Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Been There, Done That: Alternatives to Granite Countertops



Karen Chanan of Number 4 Design, a talented designer in the Chicago area, is sharing her favorite alternatives to granite today. While granite still seems to be the number one choice of people house hunting or looking to update a kitchen, there are so many other exceptional options on the market to consider! Janell

I’m dreaming about my next kitchen…it will look something like this.



Maybe the cabinets will be gray; maybe they will be white, not sure about the floor.
One thing I know for sure, there will be no granite anywhere in sight.

Granite has long been the usual go-to for countertops, and it’s starting to feel a little redundant. With so many choices, both natural and man-made, you can really make a statement, yet be practical at the same time.

Before you go looking, consider these factors:

1. Your budget. This is the first place to start, considering your budget will help narrow down your options.

2. Use. Are you an avid cook? Do you avoid the kitchen at all costs? Some countertops may or may not be the most sensible choice for you based on use.

3. Maintenance. This is a matter of personal preference. Some countertops are super high maintenance, and some are not. Let your lifestyle dictate the direction you take.

So now that we’ve gotten those decisions out of the way, let’s talk options:

Without a doubt, my all-time favorite is Carrera Marble. It’s high maintenance and shows wear, but I don’t care. I love it. Beautiful, elegant, classic. That said, you have to accept that it will show etching and patina over time. I think that’s what gives it character, but if you like a more pristine look it may not be for you.


Concrete is gaining popularity in countertops, as it can be transformed into any shape, finish or color. It’s also heat and scratch resistant. This is another one of my favorites, but keep in mind this is typically a custom project so it may not be right for the budget conscious.


Engineered countertops are made of natural stone mixed with resin, so they are more durable and practically maintenance-free. They are available in a wider variety of colors than granite and have a nonporous surface that resists scratches and stains. You may recognize them under their brand names: Zodiaq®, Cambria Quartz, Cesar stone and Silestone.


If sustainability is one of your goals, Paperstone is a great alternative. It’s a green product made from post-consumer recycled paper mixed with resin. It’s strong, waterproof, and available in a wide range of colors. But keep in mind that the resins in this product can cause the color of the countertop to change over time.


Many associate stainless steel with commercial kitchens, but it can give a great industrial look to residential spaces. While it’s highly durable, heat resistant and easy to clean, it definitely shows scratches, so if you want flawless surfaces, you may want to move on.


Soapstone is a soft, non-porous, natural stone which is distinguishable by its dark, almost black, honed surface. Great for cooks because it's an excellent heat insulator, at the same time it is one of the higher maintenance surfaces requiring regular applications of mineral oil.


We’ve covered only a few of the dozens of options out there…take your time, do your research, don’t be afraid to venture off the road of conformity. You’ll be happy you did!

{images via Houzz}

39 comments :

  1. yay! I have never personally wanted granite in my older home. just didn't feel right. I went with cherry wood and am very happy with it. it's warm and cozy. next re-do I'm going with calcutta gold marble. so glad to see other granite alternatives...donna

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  2. My all time favourite is carrera marble as well and now that I've had it on my island, it will always be my choice. I know it won't always look pristine, but I've always loved the worn look of all the marble tops in France - to me, it makes a home feel lived-in and loved :)

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  3. Loved this post! Someday we will do a minor update on our kitchen including painting the cabinets and getting new counter tops. Everyone has thought I was crazy for not wanting granite but I've just never thought it was pretty. I love carrera so much but I don't think I am up for the task. Maybe the expense would make me up for the task! I've thought about stainless steel but I think I'm more of an engineered girl. It'll be a while so we will see how it goes!

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  4. I love the idea of countertops other than granite but I have to correct one thing this post says about soapstone: I would not call soapstone high maintenance. I've had beautiful soapstone counters in my kitchen for three years and have never oiled them. Oiling is a choice, not a maintenance requirement. Oiling (or using a combination of beeswax and mineral oil) will darken the counters but it's absolutely not a requirement.

    My counters are naturally quite dark (and have darkened naturally with use); some soapstone is much lighter gray and if what you want is a black counter you would have to oil semi-regularly depending on the stone (the counters will start to hold the oil and the darkness with time).

    Just my two cents about soapstone, which I find to be the perfect countertop surface.

