All About Countertop Materials

As a kitchen and bath designer, it is vital that you understand the different options available for countertop materials! Kitchens and bathrooms are subject to extreme usage, temperature fluctuations, moisture, chemicals, germs, and abrasions. This is why knowing your materials inside-out will help you better decide which materials suit your client best!


All About Countertop Materials ~ Alison Solar K&B Design Coach

Corian is a brand of solid surface countertop made by Dupont. It was one of the first manufacturers of solid surface material and it was produced as an architectural design material for residential and commercial use. It is known for being versatile,  functional, and durable. Part of its versatility comes from the fact that it’s actually made from one third acrylic resins. It’s a non-porous, homogenous surfacing material that contains two thirds natural minerals.

Basically it’s a man-made plastic-based material. What’s great about the Corian material is it can be seamed together. Because it’s plastic, there’s a chemical that you put on it and actually melts it and fuses two pieces together. And you can sand out the seam so that you can’t see any seams in the material on a Corian countertop. It’s heat sensitive –  so it can bend, you can form it, you can do all kinds of shapes and is suitable for both horizontal and vertical surfaces. Corian offers a wide variety of colors and designs!


All About Countertop Materials ~ Alison Solar K&B Design Coach

Another popular countertop material is high-pressure laminates. Many people discount high-pressure laminates, but they can actually be quite beautiful and very economical to use because of how inexpensive the material is for fabrication and installation.

How Laminates Are Made

Laminates are made by saturating multiple layers of craft paper with a phenolic resin and a final layer is actually a photo of the surface material and is then placed on top of the craft paper before pressing it all together forming what we refer to as a  high-pressure laminate. The thermosetting creates a strong, irreversible bond that contributes to its durability.

Laminate has a broad range of attractive patterns and textures and possibilities. It’s ideal for countertops, cabinetry, wall units, shelving, architectural doors, and can even be used for wall panels and more.

It is an extremely wear-resistant, durable, cost-effective, and low-maintenance material.  If you’re on a budget or want  to do something different, high-pressure laminates are a fabulous option. You could even use them for a backsplash, or an island wall!


The next material is your man-made quartz – think Caesar stone, Cambria, Silestone. Man-made quartz are made by taking quartz dust or quartz chips and binding them together with resins. Typically they are made with 90 to 95% quartz chips, and 5% to 10% resin. The quartz chips are what give these countertops a mottled or speckled appearance.  You are able to see the individual stones suspended within the resin.

When it comes to the man-made quartz material the color options here are pretty vast with new colors introduced all the time…

You can tint the resins and you can use any hue of the quartz chips that you would like to make whatever color you want. Man-made quartz have the look and feel of stone, and it’s cold to the touch like stone – unlike Corian which is more of a plastic material.

All About Countertop Materials ~ Alison Solar K&B Design Coach

Pictured above is a quartz countertop with a man-made, contrived blue swirl. What’s great about these quartz countertops, is they have the look of concrete with the durability of man-made quartz, unlike natural concrete, which expands and contracts naturally and can crack.


All About Countertop Materials ~ Alison Solar K&B Design Coach

The fourth material is natural stones. Natural stones are rated by their hardness – specifically, the Mohs Scale of Hardness with 1 being very soft 10 being hardest. So when you’re wondering to yourself, What’s better? Marble? Granite? Soapstone?… remember, they all have their different properties.

SOAPSTONE for instance is a 1, or softest, of the stones, meaning it scratches very easily. However, Soapstone is not affected by chemicals and it has a zero absorption rate for moisture.  Soapstone is used in laboratories and science rooms.

Next, you have MARBLE which is 3-4 followed by glass which is a 5 on the Mohs Scale. Following that, you have GRANITE, which is harder than glass but still only about a 6-7 on the scale. Moving up you have QUARTZITE, which is a natural quartz which is sitting at 7-8. Ruby and sapphire are 9 on the scale, and a good old fashioned DIAMOND is 10 which is the hardest! A win-win for the diamond lovers out there.

All About Countertop Materials ~ Alison Solar K&B Design Coach

MARBLE is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate materials, most commonly calcite and dolomite, and has specific veining patterns.


All About Countertop Materials ~ Alison Solar K&B Design Coach

GRANITE is an igneous rock, which means it is granular and phaneritic in texture. Granite comes in mostly white, pink, and gray colors, however, there are many variations in the stones based on where they are mined from. Granite is more speckled and can have large chunks of quartz throughout.

The word granite comes from the Latin word granum, meaning grain, which is in reference to the coarse grain structure of this rock. Granite is often known for its speckles and blotches of color.

So there you have it! Four of the most common countertop materials for kitchen and bathrooms. Which type of countertop do you specify most often? Let us know over in my free Facebook community, Kitchen and Bath Design Tips for Designers. 

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