ADVICE & TIPS, COUNTERTOPS

Popular Kitchen Countertop Options – Ideas & Expert Advice

What are the best kitchen countertop options? As a kitchen designer, I get asked this question a lot! 😃

While I don’t think it’s a question with a single answer, I do think that it’s very important to think about your kitchen countertop and what properties, functions and aesthetics you want out of it.

Your countertops (or worktops) not only make up a large visual footprint of your kitchen but can also contribute to a large portion of your budget, so making sure you get the right one for you is something to take the time to research and think about.

In this post, I’ll go over the most popular kitchen countertop, their pros and cons, and some overall considerations to help you decide on the best countertop for your kitchen.

Let’s get into it!

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What To Consider When Choosing A Kitchen Countertop

Before picking your kitchen worktop there are a few things to consider and ask yourself, taking a moment to think about and answer each of the following will help you to figure out which kitchen worktop is going to be best for you.

Durability (Heat and Scratch Resistance)

Does your kitchen get used and abused a lot; do you need something that is going to withstand scratches and putting a hot pan down directly onto it? Just how tough do you need your worktop to be?

If you’re very careful and caring, then timber can look fantastic and is easier on your wallet. If you need something a little more bombproof then maybe look into porcelain composite. It will cost you more though.

Care and Maintenance

Analogy time: Have a look at your car, odd thing to say I know. Is it covered in mud, does it have a load of empty crisp packets and bottles of water littered in the back? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should consider a worktop with less care and maintenance required.

If you prefer a more ‘fit and forget’ approach, consider porcelain, quartz or stainless steel. These materials provide durability and style with minimal upkeep.

On the other hand. If your car is usually pristine, you might be well-suited for a worktop like marble or solid wood, which require more care but offer great aesthetic rewards.

Think of it like maintaining a spotless vehicle – it takes effort, but the result is worth it. Marble needs prompt spill clean-up and regular sealing, while solid wood requires periodic oiling to maintain its beauty.

Aesthetics and Style

What’s your kitchen’s personality? The aesthetic appeal of your worktop can set the tone for your entire kitchen. Do you envision a sleek, modern look, or are you more inclined towards a classic, rustic charm? The material you choose plays a pivotal role in achieving your desired style.

For those who love a contemporary, minimalist look, materials like quartz or porcelain offer clean lines and a range of modern finishes. Their uniform appearance and wide colour palette can complement a contemporary kitchen design or a simplistic, minimalist layout.

If your heart is set on a more traditional or rustic ambience, timber worktops with their natural grains and warm tones bring a sense of cosiness and timelessness.

For a touch of luxury and elegance, marble is unparalleled. Its distinctive veining and soft lustre can transform your kitchen into a sophisticated space.

However, it’s not just about looks; it’s also about how the material feels under your hands. The tactile experience. Whether it’s the cool, smooth surface of marble or the warm, organic feel of wood, can significantly affect your comfort in the kitchen.

Features and Abilities

Do you want to have a sink fixed into your worktop (undermount) and have draining grooves cut in next to it? Does your layout mean you need something in a single length that’s over 3m (10ft) long? Do you want to create some flowing curves and have a seamless and joint-free worktop?

Depending on what features and abilities you would like for your kitchen, can dictate the type of worktop material choices available to you.

Budget

How much have you got to spend on the overall kitchen budget, and how much of it do you want to spend on the worktop compared to the cabinets, appliances and installation?

If you have a few hundred pounds to spend then you will most likely be looking at laminate or timber worktops.

If you’ve got a bit more, or would rather allocate more of your overall budget to the worktop, rather than let’s say appliances, then you could start to consider options such as quartz, granite or marble.

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Prefer watching videos? Check out my quick guide to popular kitchen countertop options below:


The Most Popular Kitchen Countertop Options

Now you’ve thought about what types of features and properties you want out of your worktop, let’s have a look at the options available to you.

