styles, ranging from very unusual material in which bits of recognizable glass are evident, to those that look almost indistinguishable from engineered quartz or natural granite.
Slate, which is quarried straight from the earth, cut into slabs, and surface-grinded to a matte finish, is a good material for countertops since it is relatively non-porous and resists stains well.
Recycled Glass Tile
Glass tile countertops applied over a cement-board core are yet another way to make use of recycled glass, much the same as ceramic tile. Although not uncommon, this is generally not a very functional countertop—glass tiles are better suited for backsplashes. Seams between tiles are subject to staining. Glass is a brittle material, prone to breaking, chipping, and cracking.
Soapstone has been used for laboratory countertops for many years. Another quarried stone, soapstone has a warm, milky appearance that allows it to complement other design features without overwhelming them.
High-tensile glass can also be formed into slabs for countertops. The result will be a truly unusual countertop with a number of virtues. For one, glass is one of the very best materials for resisting bacteria and is easy to clean. High-tensile glass is heat-, scratch-, mold-, and stain-resistant. Still, glass is glass. With enough force, glass can crack. Prices vary, but higher-quality varieties can be expensive.
Aluminum countertops aren't the shiny, metal surfaces you're expecting. Instead, aluminum countertops are closer to the look of quartz (engineered stone) or solid surface than to stainless steel.
Reclaimed wood countertops take green remodeling one step further. Barns, flooring, siding, and old wood counters, are repurposed and made into new wood counters for an antique and truly unique look. Look in architectural salvage yards for raw materials.
Zinc is another unusual countertop surface — formed by applying zinc sheets over a base core material. Found fairly often in bars and other commercial settings, zinc kitchen countertops are a rare sight. The high cost makes zinc impractical for most residential kitchens. Even so, zinc is an absolutely unique countertop material.
Bamboo is one of the more unusual materials for kitchen countertops. Although often lumped together with wood, bamboo is actually grass, and the slabs used in countertops are made from shredded bamboo fibers blended with resins. Bamboo is a very hard substance, and in many ways is better than wood for countertop use.
Porcelain countertops are man-made countertops prized for their heat resistance and low water absorption. Porcelain is typically used as an alternative to natural stone countertops, as the look can be convincingly imitated with the use of a pigmented glaze. Porcelain is affordable, extremely durable, and even harder than granite, which makes it highly resistant to scratches. Its high heat resistance and non-porous surface make it perfect for food prep.
Paper composite countertops are a relatively new countertop option. Innovative manufacturers are constantly experimenting with new materials, and one such countertop is a composite made of paper heavily impregnated with resins.
This can be considered a green kitchen countertop alternative to that other, more common composite countertop—laminate. Even the resins in these products are green—plant-based rather than petroleum-based.
Skim-coat concrete countertops are a way of achieving the look of concrete countertops without the price tag. The process of installing a skim-coat concrete countertop typically doesn't even require you to uninstall your current countertops. Instead, you simply cover them with a thin coat of concrete.