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Expert Advice

Selecting the Perfect Countertop

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Your countertops have an important job. They bring the design of your kitchen together, play backdrop to daily meals, and often serve as the household hub. So, when starting a kitchen renovation, choosing your countertop is a great place to start. No matter the size of your space, it’s important to select countertops you can rely on to provide a captivating design focal point and deliver daily functionality.

In Cambria’s educational video series, Dream.Plan.Do., real estate investor, contractor, and TV host Scott McGillivray explains the wide range of quality when it comes to kitchen countertops. “There are a lot of options out there to choose from, but they’re not all equal. Not even close, actually—especially if you’re looking for the highest quality,” says McGillivray.

McGillivray walks through the pros and cons of common options to help you decide which countertop material is right for you. With his help, you can find the perfect countertop for your space, adding value and years of enjoyment to your home.

Natural stone countertops

McGillivray explores the three natural stone surfaces that are most common in luxury homes, comparing them in four key categories: durability, maintenance, porosity, and hygienic quality.

Cambria countertops

With a wide array of colors and designs, Cambria is a popular choice for homeowners and designers. McGillivray highlights Cambria as a beautiful natural stone that stands apart, naming Brittanicca™ as one of his favorites. Cambria is durable, as quartz is one of the hardest minerals on Earth, followed only by diamond. It is also scratch resistant, does not stain, and is virtually maintenance free. It does not require any sealers or polishing agents and cleaning Cambria couldn’t be easier. All you need is warm water, a soft cotton cloth, and mild soap if desired. To protect Cambria from heat, simply use a trivet as with other natural stones. Unlike granite or marble, Cambria is a nonporous stone. As McGillivray explains, “If you spill some wine, it won’t stain, and it doesn’t harbor bacteria, so it’s a safe choice as well.”

 

Kitchen featuring Cambria countertops and backsplash, design: Ella™ from the Marble Collection™

 

Do your research before your renovation, as not all quartz countertops are created equal. Knowing where your quartz countertops come from is crucial to ensure the quality of the stone. Some quartz produced abroad may be adulterated and not subject to safety or quality standards, lessening performance and eliminating hygienic benefits offered by a premium brand like Cambria. Cambria is in a class of its own as the only family-owned, American-made producer of natural stone surfaces.

 

Granite countertops

According to McGillivray, granite can handle normal kitchen wear and tear fairly well, but may chip or crack if a heavy object is dropped on it. He adds, “Granite is not necessarily heat resistant and is subject to problems with rapid temperature change.” Granite also requires some upkeep, requiring regular sealing—sometimes as frequently as once a year. Granite is a porous stone, so it may absorb liquids and stain if not sealed properly. This also impacts granite’s hygienic qualities. “If not sealed properly or the sealant wears off, granite can absorb and harbor bacteria—Nasty!” says McGillivray.

 

Marble and Granite

Kitchens featuring granite countertops (left) and  marble countertops (right)

 

Marble countertops

Marble is even more porous than granite, making it prone to chipping, cracking, and staining. “If you spill something acidic like wine, it will definitely stain,” says McGillivray. Marble is strong, but not the most durable of the natural stone options available. As McGillivray explains, “A hard hit from a pot or a pan can chip or even break a piece off.” Marble is also a high-maintenance product that requires regular sealing and can also be affected by heat. Its hygienic properties are similar to granite—if not sealed properly or the sealant wears off, marble countertops can absorb and harbor bacteria. There is a place for marble in the home, but it is not best suited for the kitchen or other high-use areas.
 

Compare the benefits of natural stone: Cambria vs. granite vs. marble countertops.

 

Other kitchen countertop surfaces

Stainless steel countertops

More common behind the scenes in commercial kitchens, stainless steel is sometimes considered for an industrial look. The pros? They are durable and heat and stain resistant. The cons? Stainless steel counters scratch and dent fairly easily, and watermarks and crumbs stand out on the surface. McGillivray’s recommendation? “My general rule: save the stainless steel for the appliances,” he says.

 

Concrete countertops

According to McGillivray, concrete is durable and heat resistant but is very heavy and tough to install. “You need to make sure your cabinetry can even handle the weight,” he says. Concrete countertops also require regular sealing and may stain if not properly maintained. Another drawback? “Since they’re so unique, they might not add to the resale value of your home,” says McGillivray. Read about a high-performing alternative to concrete countertops here.

 

Butcher block countertops

Wood-surface countertops like butcher block are not heat or stain resistant, and are very high maintenance—requiring frequent sanding, sealing, and oiling. They can also scratch and chip. For these reasons, they are best reserved for an accent or small prep space. “They can be nice to work on,” says McGillivray, “but they’re not generally an appropriate choice for the entire countertop.”

 

Kitchen featuring Ella countertops by Cambria with butcher block accent countertop

 

If you love the look of granite, marble, or concrete countertops, you don’t have to sacrifice performance. Cambria’s stunning designs offer a similar aesthetic with benefits that ensure you’ll add value and years of enjoyment to your space.

 

Carrick™ countertops from Cambria offer a concrete look.

 Like the look of granite or marble countertops? Consider these maintenance-free alternatives.

 

There are many options for your countertops, but Cambria outperforms with benefits and beauty. Want to learn more? View the Choosing Your Countertops video from Dream.Plan.Do. and check out the complete series to help guide your kitchen renovation project.