There are many, many, options for kitchen worktops these days, far too many for one article. So for this post, I’m going to focus on the most popular types.

I’ll explain what they are and go into the pros and cons of each so you can fully understand what you are investing in and what is going to be the best kitchen worktop for you and your kitchen needs.

1. Laminate

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of laminate countertop options
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £200-£1k
  • Durability: Fairly durable, resistant to stains and easy to clean, but can be susceptible to scratches and heat damage.
  • Maintenance: They require minimal maintenance, just regular cleaning with a damp cloth and mild detergent.

Probably the most common and the most cost-effective of the worktops, laminate worktops are everywhere in the kitchen industry, although they are usually sold more in the lower end of the market.

There are many different brands, including some ‘own brand’ versions. Some good names to look out for are Axiom and Duropal. I’ve worked with and sold these brands for years. They’re my go-to for any kitchen project that has laminate worktops.

How Are Laminate Countertops Made?

Laminate worktops are made by combining layers of paper and resin to form semi-rigid sheets. A decorative sheet that has a colour or particular pattern goes in the middle with clear sheets on top.

These are then compressed and heated so the layers bond into one plastered sheet which is used to form the outer layer, this is then bonded to a timber (usually plywood) substrate to create the lengths we recognize as sheets of laminate worktop.

The thickness of this top layer is what counts when it comes to quality and durability, not the thickness of the whole thing.

That thickness is purely a stylistic choice, usually, 40mm, 30mm or 20mm thick, although some newer thinner styles are coming onto the market around 12mm thick.

Pros: 

  • Most cost-effective
  • Easier to install (compared to stone worktops)
  • Large range of colours and textures
  • Good stain resistance
  • Easy to maintain

Cons:

  • Vulnerable to damage from high temperatures; hot pots and pans can leave burn marks or melt the surface.
  • The surface can be easily scratched or chipped, especially along the edges.
  • If water seeps through seams or cuts, it can cause the particleboard underneath to swell and deteriorate.
  • Not a solid surface, so can’t have an undermount sink or drainer grooves (unless it’s compact laminate worktop)

2. Solid Wood

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of wooden (timber) countertop options
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £500-£1k
  • Durability: Pretty durable but can be prone to scratches and require sealing to prevent water damage.
  • Maintenance: They need regular oiling or sealing to maintain their appearance and protect against moisture.

Next on the list is timber or solid wood, as a general guide this is usually a little bit more expensive than laminate but that will depend on what type of timber you go for.

The most common and relatively low on the price scale are Beech, Maple and Oak, you then move up a bit with the likes of Iroko, Cherry, Walnut and the characterful Zebrano.

How Are Wooden Countertops Made?

A little bit more obvious here, it’s real wood, all-natural from a tree. It’s then milled, machined and glued together to create worktop lengths.

The thing to note here is the glueing together. When it comes to wooden worktops there are a few options to the size of the staves (planks) that are glued together.

The most common is a 40mm stave, this creates an almost block work pattern to the worktop. Then you move up to full staves or full planks, these are usually between 80-120mm wide and run longer lengthways.

This style is often considered a bit more luxurious and you guessed it, is more expensive! 😃

There is also end grain or butcher block but you don’t often see this used for the entire worktop, sometimes just a small end section or prep area.

Pros:

  • Relatively cost-effective
  • Warm and soft texture – It’s a natural product
  • Easier to install (compared to stone worktops)
  • Can be repaired if damaged (sanded back down)

Cons: 

  • Requires a good amount of care and maintenance (keep dry and oil to protect)
  • Particularly vulnerable to water and stains (sink area is always the worst)
  • Not heatproof
  • Not scratch proof

3. Quartz

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of quartz countertop options
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £3k-£8k
  • Durability: Highly durable and resistant to scratches and stains.
  • Maintenance: Low maintenance and non-porous surface; requires only regular cleaning with mild soap and water.

