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A Complete Guide to Countertops

A countertop is one of the most important elements of your kitchen or bathroom design. It contributes to setting the style of your room and can transform kitchen or bathroom cabinets. From a practical point of view, you need to assess durability, maintenance, and the cost of the material plus installation when considering countertop options for a remodeling project.

Kitchen Island

Your countertop must work with the rest of your design and complement your room’s style. It’s an investment that should also suit your lifestyle. Do you chop, bake, or put hot pans on your countertop? Do you use products at your vanity that could stain certain countertop materials? Do you regard abrasions and cracks as damage or just character?

Natural or composite, rustic or contemporary, straight or waterfall edge, the choice is yours from a vast selection of possible materials and styles. Here’s our complete guide to countertops to help you navigate the options.

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Bath Design Vanity Cabinet

Before you start looking, make a list of requirements to keep you focused on what you really want and need.

  • Decide on the colors and patterns you like and the type of material that would work best. Bathroom countertops should be stain and chip resistant but don’t need to be as resilient as kitchen ones that must withstand heat and food prep.
  • Always take a sample home before you commit to see how your material works with your light and color scheme.
  • Decide on the type of sink you want. Some countertop materials can be used as a sink in one seamless piece while others work well with vessel, top or under-mounted sinks.
  • Consider combining different materials, so you can, for example, insert a small section of marble as a baking surface or a wood top as a dining area.
  • Another option is to splash out on an island countertop and go for a budget-friendly countertop for your perimeter cabinets.
  • If you’re looking at a universal design, why not choose rounded edges as a safety feature that doesn’t compromise on style? This also brings a sense of calmness to a spa-style bath design.
  • For a dramatic effect, go for a waterfall edge that sweeps from the countertop down the side of the cabinetry to the floor.
Kitchen Island With Barstools

Make sure that the fabricator takes the final measurements and gives you a quote to include installation, cutouts, and removal of your old countertops. Our design experts at Guthrie Kitchen & Bath Plus, LLC can take care of all this for you, preventing any hidden costs.  Here is a rundown of the main countertop materials on the market.

Engineered Quartz

Large Kitchen Design

Quartz countertops are a very durable option, as they are engineered from a combination of quartz and resin. Adding different pigments results in a material that can mimic such surfaces as marble, granite, or concrete. Quartz doesn’t have to be re-sealed and, since it is waterproof, easily accommodates under-mounted sinks. It is also scratch proof but not ideal for very high temperatures. Overall, it’s an excellent investment for a kitchen or bathroom countertop and is available in a style to suit your taste and needs without the high maintenance of natural materials.

Guthrie Kitchen And Bath Bellenger Bath Design Springfield, Tn 6

Recycled Glass

This is a great option for a contemporary look. Pieces of recycled glass are formed into a vibrant countertop where they are visible, as large shards, or appear as a solid color, if finely ground. It is heat and scratch resistant but can stain and chip. However, when used in the right place in your home, it can make a stunning focal point.


Limestone is excellent for areas that aren’t prone to traffic. It is a classic, natural stone, lightly patterned in neutral colors and is heat resistant. However, since it is a porous material, it can scratch, stain, and dent easily so needs to be re-sealed annually.  Limestone is a popular alternative for natural stone countertops for kitchen design as it is cheaper than marble or granite.


Soapstone is a beautifully veined natural stone that comes in a variety of gray shades. It contains a high proportion of talc, which gives it a soft texture, meaning it won’t chip or crack as easily as other, harder natural stones. It lasts for decades and is non-porous, so just needs to be oiled, not sealed, to keep its color. Soapstone is heat and bacteria resistant but susceptible to cuts, scratches and stains. If you’re relaxed about these and like an antique patina, then you’ll appreciate a soapstone countertop the older it gets.

Stainless Steel       

Stainless steel has become increasingly popular in non-commercial settings. It’s a great choice for a modern kitchen or bath design as it is non-porous, as well as heat and bacteria resistant. It can scratch, dent, and show marks but this doesn’t detract from its appearance or performance. It looks great in a kitchen remodel with stainless steel appliances or shelving for a stylish, industrial look. A downside is that it is quite expensive to install, due to its seamless design, which often integrates a sink. It can also appear cold, so be prepared to commit to this industrial look or warm up your design with wood, accent colors, or natural elements like potted herbs.


