Choosing the Right Countertop Material for Your Lifestyle

There is an abundance of countertop materials to choose from when renovating your kitchen - marble, quartz, quartzite, soapstone, butcher block, concrete, granite, limestone, laminate, recycled glass, stainless steel, terrazzo, ceramic tile, and even paper composite. But which material is right for you and your lifestyle?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of some of the most popular materials:

MARBLE

Pros: The look (obviously); marble is as classy as it gets; it's mostly heat durable; and it's timeless so you maintenance aside, you won't want to change it.

Cons: Marble is a porous surface so it will absorb liquids and stain and etch, meaning it needs to be resealed every year or two. It gets nicked, cut, and scratched easily. Plus it's the one of the most expensive materials you can pick for your countertops.

If you watch home improvement shows at all, you've probably heard the phrase "carrara marble" thrown around a lot. Carrara marble is a variety of marble that is one of the highest qualities of marble, and it comes in the typical white and blue-gray color people picture when they think of marble. Marble is absolutely beautiful, but it is also extremely expensive. If you are going for a kitchen that is luxurious, timeless, and more show-than-tell, marble might be the right countertop for you.

QUARTZ

Pros: Quartz is the man-made version of marble, so you get the beauty of the real stuff, combined with great engineering that has gotten rid of the flaws, making quartz stain, scratch, head, acid, and impact resistant. It's also a non-porous surface, so you don't ever have to reseal it - you gotta love low maintenance.

Cons: Like the real thing, quartz can get chipped, particularly on the corners and edges, and the repair work requires a professional.

We here at Square Deal Construction Company love quartz. We always include it as an option in our kitchen remodel estimates because we think it's so great! If you like the look of marble, but you have a budget and you actually use your kitchen on a daily basis, quartz is probably the countertop for you. To see what your kitchen would look like with quartz, check out Cambria's online app DragonVision, or if you have iOS, you can use the Cambria AR app.

GRANITE

Pros: Granite comes in a huge variety of color options and variations, and it can be polished (shiny) or honed (matte). Once it's been sealed, granite is non-porous so it's easy to clean. It's also mostly resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches.

Cons: Needs to be sealed! Seriously, granite absorbs absolutely everything if it's not professionally and properly sealed, and periodically resealed. Another con is how easy it is for the corners to get chipped.

Because they are anything but man-made, granite countertops are one-of-a-kind. If you don't mind a little more maintenance for your counters, and you are possibly interested in more rare colors, granite just might be what you're looking for. You can see what different granite colors look like in a kitchen with the Keystone Kitchen Visualizer.

CONCRETE

Pros: Because concrete is so sturdy, it's almost completely stain, heat, and water resistant, as long as it's been properly sealed. It's also super easy to customize - everything from the thickness to the edges to the color to the finish can be customized.

Cons: Concrete will patina (darken in color) over time and it does require periodic maintenance such as resealing to keep it in tip top shape.

If you're going for a more unique, very stylized aesthetic in your kitchen, concrete might be just the countertop you need.

RECYCLED GLASS

Curava  Recycled Glass Surfaces from  Keystone Granite

Curava Recycled Glass Surfaces from Keystone Granite

Pros: Recycled glass countertops are super unique and fun. They have large pieces of glass to significantly more finely ground pieces. It's also mostly resistant to cuts, scratches, and heat, although that varies by manufacturer.

Cons: The two biggest cons for recycled glass surfaces is that they can stain and how wide a cost range there is.

If you want a more colorful, eco-friendly kitchen, recycled glass is a good way to go, although you should definitely do more research into which manufacturers are better.

BUTCHER BLOCK

Pros: Butcher block brings some often much-needed warmth and character to a kitchen, and it is a great way to have multi-use surfaces. They are also extremely sanitary when they've been properly sealed. 

Cons: Butcher block needs to be sealed and oiled regularly to stay in good condition. It's not a great material to put around a sink because of how wet the sink area usually is, but it's a good option for a counter space near the oven or as an island top. The wood is also susceptible to scratches and dents, just like a regular cutting board.

If you like a more natural look, and you need multi-functional space, you should consider adding some butcher block to your kitchen.

 

You can find more information on countertop materials at these locations: Studio McGee's rundown of countertop surfaces pros and cons; Consumer Reports "Best Countertops for Busy Kitchens" report; Stock Cabinet Express's comparison of granite versus quartz; the Countertop Preview consumer toolbox Countertop Comparison Chart; Jenna Burger's helpful rundown of materials; Zillow's guide; and Lindsay Stephenson's revisit of quartz countertops.


