Countertops exposed Author: Style At Home

Finding the perfect countertop is easier than you think. Whether you’re looking for affordability, function or style, today’s market is full of options. To help you make the right choice, we took a look at the wide range of materials available.
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BUTCHER BLOCK

ECO-ALERT! Always look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) symbol, which certifies that the product comes from a forest managed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Pros
  • Can be moderately priced
  • Scratches can be removed by sanding

Cons
  • Somewhat resistant to heat and water
  • Vulnerable to fire and burns

Maintenance
  • Wash with damp cloth and mild dish detergent
  • Treat regularly with mineral oil
  • Don’t varnish and avoid vegetable oil, which leaves a sticky residue

Cost (installed)
  • $65+ per square foot
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SOAPSTONE


Pros
  • Visually rich-looking
  • Smooth touch and finish
  • Highly resistant to heat and stains

Cons
  • High maintenance
  • Vulnerable to cracks, which can’t be fixed
  • Can be expensive

Maintenance
  • Coat with mineral oil once a month to preserve colour
  • Wash with damp cloth and mild dish detergent
  • Small scratches can be removed through sanding

Cost (installed)
  • $60–$100 per square foot
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LAMINATE

Pros
  • Variety of colours and styles
  • DIY option
  • Affordable
  • Easy to maintain

Cons
  • Vulnerable to heat and stains as well as burns and scratches

Maintenance
  • Wash with damp cotton cloth and mild dish detergent
  • Use trivets to avoid heat damage

Cost (installed)
  • $15–$30 per square foot







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CONCRETE

Pros

  • Colour-customization available
  • Very durable
  • Resistant to heat

Cons
  • Requires annual resealing
  • Heavy
  • Can crack
  • Vulnerable to stains
  • Expensive

Maintenance
  • Wash with damp cloth and mild dish detergent
  • Clean up spills
  • immediately to avoid staining

Cost (installed)
  • $70+ per square foot
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SOLID SURFACING (Corian)

Pros
  • Huge selection of colours and styles
  • Durable
  • Low maintenance
  • Resistant to heat, stains and dents

Cons
  • Any abrasions require professional care
  • Can be expensive

Maintenance
  • Gently sponge using a mild abrasive liquid cleaner
  • Wash with damp cloth; towel dry

Cost (installed)
  • $50–$100 per square foot
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CERAMIC TILE

Pros
  • Large variety of colours and styles
  • Highly resistant to heat and moisture
  • Affordable

Cons
  • Vulnerable to cracks and chips
  • Tiles take time to install and set
  • Grout can accumulate dirt

Maintenance
  • Wash with damp cloth and mild dish detergent
  • Use epoxy on grout to prevent staining

Cost (installed)
  • $20–$70 per square foot







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PAPERSTONE
ECO-ALERT! Manufactured from 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper.

Pros
  • Wide range of colours available
  • Harder than wood
  • Resistant to heat, stains and scratches

Cons
  • Colour can lighten over time with UV exposure
  • Very expensive

Maintenance
  • Requires semi-annual sealing with PaperStone Finish (contains 100-percent food-safe ingredients)

Cost (installed)
$190+ per linear foot
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MARBLE

Pros
  • Attractive look
  • Highly resistant to heat and water

Cons
  • Requires semi-annual resealing
  • Vulnerable to scratches and stains
  • Expensive

Maintenance
  • Wash with lukewarm water
  • For polished finish, use marble polish semi-annually to maintain shine
  • To create honed finish, apply a clear silicone-based sealer

Cost (installed)
  • $70+ per square foot
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ENGINEERED STONE (Zodiaq, Silestone)

Pros
  • Smooth finish
  • Hygienic
  • Low maintenance
  • Durable
  • No sealants or waxes required
  • Resistant to stains, heat and bacteria

Cons
  • Doesn’t look as rich as marble or granite
  • Abrasions need professional care
  • Can be expensive

Maintenance
  • Wash with damp cloth and, if necessary, non-bleach, non-abrasive cleanser
  • Clean up spills immediately to prevent staining

Cost (installed)
  • $60–$100 per square foot







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STAINLESS STEEL
ECO-ALERT! Stainless steel is the most recycled material in Canada. Chances are your new countertop is constructed out of recycled steel.

Pros
  • Very durable
  • Hygienic
  • Low maintenance
  • Simple buffing
  • can help keep up appearance
  • Resistant to heat and rust

Cons
  • Vulnerable to dents and marks (especially fingerprints)
  • Can be expensive
  • Can be noisy when working on unless wood is used as reinforcement during installation

Maintenance
  • When washing, wipe with grain
  • Avoid bleach, which stains
  • Mild abrasive powder can be used

Cost (installed)
  • $60+ per square foot
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ICESTONE
ECO-ALERT! Manufactured from 100-percent recycled glass.

Pros
  • Offers more colour-customization options than granite
  • Stronger than marble
  • Resistant to heat and scratches

Cons
  • Can stain if not properly maintained
  • Expensive

Maintenance
  • Wash daily with mild soap and water
  • Avoid ammonia- and bleach-based cleaners

Cost (installed)
  • $120 per square foot
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GRANITE

Pros
  • Wide selection of colours available
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Very durable
  • Resistant to heat, water and stains

Cons
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Can be expensive

Maintenance
  • Dust twice a week with soft cloth
  • Requires annual resealing
  • Cleaning products containing acid or alkaline can strip stone polish

Cost (installed)
  • $60+ per square foot

THE BACKSPLASH
For a uniform effect, the same materials used for the counters can be used for the backsplash (the area of the wall between the back edge of the counter and the cupboards above). For a contrasting effect, you can paint your own mural – if you’re good with a paintbrush – or apply faux finish with a coat of polyurethane. If you opt for ceramic tiles, always install them working upwards from the counter. A trick is to place the first row of tiles on spacer bars to maintain an equal space between the counter and the backsplash

THE WARRANTY
Regardless of how much you pay for your counters, carefully read the terms and conditions of the warranty, as they can vary widely from one retailer to the next. That said, remember that you are covered at all times by a legal warranty requiring that your product last a reasonable amount of time, based on its cost and the conditions under which it is used.

DO-IT-YOURSELF OR DEFER TO AN EXPERT?
Laminate and ceramic counters are the only types that do-it-yourselfers should install, provided that they’re good with their hands and have the required patience. Laminate. Available in lengths ranging from 1.2 to 4 metres (4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 feet), these pre-moulded counters are designed to be installed above cupboards measuring about 0.6 metres (24 inches) in depth. In general, they include a backsplash extending a few centimetres above the back wall. To measure the surface area covered, calculate the distance between the wall and the edge farthest from it, adding 25 millimetres (one inch) on the sides if they’re going to be exposed. Where the two surfaces meet at a 90-degree angle, add 25 millimetres (one inch) on the sides and six millimetres (1/4 inch) to account for the angle. If you’re concerned about making a mistake, some manufacturers and retailers offer a measurementtaking
service. (But fees do apply.)

Ceramic. Take the exact measurements of the surface to cover. Based on these, the retailer will know how many tiles to cut. And be sure to use epoxy grout, which is more resistant to stains and dirt. – Isabelle Bergeron

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