The worktop I get asked for the most and depending on budget, the worktop I recommend the most.

There are now many brands of quartz worktops (engineered stone) offering hundreds of colours and textures. Some of the most recognizable brands are Silestone and Caesarstone.

How Are Quartz Countertops Made?

In simple terms, it’s like a man-made granite. 

Depending on the brand, quartz is approximately between 85 -95% natural quartz stone, the remaining percentage is made up of dyes to create different colours/effects and resin to combine everything when compressed and cured.

This produces consistent slabs of the same colour or pattern that are incredibly tough with very good scratch, stain and heat resistance.

It also means that they are non-porous as they get completely sealed during this process.

Similar to granite, these slabs are usually no bigger than 3m (10ft) long.

Some certain brands and colours offer ‘Jumbo slabs’ but these are only a little bit bigger at 3.2m (10.5ft), so plan your kitchen design accordingly if you don’t want any joints.

Pros: 

  • Very tough
  • Good scratch, stain and heat resistance
  • Consistent colour and pattern across slabs
  • Huge range of colours
  • Easy to look after
  • Good longevity

Cons: 

  • Cost more than laminate and timber
  • Can crack (under extreme impact or thermal shock)
  • Can be damaged by high temperatures; hot pots and pans shouldn’t be placed directly on the surface.
  • In larger countertops, seams may be visible, which can affect the overall aesthetic.
  • Requires expert template and installation (usually 1-2 weeks)

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4. Granite

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of granite countertop options
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £3k-£8k
  • Durability: Very durable and resistant to heat, scratches, and stains.
  • Maintenance: Needs periodic sealing to maintain resistance to stains and moisture.

Probably the material people think of most when they think of a more luxurious hardwearing worktop. Granite worktops have been around a long time and for good reason.

How Are Granite Countertops Made?

A natural stone quarried out of the earth makes granite both very tough and completely unique. As it’s a natural material no two slabs are ever completely identical.

You can see this as a positive or a negative depending on your viewpoint, but there’s no denying that granite has a certain depth and charm to it that other worktops simply can’t replicate, which is why it’s been a favourite for so many for so long.

Granite is renowned for its exceptional strength and heat resistance, making it an ideal choice for kitchens where durability and the ability to withstand high temperatures are paramount.

Counters usually don’t come any bigger than 3m (10ft), so keep that in mind when designing runs and islands. You may require joints.

Pros:

  • Very tough    
  • Unique pattern
  • Good heat and scratch resistance (saying that you shouldn’t cut directly on it)
  • Real natural material – depth and charm – not an imitation

Cons: 

  • Naturally porous (absorbs liquids) unless treated with a sealant.
  • Picking from a small sample won’t give an accurate representation (each slab is unique)
  • Requires expert template and installation. (Usually 1-2 weeks)

5. Marble

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of marble countertop options
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £3k-£10k
  • Durability: Elegant but susceptible to scratches, staining, and etching from acids.
  • Maintenance: Requires regular sealing and gentle cleaning to maintain its pristine appearance.

Marble is often the embodiment of luxury when it comes to kitchen worktop materials. It’s the choice for those who desire a slice of timeless elegance or are wanting to achieve a high-end kitchen look.

While marble is undoubtedly captivating, it does come with its own set of considerations.

How Are Marble Countertops Made?

Marble is a natural stone, metamorphosed from limestone, implying that every slab is unique, showcasing its own intricate veins and patterns.

This means that when you opt for a marble worktop, you’re truly bringing a piece of the earth’s history into your kitchen.

The uniqueness of each slab means you may experience variations in patterns and colours, adding to the inherent charm and bespoke feel of marble worktops.

However, similar to granite, the slabs usually don’t exceed 3m (10ft) in length, requiring thoughtful planning in kitchen design to accommodate joins where needed.

Additionally, because marble is porous and softer compared to granite and quartz, it requires regular sealing to prevent staining and scratching.

