Visual Comparison of the Most Popular Choices in Countertop Materials and Types

There are many different types of countertops on the market today. Homeowners have a tough choice to make when it comes to choosing what counter to install in their homes. Style and color are just two considerations and before those can be finalized you first have to take a look at things like what kind of options are available in terms of durability, stain resistance, maintenance, installation, and cost.

We’ve broken this information down into two easy-to-read charts, which will let you quickly compare how each type of counter ranks on these six factors. Once you’re able to visualize where each material stands, you’ll be in a better position to choose the right counter for your home and to move on to the important choices of color and pattern.

Comparing Countertop Materials Graphically

In this graphic, we’ve broken down ten of the most popular countertop materials and ranked each one on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the least/worst and 5 being the most/best, for six comparable factors—options available (availability of various sizes, styles, and colors), durability, stain resistance, maintenance (high- to low-maintenance), ease of installation (difficult to easy), and cost (expensive to cheap). Keep in mind that these numbers are averages; any material may have outliers that can make a particular factor more or less impactful.

In the above graphic, the greater the score a material got, the more positive its correlation to that factor. A higher the score in each category is better for you, the homeowner. A high score in both cost and maintenance means the material is less expensive and is easier to maintain. A low score in installation and stain resistance means the material is hard to install and is susceptible to staining. Take granite, quartz, and marble for example. Granite has more options available than quartz, but is more high-maintenance. Marble, meanwhile, has fewer options than granite, and is even more difficult to maintain than the others. As each material is ranked on the same scale, it makes it easier to quickly compare and contrast the various pros and cons of each.

Each material was also given a total score, which sums up the six factors used to rank the materials. Material information was gathered from Fixr’s Countertop Cost Guide, with each material being compared with one another for each category. Ranks were assigned in comparison, so materials that are easier to maintain scored higher than those that were more difficult.

Interpreting the Graph and Its Implications

One of the most interesting things to come from these findings is that, while seemingly close in type, different materials can have vastly different ratings. For example, when discussing slab countertops, a quartz countertop is made of 93% quartz (a natural stone), and while granite is a material composed mostly of quartz and feldspar, it scores lower than quartz in how difficult it is to maintain. This could be because there are multiple definitions of the word “granite,” and many different stones that contain some degree of quartz or feldspar could be sold under that name. So while quartz counters have fewer options, they are more consistent in how they perform, simply because they are manmade.

Likewise, while recycled glass and glass slabs may appear similar in name, recycled glass, which contains minerals to add color, as well as varying degrees of actual glass, performs more similarly to quartz than it does to a glass slab that contains no other material other than glass.

For the other materials, it appears as though the more options that are given, the more variation is introduced into how well they perform. For example, while there are more wood countertop options available–in terms of species of wood and how the counters are formed–than stainless steel counters, the wood tends to be higher in maintenance and lower in durability. This may be due to the fact that wood can be ranked on a wider scale. Known as the Janka scale, this measurement shows how wood contains a much wider range of durability than steel, which has a more consistent makeup.

Breaking Down the Countertop Types

Like the graphic detailing materials, the types of countertops are broken down into the similarly comparable factors–options available, durability, stain resistance, maintenance, installation, and cost. “Types” of countertops is a much broader term and requires more varied comparison than when deciding on materials. This is because a slab could mean granite, quartz, marble, or solid surface, while tile could mean stone, glass, or ceramic. Therefore, each number given represents an average; it’s important to cross-check the two graphics to get the most accurate idea of your chosen material.

Applying the Comparison of the Various Types to Their Use

From these graphics, it’s easy to see that slabs of all kind have far more options available for homeowners than other types of counter. This could be because of the way that slabs are formed–one large piece of material is cut and shaped to custom-fit your cabinets, while prefabricated or modular counters are one-size-fits-all. Because it’s harder to keep countless readymade options on shelves, cut-to-order counters can have more options.

The other material that shows a high degree of availability in terms of options, while remaining middle of the road for the other factors is tile. This is because tile can be made from so many different materials. According to Consumer Reports, granite and quartz tiles perform best in kitchens, but porcelain and ceramic tiles are the most budget-friendly.

For materials that are solidly middle of the road, cast in place and modular counters tend to be the most moderate options. Cast in place, in particular, allows for customization and a lot of variation, but its ultimate durability and maintenance depend largely on outside factors, which is what makes it a solid middle of the road choice.

It is important to remember that when comparing countertop types, they must be cross-matched with material for the best results.

Countertop Comparison Helps

With the amount of work, use, and visibility that a countertop gets, it’s important to weigh the various factors that make up each material and type before making a decision. Choosing a material with more available options will mean you have more styles to consider, but choosing a material that is durable as well can mean that the style you choose will last.

Consider these various factors of countertop makeup and use before your next purchase to find the perfect counter for your lifestyle and home.

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