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A Deck for All Seasons

We love capped composite decking materials, and with the ridiculous rise in cedar prices over this last summer, composite decks have become quite competitive in their pricing. But don’t just take our word for it – here are some of the many reasons composite decking is better than wood:

Maintenance

Of course, one of the most important things to consider, second only to how well the deck is actually built, is maintenance. Wood decks require a lot of maintenance. They have to be thoroughly cleaned and re-stained every year to protect against rot and fading. Plus, it needs to be sanded down and re-finished every couple of years. Then you have to check and spray for bugs, and pray that the beetle you just saw running across your deck is in fact a beetle and not a termite. That’s a lot of time you could be doing something more relaxing, like enjoying sitting on your deck. Composite decks do not require more than an hour of maintenance every year – they just need a good soap and water washing once a year.

Eco-friendliness

Composite decking helps the environment. Wood decking means cutting down trees that protect us from carbon dioxide and replenish our oxygen, using more trees to create the energy needed to power the machines that refine the wood and make it construction ready, and having to replant more trees to start the process all over again. Trees are what makes our home here in the Pacific Northwest so stinking beautiful. (Especially like right now at the end of October when the leaves are turning the most brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow and the whole area is just glowing.) Composite decking is mostly made out of recycled plastic materials, keeping them out of dumps. TimberTech advertises that their decking is made from 73% recycled materials, and Trex’s is 95% recycled materials. You can learn more about turning plastic into composite decking in this Trex video and this Fiberon video.

Sturdiness

Wood decks splinter and twist and rot and warp. Composite decks do not. Plus, composite decking is more weather-resistant. Wood decking materials last at most 10-15 years. Composite decking materials last at least 25 years and longer if you take good care of them. That’s almost twice as long! And considering cedar and composite materials are running about the same price-wise right now, you end up getting so much more for your money’s worth with composite decking – a longer lifetime with significantly less maintenance time.

The Look

If the only thing holding you back from going with composite rather than wood is that you are afraid it won’t look like real wood, please come into our office and let us show you the 30+ samples of composite decking we have from four different companies that are designed with a wood grain finish. (Or just look at these samples on Trex’s website.) Composite decking has the look of real wood, without the hazards and dangers of real wood. And you don’t have to stain it to get it the color you want. Plus, most composite decking materials have color all throughout the material, rather than slathering on a coating at the end, so you don’t have to worry about fading or staining.

Let us know your thoughts on capped composite decking in the comments below.


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To Fiberglass or Not To Fiberglass

Everyone has a front door; do you know what yours is made of?

There are pros and cons to every material. Let's look at a few of the differences between wood and fiberglass.

Wood

Pros: real wood grain; looks high-end; easy to repair and refinish; a look and feel that’s almost impossible to truly mimic (think about the sound a wood door makes when you knock on it)

Cons: expensive; absorbs moisture; warping, twisting, bowing, peeling, & bubbling; not energy efficient; fades & requires regular maintenance

Other tips: Solid wood doors are by far the most safe of wood doors, but they can cost you upwards of $2,000. If you’re adamant about getting a real wood door, check out options from Pella or Simpson. Their doors are specially made to have a higher insulation value than the average wood door. They’re also fairly cost effective, depending on size/shape/etc. Apply a marine varnish every couple of years to aid in protecting the door from moisture.

Fiberglass

Pros: low-to-no maintenance; no dents, scratches, rotting, deterioration, rust, warping, bowing, or twisting; can have wood grain or smooth finish; very energy efficient (has up to five times the insulation value of wood); can be painted or stained; secure; long lasting; holds up better in extreme weather conditions

Cons: aesthetic; can crack under severe impact (but really, how often does this happen short of someone trying to shoulder your door in?)

Other tips: May or may not cost more upfront, but will definitely save you in the long run. You will still need to re-stain or re-paint the door.


OTHER DETAILS TO CONSIDER

Obviously, the most important details to consider are the size and shape of your door. Is your door a standard size? Standard heights are 6'8", 7', and 8'. Standard widths are 2'6", 3', and 3'6". Having a standard size door helps keep costs down; if your door is not a standard size, it will have to be specially made, which means a higher price tag.

There are a lot of different shapes of doors, but the three most common styles are square, round, and arched, with square being much more common than the others.

The next question to ask yourself after deciding size and shape is: Do I want a window in my door? If your answer is yes, you just created two more questions for yourself. First, you have to decide how much window you want. The options are 1/4-lite, 1/3-lite, 1/2-lite, 2/3-lite, 3/4-lite, full-lite, and a center arch. Check out these fiberglass Therma-Tru doors for reference:

                                                                                 You can learn more about each of these different Therma-Tru door styles here:  Opaque ,  1/4-Lite ,  1/3-Lite ,  1/2-Lite ,  2/3-Lite ,  3/4-Lite ,  Full-Lite , and  Center Arch .

                                                                                 You can learn more about each of these different Therma-Tru door styles here: Opaque, 1/4-Lite, 1/3-Lite, 1/2-Lite, 2/3-Lite, 3/4-Lite, Full-Lite, and Center Arch.

After you decide how much window you want, you have to figure out what kind of glass you want. Is it going to be clear? Decorative? Privacy? If you want decorative or privacy glass, you can choose from even more specfics. Plus, there are glass coatings like Lo-E to consider.

