New & Traditional Countertop Choices, Part 1:
Stone, Tile, Metal, Wood & Glass

Other Viewpoints


The engineers at Consumers Union seem to test and rate just about everything in the world. We rely on their published ratings to buy vehicles and tools, But we don't always agree with their conclusions about kitchen and bath materials and fittings, for the simple reason that they are contrary to our experience, which is fairly extensive.

For example, the 2009 "Kitchen Planning and Buying Guide" suggests that sinks can be undermounted only under expensive countertops like solid surfacing, stone and engineered surfaces. We know of at least one sink that can be mounted under laminates. Consumer Reports seems not to be aware of it. The testers also did not consider stain-resistant epoxy and urethane grouts.

But most of the things they say strike us as being right on the mark. We agree almost completely with their take on countertop materials. Here are their top five ranked countertops based on extensive testing of various materials. We would reverse the rankings for tile and granite, placing tile above granite. We think Consumer Reports did not take into account the new stain-resistant urethane and epoxy grouts when evaluating tile countertops.

The numbers appearing in parentheses are Consumer Reports score for the material, out of 100 possible points.

Engineered Quartz (87)
Best For busy kitchens. Stain and heat resistant and low maintenance. There's no need to seal it and it's available in vibrant colors and styles that mimic natural stone. Coloring is consistent with stone sample.
But edges and corners can chip, although rounded edges help. Stone finishes can appear too uniform and, therefore, less natural.
Price $50-$100 per square foot, installed. $2,800 to $5,600 for an average-sized kitchen.

Granite (86)
Best For a natural stone look that can withstand heavy use. It resists stains when it's properly sealed, and also resists heat and scratches.
But granite needs sealing to protect it from stains. Color and grain can differ from samples.
Price $45 to $200 per square foot, installed. $2,500 to $11.200 for an average kitchen.

Tile (Ceramic or Porcelain) (76)
Best for use near stoves because it is heat resistant. Comes in many colors, patterns and prices.
But it chips and the grout between tiles stains even when sealed. Poor installation can increase these problems. Thinner grout lines and darker grout might help. (Editor's Note: Consumer Reports appears to be unaware of epoxy and urethane grouts that are not cement based and do not stain.)
Price $10 to $30 per square foot, installed. $550 to $1,700 for an average size kitchen.

Laminates (67)
Best for variety and budget-friendly price. It's excellent at resisting stains and heat damage and is simple to install.
But It's easily scratched and isn't reparable. Shows seams, though post-formed (seamless) options are available.
Price $10 to $30 per square foot, installed. $550 to $1,700 for an average-sized kitchen.

Solid Surfacing (49)
Best for seamless installations. Many colors and styles are available, such as those that mimic concrete, stone, and quartz. It's non-porous and stain resistant, and small nicks and scratches can be repaired.
But it scratches easily. Stone-look finishes can appear more uniform than natural.
Price $35 to $100 per square foot, installed. $1,950 to $5,600 for an average-sized kitchen.

For more good reading, check out our complete articles index.
A countertop takes a lot of abuse. In the kitchen you put hot pans on it, cut on it, scrape and scratch at it, scour it, and spill hot liquids on it. In the bathroom, it's worse — with all the various chemicals spilled on counter surfaces — the soaps, the creams, the nail polish, the model airplane glue. Yet after years of abuse, your countertop is expected to look as good as ever — and mostly they do.

Today's countertop materials are truly miracles of modern engineering, evolving so rapidly that even if you’ve replaced a kitchen countertop in the recent past, you’ll probably be surprised by the many options in materials and styles now available.

Here are some of the common and uncommon materials available for countertops.

Natural Stone


There are very few materials more durable than stone. Cool and long-lasting, stone offers a timeless, elegant beauty that few other materials can match.

