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  • Writer's pictureAshley Lauren Design

Countertops 101: How to Pick the Right Counter for Your Project

Photo: Tania Blake Photography

Choosing the right countertop for your project can be in intimidating task as there are a variety of options out there. They are widely available in different materials, durability, price points, etc. They are a major part of any renovation. They not only serve a function of being the primary work surface, but it can also be a major focal point of the renovation. If you’re not familiar with what’s currently on the market, it can be very daunting to know which one to choose. Here at Ashley Lauren, we believe that clients should be as educated as possible on all the options, so they feel good about their final decision.

Here is a quick run down of the main types of countertops on the market:

Laminate - $

Photo: Premoule

Laminate countertops are made of a plywood or fiberboard, topped with a printed pattern and a layer of plastic coating. These countertops were extremely popular in the 50’s and 60’s, but are still commonly used today.

Pros – Very budget friendly. Laminate countertops will likely be the least expensive option on the market. Since they have now been around for many decades, and the technology behind it has improved immensely, you will find that there are several colour options available varying from solid colours to marble look-a-likes.

Cons – They are not very durable. The plastic coating protecting the design makes this countertop very susceptible to scratching. The wooden layer underneath also makes it very prone to water damage, undermount sinks are an absolute no.

Overall, laminate countertops can be a great option if you are trying to stick to a budget (they are very easy to change out later if you wish to use a higher end counter in the future). They are also great if you are looking for areas that don’t have a lot of traffic, but you still want a nice-looking counter. We recommend using laminate for desks, workshops, even small bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Granite - $$

Granite countertops were incredibly popular during the early 2000’s. It is a natural stone countertop varying in colours and patterns and are generally widely available. Granite is a hardy stone, great to use in any space.

Pros – Granite is a very durable countertop. It is a natural stone, so it is very heat and water resistant. You don’t have to worry about placing hot pans on the counter or getting it overly wet (though it is stone, so be wary of staining). It is also a great option if you are looking for a sustainable renovation as it is 100% natural materials.

Cons – As it is a natural stone, what you see is what you get. While granite is available in a wide variety of colours, they are mainly darker earth tones with a heavy speckled look. You may not always be able to choose the specific slab you will receive, which can result in bright or dark spots in the pattern, uneven veining, etc. If you are looking for an all-white counter with marble like veining, this may not be the one for you. You also have to re-seal the counter every 6-12 months as it is a porous stone.

Porcelain - $$

Photo: Forbes

Porcelain counters are another natural material, although there is a man-made element to the manufacturing process. It combines natural materials such as clays, stones, etc. and is it baked and compressed at a high temperature to fuse together.

Pros – Porcelain is a very durable material. Since it is already baked at a high temperature, it is very resistant to heat, as well as scratch and stain resistant. It is also available in a wide variety of colours. Porcelain is also a very versatile material and can also be used for flooring, shower surrounds, furniture pieces, even cabinet cladding to create a cohesive look throughout the space.

Cons – Just like any clay material, it is very brittle and easy to crack. However, for everyday use, it should hold up to mostly everything you put it through. You also have to be wary that not all porcelain products have matching edges. This is because it is baked with the pattern on the top, not always on the sides. Often times, the sides come in a solid colour, but you can design a mitered edge to help conceal this.

Quartz - $$$

Photo: Urban Quarry

Quartz has been the top seller for countertops for the past couple of years. It is a man-made combination of natural quartz stone, fillers, and pigments to get the desired appearance. There are a wide range of companies that offer quartz in various colours, price points, thicknesses, etc.

Pros – Quartz is a very versatile material. As it is man-made material, it can be made in almost any colour, pattern, and thickness. People use quartz not only for countertops, but also wall coverings, shower surrounds and bases, furniture pieces, etc. Quartz is also one of the most durable countertops in terms of scratch, stain, and water resistance and there are plenty of budget friendly options.

Cons – As quartz contains resins and other fillers, it is not a heat resistant material. Always make sure you use pot holders, cutting boards, and avoid using quartz as a fireplace surround. These resins also mean that quartz isn't a 100% natural material if you wish to have an all-natural space.

Fun fact – Quartz is Ashley Lauren’s countertop of choice!

Want to learn more about other countertop options? Leave a comment and we can write a Part 2!

Thinking about using us for an upcoming project? Feel free to email us to get your design process started!

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