While we're on the subject of windows, let's talk about transoms and sidelites. A transom is a window that is horizontally-placed above the door, and a sidelite is a window placed vertically on either or both sides of a door. Check out these wood sidelite options from Rogue Valley Door:

You can learn more about this Rogue Valley Door  here  and sidelite  here .

You can learn more about this Rogue Valley Door here and sidelite here.

Doors also have lots of little details to consider. Do you want panels? If so, what style and how many? If you're going for a Craftsman look, you may want to consider adding a dentil shelf.

Think about the architectural style of your home. This may help narrow down the style of door you want.

Once you have the door itself figured out, it's time to move on the hardware, which is a another topic for another blog post.


Considering a wood door but wanting to know what it will look like before you buy? Check out Rogue Valley Door's Interactive Door program. You can upload a picture of your front entry way and then play around with different styles to figure out what you like best.

For those interested in fiberglass doors, Therma-Tru has an app called DoorWays you can use to see what your front door could look like. Once you sign in, go to “Create a New Project,” give it a name, select size and configuration, and then the fun stuff begins. You can upload a photo or take one from there in the app.

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Browse by glass style, collections, or architectural style. Select the door you want, adjust the finish, glass, and handleset, and click “Update” to view your new door in place. You can save the project to view and make changes later on. If smartphones are not your cup of tea, Therma-Tru also allows you to do all of this online here.


Before you go door shopping, read these great tips from This Old House:

"For complete entry systems, be sure all components come from the same manufacturer. (Many systems are assembled by distributors with parts that might not mate perfectly.) Check that the weatherstripping seals properly and that the threshold interlocks with the bottom edge of the door.
Look for [lo-e] glazing on window units. For added security, some manufacturers offer glazing designed to resist break-ins. Decorative windows with real lead or brass caming cost more than ones with the fake stuff.
High-quality steel and fiberglass doors have a thermal break — often a vinyl strip or part of the wood frame — that separates the inside and outside door skins. This prevents outside cold and heat from being conducted through the skin and frame, and frost from forming on the inside surface.
Picking the right front door will pay off in smoother operation, less maintenance, and added energy savings. You'll also have an elegant entry that makes a great first impression for years to come."

Still not sure which way to go? Read what other homeowners are saying on Houzz.


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Everybody Loves Hardwood Floors, But ...

Let’s face it – hardwood floors, while exquisitely beautiful, are not as durable as we would like. They scratch and chip and need to be re-stained. Not to mention the warping and staining that can happen if you spill on the floor & don’t clean it up fast enough or if you have a water leak in your home. And if you’ve got kids or pets (or both) the problems just happen sooner. Eventually, you look at your floor and all you see is the dents and scrapes and imperfections where your once beautiful flooring sat. You find yourself wondering if you should have gone with that laminate alternative instead.

So what if I told you there was a way to get the beauty of hardwood floors with the durability of tile?

Okay, maybe this isn’t a new concept to you, but wood-scraped tile has come so far in the last 5 years! Here are some of the PROS of wood scraped tile:

  • Durability – Tile flooring is considerably more durable than hardwood. It can withstand scratches and scrapes and your dog’s claws. Plus, unlike porous wood, tile is more resistant to moisture, especially porcelain as it is denser, so (if installed correctly) you don’t have to worry about warping. Porcelain is even fireproof.
    • A Note: Wood scraped tile comes in ceramic and porcelain. If you go for a ceramic tile, make sure to get it glazed and sealed as this significantly increases its durability and water resistance capabilities, although porcelain still has a longer lifespan than ceramic.
  • Maintenance – Tile is so low maintenance, especially compared to hardwood. It’s easier to clean, porcelain is stain resistant, and it is relatively easy to replace a tile or two if need be.
  • Warmth – Tile is great because you can install radiant heating pads underneath to keep your toes warm in the colder months. You can’t do that with a lot of varieties of hardwood.
  • Selections – There are just as many, if not more options when choosing a wood-scraped tile instead of hardwood. There are hundreds of colors options, different wood-look designs, and many different plank width options. You can even get “reclaimed” wood-scraped tile! You can also lay the tile into different patterns like brick-joint, corridor, and herringbone (pictured below).
  • Price – Tile is equivalent to, and usually cheaper than wood, especially when the wood market gets volatile.
  • Outdoor Usage – You can put tile outdoors with no concern, unlike wood, making your outdoor kitchen patio as dreamy as you could imagine it.
  • The Look – It has often been a past concern that because of grouting, wood-scraped tile will never look quite as real as hardwood. But this really shouldn’t be a concern. Getting tile with rectified edging means that you can put them closer together and use less grout – and the tile will look just as authentic as real wood. And while tile is a bit difficult to install, so is hardwood and tile is more cost-effective than hardwood.

You can find wood-scraped tile at your local home improvement store or flooring store, as well as online. If you are interested in learning more about wood-scraped tile, check out Daltile.