Some stones are hard and resistant to scratches and heat, Others are more delicate and require a lot of care and maintenance. And even the most durable stone has drawbacks as a countertop material. It has no "give" at all, so that a plate, cup or glass dropped on it is likely to shatter rather than bounce. The stone itself can crack, break, chip and scratch. Some stones stain easily - marble, travertine and soapstone are notorious culprits — although many believe that the visible signs of use that accumulate over time add to the patina and charm of these upscale materials. Some stones, like slate, are particularly susceptible to edge chipping and require special care in both installation and daily use.

Almost any stone can be made into a countertop: limestone, slate, marble, granite, travertine, even sandstone. But the most desirable stones are those that can take a good polish to create a smooth working countertop surface. Even soft, crumbly lavastone can be made into a countertop — although the process is very involved and very expensive. We are not even going to try to review all of the possible stone countertops, just the more common offerings in regular commercial use.

Granite

Granite is still the stone of choice these days. It is heavy, hard and durable, very difficult to crack or chip and will easily outlast your house. Many varieties are very had to stain, but regular sealing is usually recommended. We have heard reports of granite tops that do not need sealing, but we have never actually seen one, and, frankly, don't believe it. Granite, no matter how dense, is porous and any porous material can stain.

Granite comes in a seemingly infinite range of colors and patterns, with more arriving everyday. On the downside, it is just about the most expensive countertop material around, rivaled only by concrete and some engineered stone materials.

Soapstone


Soapstone, eclipsed for years by granite, is making a strong comeback as granite countertops become more and more common. The look of soapstone is timeless and historically accurate for almost any period of American architecture. It is warmer, denser and heavier than granite but not nearly as hard. The primary ingredient in soapstone is talc, about the softest mineral around. It can be scratched with a fingernail but rarely are scratches more than superficial and can be removed with an application of mineral oil. More severe scratches disappear with fine sandpaper or even a scouring pad.

Unlike granite and most of the other natural stone countertops soapstone is almost impervious to water penetration, unaffected by acids or other kitchen chemicals, and absolutely heat resistant. These are some of the reasons it is the preferred material for countertops in chemical laboratories. Even the hottest pans can be set on it without harm. Since it is almost impervious to liquids, it does not require sealing. But, it does stain. Even water leaves a mark. Soapstone afficianadoes don't mind — it's all part of the patina that gives soapstone its unique look. Stains are easily removed, but it is bothersome to keep it looking new and unblemished. So, those who are not afficianadoes may want to stay away from it.

Classic soapstone from New England is light gray to almost black, often with a greenish tinge, but the material can range from light brown to terracotta depending on its source and treatment. Very little soapstone is now quarried in the U.S. Most comes from Brazil.

A soapstone surface darkens naturally with age or when exposed to water or oils. To darken it evenly, soapstone can be treated with food-grade mineral oil. The darker it gets, the more light grey or gray-green veins stand out adding to soapstone's appeal. New "dry wax" coatings have been developed that replace mineral oil and last longer, but are, of course, considerably more expensive. Many soapstone fans, however, simply let it age naturally over the years, adding a patina of wear and use. But, renewing soapstone is easy — simply sand away the old surface for a brand new look. Repeated restorations are possible over many years.

Marble & Travertine

With the increasing availability of tougher stones, we don't see much marble or travertine in kitchens these days. But they are still used in period bathrooms. They are historically accurate for just about any architectural style, and virtually required for some. A Victorian bath, for example, almost demands a marble or travertine vanity top for authenticity.

Traver­tine is very like marble, just more porous and softer. Both materials have been popular since the early Greek and Roman years because they are beautiful and fairly soft, making them easy to cut and polish with relatively simple hand tools (and a whole lot of hard labor).

But they are not a good choice for the brutal environment of a busy kitchen. These are delicate materials that require a level of care similar to that of fine wood furniture. They are calcareous stones, like limestone, and are very acid sensitive. They readily dissolve in acid, therefore acidic products, such as lemon, vinegar or tomato juice should not be left in prolonged contact with either stone. These will cause the stone to etch — the surface finish will dull and change texture, even crumble into powder. Both materials are heat resistant, but they can scorch, so hot pots and pans should not be set directly on a marble or travertine countertop.