Its sensitivity to acidic substances means extra care is necessary to maintain its pristine condition.

Pros: 

  • Intrinsically elegant
  • Each piece is unique
  • Potentially adds value to the property
  • Adds a luxurious touch
  • Good surface if you enjoy baking

Cons: 

  • Sensitive to acidic substances
  • Requires regular sealing (usually every year or so, depending on how much use it gets)
  • Vulnerable to scratches and stains – It’s quite a soft stone
  • Higher cost compared to other materials – some finishes/colours can be VERY expensive

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6. Acrylic (Solid Surface)

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of acrylic solid surface countertop options
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £3k-£8k
  • Durability: Moderately durable, resistant to stains but can scratch and is not heat resistant.
  • Maintenance: Easy to clean; scratches can be buffed out but require care to avoid heat damage.

Do you have curves or want a seamless flowing worktop with no joints in sight? Acrylic, or probably the most popular brand Corian, is what you’re looking for.

How Are Acrylic Countertops Made?

Made from a cocktail of acrylic resins, minerals and colourings, these solid surface countertops can be moulded into almost any shape.

This creates endless design opportunities to really go wild and create some fantastic shapes.

You can have your sink and upstands all moulded into the same piece to create one big flowing worktop that is warm to the touch, unlike granite and quartz.

It’s completely sealed and non-porous, with the ability to be repaired should it get damaged.

Pros: 

  • Create unique shapes by moulding pieces together
  • Completely non-porous
  • No visible joint lines
  • Scratches and chips can be repaired

Cons: 

  • Not as many colour/finish choices as other worktops (mainly quartz)
  • Prone to scratches (can be repaired, but it does scratch quite easily)
  • Direct exposure to high heat can damage the surface ( You should use trivets)
  • Can feel a little plastic-like. (It is an acrylic material after all)

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7. Porcelain (Ultra Compact/Sintered Stone/Ceramic)

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of porcelain composite countertop options. Sintered stone
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £4k-£10k
  • Durability: Extremely durable, resistant to heat, scratches, stains, and UV rays. However, can be prone to cracking.
  • Maintenance: Virtually maintenance-free, easy to clean, and doesn’t require sealing.

The relatively new kid on the block for worktops, porcelain composite (sometimes called ultra-compact surfaces, sintered stone, ceramic worktops) are branded as almost indestructible. (almost – nothing is ever indestructible 😊 ).

The main brands you may come across are Dekton and Neolith.

How Are Porcelain Countertops Made?

Porcelain composites are fabricated by putting the raw materials found in porcelain, glass, and quartz, under extreme pressure and heat to create an extremely durable material.

A pattern is then printed onto the top layer of the slab to create the different colour options. Note: the pattern doesn’t run through the slab on all finishes.

Although some newer colours and finishes now have the patterned through the edge as well. – Just be aware of this!

These surfaces are completely heat, scratch and stain-resistant. So that means you can chop and put that hot pan directly on them.

They come in 12, 20 and 30mm thicknesses and work perfectly with a more contemporary kitchen.

Pros: 

  • Incredibly tough and durable
  • Heat, stain and scratch-resistant
  • Solid worktop (can have drainer grooves and undermount sinks)
  • The non-porous surface prevents bacteria and mold growth, ensuring a clean kitchen environment.
  • Unlike some other materials, porcelain is UV resistant and won’t fade in the sun

Cons: 

  • Higher-end of the price scale (these are not cheap 😬)
  • Limited choice of colours currently (although growing all the time)
  • While extremely hard and durable, porcelain can be brittle and may chip or crack if impacted heavily, especially along the edges and while in transit.
  • Most only have the pattern on the surface, which doesn’t run through the slab. (Some finishes do, more are being developed)
  • There are fewer edge design options compared to materials like granite or quartz.

