Launch Slideshow

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Proper Toppers

Proper Toppers

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    Wood Chips

    For those who want a distinctive countertop, custom wood butcher block is a nice option. The company fabricates its tops into edge grain, end grain, and live edge chopping block tops ranging in thickness from 1¼ inches to 12 inches. Pieces feature natural colors and are sealed and oiled for use as food-grade surfaces. Hardwood species include teak, mahogany, walnut, cherry, and maple. Brooks Custom. 800-244-5432. www.brookscustom.com.
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    Glass Top

    Micro is a green surfacing material that consists of up to 74 percent recycled glass, mixed with a cement binder. Positioned as an alternative to natural stone and petroleum-based countertop surfacing materials, the environmentally friendly product is durable, low maintenance, and stain resistant. It comes in six colors and in slabs that are 30 inches wide, 96 inches long, and 1½ inches thick. Meld USA. 919-790-1749. www.meldusa.com.
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    Fashion Conscious

    The Platinum Series is a new metallic color collection that draws inspiration from current styles in fashion and design. Ideal for design-savvy consumers and professionals who seek the latest trends, the line is made from 93 percent quartz and is naturally nonporous and highly scratch, stain, and heat resistant. The series ranges from $70 to $89 per square foot. Cosentino USA. 866-268-6837. www.silestoneusa.com.
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    Solid State

    The manufacturer’s highest-end acrylic solid-surfacing line, Tempest, offers striking color choices with more depth, translucency, and particulates than traditional solid surfacing. Available in 17 colors, the tops are durable, stain resistant, easy to clean, and easy to repair. It’s also nonporous, so it resists penetration of the surface by bacteria, mold, and moisture. Staron Surfaces by Samsung. 800-795-7177. www.staron.com.
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    Eco Minded

    Eco-Cem is an environmentally friendly countertop material that’s made from 80 percent cement and 20 percent recycled paper. Available in slabs, tiles, and panels, it’s lighter and stronger than natural stone, the company says, and the product is resistant to mold and mildew growth. It’s available in a range of earth-toned colors such as Tibet Gold, Safari Brown, and Celadon Green. Coverings Etc. 305-757-6000. www.coveringsetc.com.

You can probably blame the formerly white hot housing market for the elevated position of granite in the home building industry. During the boom, granite became so popular that even entry-level houses and the most basic of condos offered the stone as standard in the kitchen.

The result of this conditioning is that home buyers are likely to want (or expect) a countertop surfacing that is a little more than basic. Richard Brooks, president of Brooks Custom, a countertop and kitchen products fabricator in Westchester County, N.Y., says most buyers—no matter their income level—want a countertop that is durable and low maintenance but also attractive and different.

“The people with money still want something distinctive,” Brooks says. “Those clients who have bigger budgets are not deterred by the higher costs of more unique materials. We are seeing people consistently choosing butcher-block tops, premium wide-plank wood countertops, and stainless steel or zinc countertops.”

In addition to wood, which has been making a strong comeback, materials such as engineered concrete and glass, bamboo, paper-based tops, various recycled-content products, and that old standby, laminate, are prominent offerings on the market. Laminate remains a good option for buyers with smaller budgets, but today the product offers more than the typical choice. Temple, Texas–based Wilsonart, for example, says some of its new contemporary laminate surfaces “mimic heavier organic products and give a trendy look without a trendy price.”

Another material making steady gains on granite is quartz, a surfacing made from 93 percent quartz and resins. “Over the last 10 years, quartz has evolved the most from an aesthetics and installation standpoint,” says Lorenzo Marquez, vice president of marketing for Stafford, Texas–based quartz manufacturer Cosentino North America, maker of the Silestone brand. “Now colors have a lot more depth, movement, and shine, allowing designers to incorporate more choices into their projects.”

Depending on the source of your information, quartz is either the best thing since sliced bread or a choice that is no better or worse than granite. Countertop Specialty, a countertop fabricator in Dallas, says on its website that marketing is the main reason for the buzz.

“Despite marketing efforts by makers of engineered stone to try and convince you otherwise, there isn’t any significant difference regarding performance, function, cleaning, or price between granite and Cambria or other brands of quartz countertops,” Countertop Specialty writes on its site.

But many buyers prefer quartz for a variety of reasons. Premier Countertops in Tupelo, Miss., said in an interview last year with The Commercial Appeal that quartz is “slowly eclipsing sales of granite” at the fabricator’s plant.

Quartz offers colors that mimic granite, but it also offers a larger variety of colors, and manufacturers continue to come up with new ones on a regular basis. These new colors, Marquez explains, are even more consistent and more uniform than the old hues. Moreover, quartz manufacturers, he says, have introduced products with lower opening price-points to keep up with the competition in natural stone.