Frequent cleaning and re-sealing are needed to keep the materials looking new. They can be dulled by soap scum and
Ratings: Natural Stone & Stone Tile
FeatureRatingComment
Dura­bilityHigh Some stones are more durable than others. The calcium-based stones, marble, travertine and limestone, can be damaged by mild acids, and most stones will show effects from placing hot pans on them. All are susceptible to edge chipping, which can be cured in most instances by rouding the edge. However, as a rule, it takes a fairly determined effort to damage a stone countertop, and most damage can be repaired invisibly. A 100-year material.
MaintenanceMedium All stone, with the possible exception of soapstone, needs periodic sealing. Spills should be cleaned up right away, especially with calcium-based stones that can stain easily. Soap and warm water for daily cleanup.
CostHigh Only some engineered materials cost more than natural stone.
Green High Stone is not renewable, we can't make any more of it. But, it is sustainable. We are not going to run out of it. Stone does not require much in the way of fabrication, and requires little energy compared to other countertop materials.
hard water, and will show white rings if wet glasses are left on the countertop for too long.

Limestone Limestone is another sedimentary rock composed mostly of calcite. Like marble, Limestone is very soft and easy to damage with acids and abrasion. The most frequently used limestone for countertops is probably Jerusalem Stone, a denser, fine-grained limestone that is known for its consistent texture and even color. Limestone is available in earth colors: brown, beige, yellow, gray, and black. Look for consistency in color and even texture throughout the stone. Some limestones can be polished to a high gleam, but the usual finish is a low luster, hewn stone look.

Limestone is soft and porous. It retains moisture and can stain irreparably. Like marble and travertine, it can be damaged by mild household acids like lemon juice, vinegar and tomatoes. It can also be easily scratched and is not usually recommended for busy working surfaces such as in food preparation areas, or any place a knife is likely to be used. But as an accent countertop or backsplash it can be truly gorgeous.

Tile: Pros & Cons
Pros: Comes in nearly an infinite variety of colors and styles. Can be as inexpensive as laminates. Glazed tile is extremely durable. It resists heat and moisture, and cannot be cut. Any damaged tile can be readily replaced, provided you kept a couple of spare tiles, just in case.

Cons: Glazed tile can be scratched, but only by the truly determined. Traditional cement-based grout can stain and may be hard to keep clean. However, narrow grout lines and new stain resistant urethane and epoxy grouts virtually eliminate this problem. Must be installed by a professional or very skilled do-it-yourselfer. Natural stone and unglazed ceramic tiles have all the drawbacks of natural stone countertops (except the hefty price). Like stone, engineered composites and concrete, tile is very hard, so any dishware dropped on it will probably break.
Ceramic, Porcelain and Stone Tile
If any countertop material is available in even more colors and patterns than laminates, it must be tile. Tile for countertops has an impressive history going back to the ancient Greeks and Persians, even farther. To give you an idea of the durability of tile: Tile work in the Roman city of Pompeii was complex and intricate, survived one volcanic eruption and and has lasted for 2,000 years. And, by today's standards, it is not even very good tile.

The tile we are most familiar with is of two basic types, ceramic (or porcelain) and stone. But tile can be in almost any material. Glass tiles and metal tiles are getting a lot of attention today as alternatives to traditional tile materials in kitchens and bathrooms.

Ceramic and porcelain tile start out as essentially the same basic material, clay, and both are "fired". (Firing is merely a process of heating clay in a kiln to a very high temperature.) High quality tile, whether called porcelain or ceramic, is fired longer at a higher temperature so it is harder, denser and more impervious to water than "soft" tiles.