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8. Stainless Steel Worktops

Infographic explaining the main factors and benefits of stainless steel countertop options.
  • Approx Cost for Average Kitchen: £2k-£8k
  • Durability: Highly durable, heat resistant, and hygienic.
  • Maintenance: Easy to clean but can show fingerprints and scratches over time.

The professional’s choice, stainless steel is more commonly at home in the commercial kitchen but is making more of an appearance these days in the home.

With its strong heat and water-resistant properties, it’s perfect if you’re going for that more industrial or minimal look.

How Are Stainless Steel Countertops Made?

Another one that does what it says on the tin, stainless steel is an alloy metal with chromium in its makeup meaning that it is resistant to rust, making it perfect for a busy kitchen.

Stainless steel worktops are crafted by selecting high-quality steel, cut and formed to fit various kitchen layouts. The surface is then treated with finishes like brushed or polished, and the underside is often soundproofed for noise reduction

When it comes to the kitchen, stainless steel worktops can be made up similarly to laminate, in that there is a top layer (the stainless steel itself) bonded onto a timber substrate to make a thicker worktop.

Pros: 

  • Good heat and stain resistance
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Natural antibacterial properties make it resistant to mold and mildew
  • Strong and durable

Cons: 

  • Can scratch quite easily
  • Very limited finish choices (slight steel variations)
  • Will tarnish over time
  • Cold and clinical feel

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What Is The Best Kitchen Countertop?

Quartz or Granite are often considered the ‘best’ kitchen countertop materials.

Based on cost, durability, maintenance, aesthetics, and lifespan, both materials strike the best balance between aesthetic appeal and functional benefits.

However, determining the best kitchen countertop isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. The ideal choice truly depends on individual preferences, needs, and budget.

Natural Stone Countertops

Natural stones like granite and marble are renowned for their unique charm and beauty. They are distinct and often regarded as premium options.

However, it’s crucial to remember that while they elevate the aesthetic of your kitchen, they do demand a degree of care and maintenance.

Man-Made Countertops

Man-made alternatives such as quartz and porcelain have gained popularity for their practical attributes.

These materials are non-porous, translating to less maintenance and higher resistance to stains, scratches, and impacts.

If you prioritize toughness and durability with less maintenance hassle, these alternatives could align well with your needs.

Budget-Friendly Kitchen Countertop Options

If you’re looking for a cost-effective, yet functional and stylish option, laminate and solid wood worktops make excellent candidates.

Laminate worktops, in particular, offer a range of design options and are low-maintenance.

While solid wood brings a warm and natural ambience to the kitchen but requires regular oiling to maintain its appeal.

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FAQs

What Is The Most Popular Kitchen Countertop?

The most popular kitchen countertop material is quartz.

However, this tends to vary based on regional preferences, trends, and homeowner’s needs.

Granite, due to its natural beauty and durability, also remains a popular choice, particularly for those who prefer natural stone.

Laminate countertops are favoured for budget-friendly renovations, offering a wide variety of designs and ease of maintenance.

Ultimately, the most popular countertop is the one that best fits the user’s specific needs, style preferences, and budget.

Where Should You Buy Your Kitchen Countertops?

Most commonly you will buy your kitchen countertop from the same place you buy your kitchen cabinets, usually a kitchen design showroom.

However, if you are going for laminate or timber countertops, these can be purchased online or from a builder’s merchant in set lengths to be installed by your kitchen fitter.

If you’re choosing stone worktops and want to go a step further and save a bit of money on your kitchen project, then often going directly to a stone fabricator or quarry can save you money compared to what a kitchen design company will charge for the same service.

It’s a bit of extra research, work and project managing on your part, but it’s definitely a way to save some money if the budget is tight.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it! The most popular kitchen countertop options!

A kitchen countertop can be a big investment, so really think about all your options and how you want to use your kitchen.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, each has its own qualities and downfalls, you just have to find the one that’s going to fit your needs and be the best kitchen countertop option for you.

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.