Countertop Materials

With so many options when it comes to countertop materials it can be difficult to find the one that’s exactly right for your project. Here we try to dispel some of the misinformation and give you the straight facts about the pros and cons of each surface material in key decision making areas

Stain Resistance Scratch ResistanceMoisture ResistanceHeat ResistanceEase of MaintenanceEnvironmental Impact


Stain Resistance

When it comes to absolute stain resistance, Solid Surface can’t be beat. Polished Quartz comes close, but microscopic separations between the quartz crystals and binders can trap very fine particles in the surface.  Honed Quartz must be sealed to match the stain resistance of polished Quartz. Natural stones, such as Granite, or Marble must be sealed prior to installation to help resist staining Even if sealed, staining spills must be cleaned as soon as is possible. Darker colors of stone resist stains better than lighter colors, because the pores are much much smaller.

Butcher block is the least forgiving of stains, especially if not sealed to protect against staining.


Scratch Resistance

The harder the material, the harder it is to scratch. For countertops, Granite at 8-9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale is the most scratch resistant. Quartz comes very close,  at 6-7 on the Mohs Scale. Marble and Solid Surface are softer both at 3-4 on the Mohs Scale. the wood used in butcher block is not rated on the same scale (since it isn’t a mineral based material) but its hardness can be similar to Solid Surface depending on the species and grain orientation.

Its worth noting that a material that is harder to scratch is also harder to repair. Fine lines that form from exuberant cutting or from heavy objects being dragged across the counter can be repaired relatively easily in wood,  and Solid Surface, often by the home owner. Scratches in Quartz or Granite must be removed by a skilled individual with a cost to match.


Moisture Resistance

The ability of a material to absorb moisture depends on the number and size of the pores of that material. Solid Surface and Quartz, having no pores, absorb no moisture.  With natural stone, the porosity is reflected in the color. The lighter the stone, the more porous, and so the more moisture can be absorbed. This is one reason that natural stones should be sealed before use.

Wood is built to absorb moisture, with the end grain being the ‘thirstiest,’ for this reason its essential to prevent moisture absorption by keeping butcher block counter tops and surfaces properly sealed, and to dry spills as quickly as possible.


Heat Resistance

Granite is hard to beat when it comes to heat resistance, generally resisting temperatures in the range of 200 C. Quartz is close, remaining unaffected up to 180 C.  Solid Surface remains unaffected up to 100 C. Wood, is an excellent insulator resisting structural damage at temperatures similar to Quartz.

Each material is damaged by heat differently. If Granite is exposed to enough heat in a weak location, it can crack or split, though this is rare. Quartz can crack, but also chip or discolor. Solid Surface can discolor in the  area affected by heat, though this can often be removed, often without professional help. In more severe cases, the material can crack or warp, in which case repair is still often possible.

Damage to wood usually is in the form of charring of the wood, and/or crazing of an applied sealer. Refinishing is usually required, though the material will often retain full functionality.

It is worth noting that Solid Surface, Quartz and Granite are all shown to limit the spread of fire , where as wood is very flammable, unless treated.


Ease of Maintenance

With no pores to absorb water or stains, and so no need to reseal, Solid Surface and Quartz are the best options for low maintenance, especially in lighter colors.  If a honed finish is desired, the superior stain resistance of Solid Surface makes it the easier option.

Darker colors of stone require resealing, but less often than lighter colors. Higher scratch resistance in Granite vs Quartz means that for a darker palette, Granite is a prime contender, especially in a polished finish.


Environmental Impact

Sustainable harvested, FSC Certified wood offers the lowest environmental impact over the whole life cycle of the product, from planting the trees, to disposing of the product at the end of its life.

Both Quartz and Solid Surface contain minerals that can be obtained from by products of other mining activities, so the impact of their source material is spread out over many products. Because they can be manufactured near their final point of use, the fuel consumption and resulting emissions can be greatly minimized.

Granite and other natural stones must be carved out of the earth using large cutting equipment and large amounts of water for cooling that equipment. This cooling water must be carefully treated before release to avoid contaminating ground water with by products of the cutting process.  The colors of natural stone are based on the area of their formation, certain colors can only be cut from certain locations. This means that some colors only come from regions of limited environmental protection.  This also means that large amounts of fuel may be needed to deliver the material to its final point of use.

Find more helpful planning information here.