Caring for Cement Grout


If your tile countertop is more than a few years old, then the grout is one of the old cement-based blends. These require a lot of maintenance. But, it's not an impossible task. Here's how to cement grout looking fresh for a long time.

Care-Free Grout


If you want to avoid the grount staining problem altogether, order your tile with urethane or epoxy grout. Unlike cement-based grounts, these grout products are almost stain proof, remains flexible so they seldom crack or split, and do not ever need to be sealed.

Whether a high-end ceramic product is called porcelain or ceramic seems to be pretty much up to its manufacturer. There are no generally accepted standards that distinguish the two. But there are some rules of thumb. To learn what these are look at Porcelain or Ceramic: What is the difference?.

A glazed tile has been surface coated on the top side with glass which bonds to the clay when the materials are fired. Both ceramic and porcelain tiles may be glazed or unglazed.

Not every tile is suitable for use as a countertop. Soft, thin tiles designed to use on walls are not good countertop material. Hard tiles rated for use on floors are more than adequate. Stone and unglazed tiles, however, must be sealed, and the sealant must be renewed every year or so. Glazed tiles are already permanently sealed with glass so this regular maintenance is not required. But the grout lines must be resealed periodically even in glazed tile.

Grout and tile sealant is nothing more than a special coating containing a high percentage of silicon. It is usually applied with a brush or sponge and wiped off with a soft cloth. Nothing to it, really.

Grout is a problem for a lot of people who otherwise think tile would make a beautiful surface for countertops.
Ratings: Glazed Ceramic Tile
Dura­bilityHigh Care must be taken to select the proper grade of tile for a countertop (see: Porcelain or Ceramic: What is the Difference?), but a tile rated for countertops will last a very long time and keep its like-new appearance after a lifetime of use. Immune to household chemicals, heat and most impact damage. It can be chipped at the edges, but it takes determination. The only material other than metal, that a hot pan cannot damage.
Mainte­nanceVery Low Requires no sealing or other periodic maintenance if a non-cement grout is used. Cleans with soap and water.
CostMedium to High Suitable tile can be purchased on sale for a few dollrs a square foot, but the labor to install the tile can be costly.
GreenMedium The basic materials used are clay and sand. We are not likely to run out of either very soon. Only minimal fabrication required. No toxic materials or possibility ot outgassing. Requires a lot of electricity or natural gas to fire the kilns it is cooked in.
Everyone has heard the stories: grout cracks, falls out, stains, gets dirty, harbors harmful bacteria and needs to be cleaned and sealed regularly.

All of this is true with cement-based grouts. But there are other kinds of grout. Epoxy grouts have been around for many years, and are nearly crack and stain resistant. Their problem is that they are difficult to use, and some tilers won't use them. Even more recent are urethane grouts. Urethane is flexible, very stain-resistant, will last nearly as long as your tile and, best of all, does not need to be sealed — ever. It's one drawback is that it has to cure for up to 72 hours before being used, which can be a nuisance. It is also more expensive than cement-base grouts. But we think the extra expense is worth the saving in maintenance over the years. You have to specify urethane, otherwise your tile installer will probably use the older, cement-based, formulation.

It is possible to lay stone without grout. The edges are butted together (a process called "close setting") and sealed when the stone is sealed. Fired tiles, however, must be grouted - even if the grout line is a very narrow 1/16" or so. The difference is that stone is cut on a saw so each tile is exactly the same size. Fired tiles shrink when they are cured. Today the shrinkage is more controlled so that modern fired tiles are very close to being the same size - but not exactly. So they cannot be close set like stone.

The cost of tile ranges so widely that it is both the least expensive and most expensive countertop material. Some specialized imported tiles cost hundreds of dollars per square foot. Yet you can buy perfectly acceptable tile on sale from time to time for $1.50 s/f. So it is possible for a customer on a budget to use tile -- just stay away from anything made in France or Italy.

Stainless Steel


For the quintessential industrial look, nothing surpasses stainless steel countertops.