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  5. Hi Susan, thanks for your input! It sounds like it comes down to a personal preference and enjoyed reading about your experience with soapstone, which is one of my favorite countertop choices, if I were to redo a kitchen! That and marble, it would be a toss up!

    Janell

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  6. I'm kind of over granite too, but that's the first thing a client asks for in a kitchen remodel. I'm doing alot of educating about the other options. I'm loving Ceasar stone. It looks alot like Soapstone but it's much more durable. If I have to go granite, I'm choosing absolute black in a honed finish.

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  7. Why is it that everyone wants granite? Some of the lower priced options aren't even that attractive in my opinion. But Sally J, yes, if I had to go with granite honed absolute black would the way to go! I've also seen it honed AND distressed, which was interesting, adding a lot of character.

    Janell

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  8. I am so sick of granite.
    My first choice would be butcher block. I love the warmth it provides.
    Second choice is quartz. I prefer a solid color over the speckled appearance of granite. And the fact that it is maintenance free.

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  9. I once stayed in a beautiful beach house with a butcher block island, in the winter, and it was such a great surface to bake on! We were there celebrating a birthday, so lots of cooking and baking going on and the surface was perfect.

    Janell

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  10. I am over granite myself...esp. the more popular variations you see everywhere. We are remodeling our kitchen and we are either doing all marble or a combo of marble and some other grey stone (quartzite or limestone are the front-runners at the moment).

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  11. We had butcher block in a previous house and before moving in had to plane it down quite a bit to get rid of the "stuff" that was on it - years of use and neglect had left it pretty nasty. Our intention was to keep it maintained and in good shape but it was a fair bit of work - regular baking is okay for it but meats and hot pans? yikes.

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  12. What is your opinion on butchers block counters? I like the looks of them, but I'm not sure if they would be suitable for me. I don't like cooking, and when I do cook, I don't like cleaning up my mess. I'm going to be honest, usually my mess sits there overnight. Our counters tend to usually be covered in papers, junk, crumbs, etc. I personally don't mind scratch/cut marks, but would it stain from food or drinks? Stains always make me think that something isn't clean. Thanks!

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  13. Based on your comment, I'm thinking butcher block is not the material for you!! Anyone else have a thought on this?
    Janell

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  14. Great post. I think granite is too common now, time for the next big thing!

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  15. Great post. I am a marble girl all the way, never have been a fan of granite. I had a teak top on my old kitchens island which I also loved very much, and did require a little maintenance but it was worth it! I love the aged patina and the little nicks that worn marble gives over time...it adds to the character and charm. Its been used in countless restaurants and pizzerias all over Italy, so its good enough for me!!

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  16. wonderful post Janell,
    am looking at soapstone..love the look and don't mind oiling it too..am fanatical in the kitchen anyway.. :)
    best,
    maureen

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  17. A great post with lots of good info! Having recently gone through a major ktichen remodel we did a lot of research on all types of countertops. There are so many choices out there now and it all comes down to what suits your home and your personal style and of course maintenance. We were very close to going with concrete and at the last minute decided on granite. We chose the honed finish in absolute black and LOVE it.

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  18. I don't mind the look of most granites, but the fact that everyone and their brother covets it makes me sick of it. A few years ago I watched one of those home flipping shows. The flippers used quartz composite. One of the realtors that did the "after" walkthrough poo pooed it as a bad choice because it wasn't granite. What the what now ? I was gobsmacked.

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  19. I had seen a recycled glass countertop on Ed Begley, Jr.'s television show "Living with Ed". Has anyone seen, or used one of those? If you have, what did you think of it?

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  20. Love the carrera marble. Even though it stains, i would do it in a heartbeat!
    Stacy

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  21. During construction of our Craftsman home, I researched and researched appropriate fixtures and finishes for a 1920s era bungalow. I decided on Carrera marble for our perimeter cabinets and walnut for our island. Both are period-specific and look great. Both are also prone to wear and are nowhere near perfect-looking any longer. I'm usually a perfectionist, but I looooove my counters and would choose them again in a heartbeat!

