Living Space: Are granite counters going, going, gone?
For the past decade, granite has hogged the spotlight as the favored countertop material. Granite is beautiful, strong and comes in enough colors to complement any kitchen design scheme imaginable. It's also a natural stone, and in today's green environment, this makes granite highly prized. It can tolerate heat and can often increase the value of your home. Granite also has serious drawbacks, however, and now, some new competition.
Nearly everyone who has granite countertops will tell you they're elegant, beautiful to look at and a royal pain to maintain. Keeping that high luster requires rigorous polishing, and only certain cleaners can be used to preserve the finish. On top of all that, granite requires resealing from time to time.
Without a doubt, the kitchen needs more maintenance than any other room of the house. Cleanup is the name of the game 365 days a year. When choosing countertops, looks certainly matter, but spending less time making the countertops sparkle means you'll have more time to do other things.
Corian tops the list of low-maintenance countertop materials. In the 1980s and '90s, Corian was the luxury choice, but it fell out of favor as granite came in and made Corian look dated. Today, Corian and other solid surfaces can mimic the look of natural stone while being far easier to clean than granite or other natural products like wood or marble.
Solid surface manufacturers such as Corian and Wilsonart can integrate sinks with countertops, so they don't have seams where dirt and gunk can collect. These surfaces are prone to scratches, but such damage can be sanded out. And keep in mind that if you place hot pans on the counter, they will burn the surface. While the costs are close to natural granite, the payoff is low maintenance.
Today, you can choose from laminates with the look of stone to paper composite countertops that also look like stone at half the price per square foot of granite. Today's laminate can be made with custom edges and mimics the colors and patterns of natural stone.
Another great replacement for granite is engineered quartz such as Caesarstone, Silestone or Cambria. This type of countertop is rugged, low maintenance and offers the look and feel of natural stone.
It has all the benefits of granite - great looks, durability - but without the worry about resealing or using specialty cleaners.
They don't come cheap, though. The price point for engineered quartz is close to that of granite. So while not inexpensive, it's tough competition for granite.
Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.