Stainless is widely used in commercial and industrial applications because it just may be the almost perfect countertop material. It is impervious to moisture; seamless so there are no cracks for dirt and bacteria to hide in; very resistant to staining and discoloration; unbreakable (in fact, it is nearly indestructible). It cannot be burned or cut. It takes a serious effort to dent the thick sheet of stainless used in most installations. It never fades, molds, or rusts. So why doesn't everyone use it?

Stainless Steel: Pros & Cons


Pros:

Water-proof, seamless, resists staining, nearly in­des­truct­ible. Cannot be burned. Never fades or rusts, but copper will tarnish and zinc will oxidixe. Any scratches can be buffed out.

Cons:

Very costly — starting at about $200.00 per square foot, not including installation. Stainless is very industrial and suitable primarily for ultra-modern and Euro-style decor.


Many people (especially those with less-than-fond memories of the high school cafeteria) think it's just plain ugly. It is the epitome of the institutional food service look. In fact, the companies that install stainless in your home are also likely to be the ones that did your employee cafeteria, the local Arby's and the state prison. And, it is very expensive.

But if you like the super-industrial, high-tech look, it is a material that merits your consideration. One thing for certain, there is little likelihood there will be another kitchen like it in your neighborhood.

For a look that is a little more traditional, some of the old reactive or "living" metals are back as upscale countertop materials. These metals, unlike stainless which can stay bright and shiney nearly forever, react with the environment and show all the stains, marks, and color changes of living in a kitchen environment over time.

Ratings: Stainless Steel & Living Metals
Dura­bilityVery High Virtually indestructable. Will scratch and the living metals, like copper abd zinc, will tarnish. But, for those who like metal, this is all part of the patina of time, and quite desirable. Cannot be burned. Can dent, but it takes work. A 100+ year materials.
Mainte­nanceVery Low to Medium Requires no sealing or other periodic maintenance. Cleans with soap and water. Copper, if not polished, will tarnish.
CostVery High One of the most expensive materials. Prices start at about $200 sq/ft.
GreenMedium Metals require smelting, which is an energy intensive process. On the other hand, a countertop does not actualy require much metal. Most of it is the wood backing. Very reusable and recyclable.

"Living" Metals


Stainless steel is what is called a non-reactive material. It does not react to its environment, which is why it is so nearly stain- and corrosion-proof. All of the other metals commonly used for countertops are reactive or "living" metals, they react to their environment: changing color and texture over time.

Copper
Copper, which has been a traditional work surface material for centuries is once again available. For a traditional or colonial kitchen, it is an excellent fit. It has a few drawbacks. Typically it is expensive — sometimes more expensive than steel. It shows every fingerprint, water mark and juice spill, and will tarnish to a greenish brown color unless regularly polished. On the other hand, those who like things neat and shiny seldom specify a copper countertop. They are happier with stainless. The inevitable patina that covers a copper countertop is the look most copper owners are looking for. The inevitable marks, blemishes and stains are not just tolerated, but sought after. One great advantage of copper is that it is naturally anti-microbial. No one is quite certain how, but copper kills bacteria and fungi on contact, so it is a very hygienic surface for food preparation.

Living Metals: Pros & Cons


Pros:

Water-proof, seamless, nearly in­des­truct­ible. Cannot be burned. Never fades or rusts, but will tarnish. Any scratches can be buffed out. Copper is timeless and fits alsmost any decor. Zinc fits any decor from Victorian through Post-War modern.

Cons:

Very costly — starting at about $200.00 per square foot, not including installation. Copper is maintenance intensive unless it is just allowed to succumb to its natural tarnished state. Zinc will oxidize, and eventally turn a pewter color, but it will take a few years. Various method are available to artificially "age" either metal giving it the patina of a countertop that has seen decades of use.