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  22. We had butcher block in our last home on all the counter space, not just an island and I have to tell you that it was tough to keep up. You cannot leave glasses that sweat on it because the water will damage the surface (even with a sealer for butcher block). You also have to put pans and hot dishes on a hot pad to keep from discoloring the surface. That being said, and although it was a little trouble, the warmth of the wood surface was wonderful and it certainly made our kitchen look very inviting. We did end up going with granite for our newly renovated home and I really love it's durability...and with 4 kids that is a must. Maybe when all the kids are grown I will finally get my dreamy white kitchen with marble! and I'll eat out! lol

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  23. I JUST did a post on our new granite counter/island top a few days ago: http://www.libbywilkiedesigns.com/2011/08/story-about-granite.html

    The butcher block that had been there was awful. No way in the world we could ever get it really....clean and it just didn't LOOK clean. I am not a fan.

    On the other hand, I am absolutely amazed at how much people are willing to spend on counter tops! Wow. I had good ole corian for 25 years in my old house, and it was perfect! We inherited new Corian in this house, and it will stay. I have better things to spend my money on.

    We did go to the "outlet" for our granite island and ended up spending about 50% less because it was a "remnant". Custom made for us, installed, and yet we didn't have to spend a fortune!

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  24. I ADORE the first kitchen. It's fresh and light but NOT traditional white. I like the unexpected grey. Thanks for the great inspiration! Chic Rooms

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  25. Yeah I'm done with granite...yet it is absolutely care free (we have it and butcher block). I'm kinda done with the carrera marble look...only because you see it EVERYWHERE. It may go the way of granite...only because it is such a limited look. I love the idea of concrete....and travertine (concrete with glass). Interesting topic!

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  26. We love white marble and used it on our kitchens. We didn't care about the maintaince or the staining factor either even though every one tried to talk us out of it.
    Angela and Renee

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  27. The white marble is just lovely and timeless! So happy to have read this post! We've been discussing new counter tops for our home and it's so great to know there are such beautiful options to choose from!

    Jess

    http://projectdiaz.blogspot.com/

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  28. I couldn't agree with the granite statements more - over it, move on! thanks for highlighting so many other options out there.

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  29. Great post! Most of my clients regard granite as the top-of-the-line countertop...I think just because they don't know enough about the other options...and a little pressure to be like their neighbor. Once introduced to marble, CesarStone, soapstone I can usually convert a few!

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  30. I'm so glad to read about the alternatives to granite! We moved into a house with solid white Corian countertops which are NOT for me. I feel like I'm wiping crumbs off all day. I want something with a little bit of speckle, but I've never liked the granite choices I seen (and EVERYONE here seems to do granite-- it's like they're sheep).

    I love the look of marble and I'd love to put what I want in my home without worrying about what the next owner would think. I feel like my mom lived her life being afraid to do anything too bold in decorating because of "resale value" fears. I also like some of the quartz options with smaller specks. Either way, this post has given me courage! Thanks!

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  31. Great recap. It's nice to have so many options to compare in one spot! Thanks for sharing.

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  32. I have been mixed on granite. I used to love the look but then when my parents installed it, dark granite on dark cabinets, i liked it less. Sucks the life out of the room. I am a big fan of Soap Stone for its veining and durability but yes you do have to oil it regularly. Corrian and Quarts counters are probably among my favorite. I do like some marbles, but Carrera is not for me. I find it too over done and impractical plus it reminds me of the 80's and early 90's too much for comfort.
    I just am putting in a silver limestone look formica and it looks really great. I would investigate Limestone too, I think its very like marble in maintenance staining etc. but also very pretty for those who don't cook a lot. Though why one would spend so much on a kitchen when they don't cook is beyond me.

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  33. My favorite are concrete, recycled glass, and recycled paper. All so beautiful. And Silestone is way above granite on my list :).

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  34. Absolutely gorgeous!!! Thanks for posting!

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  35. I am with you...so over granite. I KNOW my husband would have a heart attack if he even thought I was secretly plotting to remove our granite. Better check up on the life insurance :)

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  36. I am actually a fan of granite countertops but only because they look nice. I never realized how many other options there are. I really like the concrete idea. I think that is going to be my next project. Thanks for the great information!

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  37. It really depends on what your reasons are for the upgrade. If you are upgrading for selling then granite countertops are the way to go. If you are upgrading for personnal preference then granite still can be a great option but depending on the design elements other surfaces may be more suiting to the design of the kitchen. Granite is very popular for modern kitchens. thanks for the post!

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  38. It is easy to carry out installation and maintenance of solid wooden worktops, and they are even capable of passing the test for durability.

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  39. This is a very good blog. I appreciate very much this text, thank you, let me know so I have moved the article.granite worktop prices

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