Tile countertops are a budget-friendly option that are easy to install and come in a range of materials such as ceramic and natural stone. Tile is heat resistant and buying a little bit extra means you can easily replace a damaged tile if one should chip or crack. It’s a cheaper alternative to large slabs but the grout can stain and chip. Dark grout and regular maintenance should overcome this. You can choose from a wide range of tiles in different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns that can coordinate with a backsplash or another material alongside them.

Solid Surface

If you have a lot of area to cover, then solid surface countertops could be the ideal solution. Acrylic resins are mixed with mineral fillers to mimic other materials such as natural stone or concrete. They are then formed into a customized countertop that can incorporate a sink and even a backsplash for a stylish, seamless look on a budget. While heat, stain, and dent resistant, solid surface countertops scratch and cut easily and won’t tolerate high temperatures. If you’d rather invest your budget dollars in high-quality cabinets then go for solid surface countertops as they will look the part against your cabinetry without the high price tag.


This natural stone is seen as the leader in terms of aesthetics for a high-end feel. A marble countertop is expensive but brings class to any kitchen or bathroom remodel. Each marble slab has unique veining and comes in many shades including black, white, and green. It’s a durable material but needs to be well sealed for stain resistance. Marble can chip and scratch easily so invest in good cutting boards. It retains a cool surface, making it ideal for bakers, so even a section of your countertop could be marble for this purpose.


Recent technology means that the 80’s favorite, laminate, has improved and is back in fashion. Made of resin-filled paper or fabric layered onto wood composite, laminate is budget-friendly and comes in many styles. After forming a countertop, the pieces can be heat processed to hide seams. Laminate is bacteria resistant and easy to clean. It isn’t really waterproof and can be easily scratched or damaged by heat, so a textured surface is a good option to hide this. As it’s so inexpensive, laminate countertops are a great option for projects like a guest bathroom design or rental property.

Butcher Block

Kitchen Design With Black Island

Butcher block is made from pieces of wood that are joined together to make a slab. You can choose a selection of wood such as walnut, maple, or oak to suit the style of your kitchen remodel. This countertop can be left unsealed and maintained with wax or oil. Food can be prepared directly on this surface, as it tolerates cutting. If the wood is sealed it provides stain protection but is unsuitable for food prep. Butcher block can also warp with humidity, so it isn’t ideal beside a sink or dishwasher. It does bring warmth to a kitchen design, especially a white one, if you’re prepared for the maintenance requirements.


A variety of tints and textures make concrete an interesting choice for a countertop material. It can chip, scratch, and crack but this is repairable, and it should be regularly sealed to maintain the surface. Topical seals are stain proof and penetrative seals are heat resistant but neither do both. Their durable, heavy nature means concrete countertops are cast directly in your room, making them a more expensive option. Their imperfect finish is not for everyone, but they complement a modern kitchen or bathroom design and transform a traditional one.


Large Bathroom Vanity

Granite is a classic choice that is ever-popular as a countertop material in high-traffic areas. It’s a natural stone with exceptional durability that comes in a wide range of colors with unique pattern variations. It is not recommended to cut directly onto its surface as it can blunt knife edges. Granite is heat resistant and low maintenance when sealed. Some types of granite are more porous and may need regular sealing. It can be used with an under-mounted sink and can be cut with a range of edges to suit your style.


Bamboo countertops are sustainable and come in beautiful patterns such as parquet or a horizontal design in a variety of shades. A stain is required for a final color. They’re warm but high maintenance, as they are prone to stains, scorches, cuts, and warping. They are long lasting, but their color can also darken over time, so expect all these character traits.


Terrazzo has recently come back into vogue as a countertop with a contemporary twist. This retro material is made up of marble chips, glass, cement, and resin making it very durable. It is heat resistant and long lasting, plus it is eco-friendly as it uses recycled materials and has no VOC’s. Terrazzo resin colors and particles come in a huge variety so you can go as neutral or as bold as you like. Avoid natural stone fragments if you want to keep your cost down.

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We know that kitchen and bath design is more than selecting cabinetry and countertops. Designing and remodeling your home is about family dinners, holiday entertaining, and quiet coffee mornings. It is about combining form and function in a home living space. Get inspired by browsing our recently completed projects.

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