Zinc


Zinc is a little less reactive than copper. Before stainless steel was perfected, zinc was the choice for bars and restaurants because of its longevity and resistance to acids. It was the upscale countertop material of choice through most of the Victorian period and into the first half of the 20th century. A zinc-top table is almost required in a Victorian kitchen. And, zinc is right at home in any Arts & Crafts reproduction. It requires virtually no care at all other than wiping down.

It will, like copper, show a mark from just about anything that touches it: water, food, fingerprints, juice. But, eventually all these marks and stains will blend together to form a beautiful dark-gray patina that looks right at home in any heritage kitchen. If you don't want to wait for nature to take its course, treatment with mild acids will bring about that "well-use" zinc look without the bother or actually using it. It is not a material for those who like things shiny and bright, or for those who are driven crazy by errant water rings and food stains. Like copper it is naturally anti-microbial, making it a great surface for food preparation.

Glass
Glass is one of the traditional materials that you rarely think of when contemplating a new countertop. It has been used for decades as a covering for tables and desks. But, it is now becoming popular as a countertop surface in both baths and kitchens as fabricators have learned how to make it work in high-hazard environments.

Glass: Pros & Cons
Pros: Water-proof, seamless, non-staining, very sanitary. Cannot be burned, very scratch resistant.

Cons: Costly — about the same as the metals. May not be suited for every style. Can chip or break for which there is no solution except to replace the glass.
Glass offers an incredible range of design possibilities. It can be cast to create many different shapes, colors and textures. It can also be combined with other design elements for added effect, such as glass over metal or tile. Lighting under the counter can be used to create visual drama.

Glass is non-porous and extremely sanitary which makes it an excellent countertop and kitchen backsplash choice. It requires very little maintenance and is exceptionally easy to clean. In the kitchen it can endure hot pans without cracking or scorching. The thick, usually tempered, glass used to create countertops is exceptionally chip and break resistant. But if it does chip or crack, the only solution is to replace it. There is no effective repair, so be careful with those cast-iron pots.
Ratings: Glass
Dura­bilityMedium Immune to household chemicals, stain and heat. But, it can chip and crack, and there is no possibility of repair. It can only be replaced.
Mainte­nanceVery Low Requires no sealing or other periodic maintenance. Cleans with soap and water or Windex®.
CostVery High One of the most expensive materials. Prices start at about $150 sq/ft, and go up rapidly.
GreenMedium to High Made of sand, its basic materials make little impact on the environment. But, it does take a lot of electricity or natural gas to make glass.


Wood


Despite the frequent warnings about the sanitation issues of wood countertops for food preparation, serious cooks often prefer butcher block countertops.

But, as it turns out, the danger of wood countertops may have been exagerated somewhat. Recent studies, such as the one by Deal Oliver of teh University of California, Davis, have found that while bacteria tend to accumulate on both wood and plastic surfaces, wood has natural antimocrobial qualities that keeps bacteria in check, while man-made materials do not. As a result, wood actually harbors much less live bacterial than most other kitchen countertop materials.

Wood: Pros & Cons


Pros:

"Warmest" of all materials. Most minor damage can be easily repaired. Huge variety of woods, stains and finishes can complement any decor.

Cons:

Generally not suitable around water. Can be treated to make it more water resistant, but long term exposure to water will cause damage no matter the treatment. Vulnerable to heat damage, scratches, gouges and nicks. If improperly installed, expansion cracking may occur. Must be maintained regularly and refinished every few years. Considered by some to be the least sanitary of countertop materials, and some localities do not allow it in commerical kitchens for health reasons; but more recent research has shown that the sanitary issues may have been exagerated.


As with other materials, there have been great improvements in the past few years. For one thing, the variety of woods available is no longer limited to just the traditional rock maple. Mahogany, ash, cherry, oak, mesquite, walnut, beech and alder are all available as butcher block from a variety of manufacturers, and any one of these can be manufactured locally by a well-equipped cabinet shop.

For kitchen use, the usual finish is a mineral oil approved for food preparation which is called USP-grade mineral oil. It has to be renewed about every month.

Some wood countertop owners mix beeswax with food-safe mineral oil. Simply
Ratings: Wood
Dura­bilityLow Only as durable as the finish which can be damaged by many household chemicals, can be scratched, cut, and certainly can be burned by hot pans. Any water that penetrates the finish can damage the wood, usually requiring a major repair. Figure on refinishing every few years, a fairly cosly process.
Mainte­nanceHigh Requires resealing at least monthly, and refinishing every few years. Normal maintenance with soap and water, but not much water.
CostHigh A lot of labor is required to build and finish a wood top. Figure about $100 per square foot for standard wood species. Exotic woods can drive the price up rapidly.
GreenVery High Wood from certified sustainable sources is renewable, recyclable, and sustainable.
shave about 1/2 teaspoon beeswax into a microwave safe dish with a cupful of mineral oil; microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Apply to the countertop while still warm. Once the finish has had some time to dry it can be buffed to a shine with a dry, soft cloth. Beeswax helps to keep moisture, bacteria, and other contaminants from getting into the wood surface, gives the countertop a nice smooth feel to the touch, and leaves a subtle, honey-like, fragrance. An alternative to mineral oil is coconut butter.

Modern technology has improved on mineral oil a bit, providing a more durable coating that need be renewed less often, sometimes as little as every three months or so. Many major coatings (paint) manufacturers sell an oil preparation just for wood cutting surfaces. For example, Butcher Block Oil and Finish from Rustoleum. Specialty kitchen suppliers also sell cutting block or butcher block oils. One we like is John Boos' Butcher Block Mystery Oil — a formulation of mineral and linseed oils — so, actually, not much of a mystery. Dan Meyers of Meyer's Woodworks favors a product called OSMO Polyx-Oil to finsh the wood over an epoxy sealer.

Still, no matter what the finish, acids, such as vinegar, and standing water can stain a wood countertop, but with resanding and reoiling, the countertop can be renewed over and over, almost indefinitely.

Even More Countertops


We cannot get all of the many varieties of countertop material on one page, so this article continues to page 2 »


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    Organized to prepare a large variety of appetizing meals at a moment's notice, we can learn a lot about kitchen efficiency from studying commercial kitchens.


  • New and Traditional Countertop Choices
    Exciting changes are happening in the world of countertop materials. Options that simply did not exist 10 years ago are in every home store today. Is solid surfacing, laminate, stone or tile your best choice? Or maybe something more exotic. Take a look at the incredible selection of modern counter top materials.


  • Off the Wall Kitchens: Living Without Wall Cabinets
    Wall cabinets are unquestionably useful storage, but with drawbacks. A major disadvantage is that wall cabinets make a kitchen seem smaller by closing in the space at eye level — which is where we subconsciously judge how large the space around us is - and limit the number and size of windows in the kitchen. Can your new kitchen do away with wall cabinets? Probably. Find out how.


  • The Rules of Kitchen Design
    In 1944 the University of Illinois conducted a study of kitchen design and developed fundamental design principals that have been modified periodically from time to time, but are still very much in use today. Here are the 31 rules for designing great kitchens.


  • Saving Household Water
    Fifteen billion gallons of fresh, treated water are used in American households every day. It not only deletes our water sources to waste this water, but costs a fortune in electrical power to treat and pump it into our homes. Find out what you can do to reduce your impact on the environment while saving 33% of your water bill.


  • Solving Corner Cabinet Woes (Sidebar)
    Corner base cabinets are notorious as dark, difficult-to-reach storage space. Useful corner storage requires some pretty fancy hardware to make the space work. There are a variety of solutions, some better than others. But is is possible to make a corner cabinet effective storage with just a little prior planning.


  • An Overview of Faucets
    Thinking about buying a faucet? Before your do, see our list of major faucet manufacturers with ratings and guidelines on what to look for and how to select a good, lifetime faucet.