What is the best kitchen countertop material?

We compare granite, wood, quartz and laminate

A marble kitchen countertop is a traditional-style kitchen
(Image credit: Higham Furniture)

Wondering ‘what is the best kitchen countertop material?’ Kitchen countertops have many boxes to tick - not only do they need to look good, but they also need to be strong and durable to withstand the daily wear and tear that results from food preparation, cooking, and cleaning.

A beautiful kitchen countertop is one of the most important components of kitchen ideas and affects the overall look and feel of your kitchen as much as your choice of cabinets or kitchen island. 

Which materials stand the test of both style and substance? We’ve asked interior design and kitchen experts for their opinion on the best countertops for kitchens.

The best kitchen countertops

The best countertop for your kitchen is the one that's most suited to how you used your kitchen, how much you're prepared to spend, and how much maintenance you're prepared to give it (e.g. learning how to clean the kitchen countertop).  

Susan Spath, president of Kern & Company (opens in new tab) and principal designer of Susan Spath Interior Design, gives two different favorites for different kitchen needs. For a luxurious, top-of-the-range option, her top choice is marble:  

'I absolutely love a marble slab countertop, it is just such a timeless clean look. Marble is a very durable stone. It is the most heat-resistant stone and less likely to crack/break. Also, marble is an easier stone to fabricate, it is softer and easier to carve, allowing us to make decorative edges, etc.'

Do bear in mind that marble is very porous and prone to staining, though. If you want an option that still looks great but is much easier to maintain, Spath's top recommendation is porcelain: 'it doesn’t need constant sealing and it will not stain if you leave water droplets, etc.'

'It makes for a great countertop and it also looks fabulous, as you can also get porcelain slabs that look almost identical to real marble. Additionally, it is also a very cost-effective stone, the price per slab is typically lower than most of the other stones on the market.'

These are just two options. Compare more materials and make the choice that's right for you. 

wood and black kitchen worktops in a blue kitchen with seating

(Image credit: Mowlem & Co)

Granite

Granite is cost effective and supremely durable

Specifications

Average price per sqm: $100 to $150 per square foot
Maintenance : Easy – Wipe with a cloth and water

Reasons to buy

+
Hard-wearing
+
Heat resistant
+
Cost-effective
+
Easy to clean

Reasons to avoid

-
Very heavy
-
Some colors are less desirable than others

The material

Granite is probably the most classic kitchen countertop material. It is a natural stone, which makes it extremely durable. A good-quality granite countertop will easily last decades.

The maintenance

Maintaining a granite countertop is very, very easy - just wipe it with a microfiber cloth and warm water. Granite doesn't normally stain, but if you do notice one, just add some dish soap. 

The cons

Granite is a great option overall, although some colors now look dated. Lighter, more modern colors cost more, so that's something to bear in mind

A kitchen with white quartz worktop, wooden shelves and assorted crockery on shelving

(Image credit: Caesarstone)

Quartz kitchen worktops

A hardwearing, easy to clean kitchen worktop that has plenty of colour options to choose from

Specifications

Average price per sqm: $100-$200 per square foot
Maintenance : Easy – wipe with a cloth and soapy water

Reasons to buy

+
Hard-wearing
+
Antibacterial
+
Easy to clean
+
Huge choice of colors

Reasons to avoid

-
Very heavy
-
More expensive than granite
-
Not very heat-resistant

The material

Quartz is the main rival to granite countertops. It's comparable in price and its low-maintenance properties. Unlike granite, it is man-made, which gives you a much wider choice of colors and finishes than granite. The durability is similar to granite. Quartz is anti-bacterial and hygienic.

The maintenance

Learning how to clean quartz countertops is very easy. Just don't use anything abrasive - a soft cloth is usually the best option. For stain removal, try a dedicated quartz countertop cleaner (opens in new tab)

The cons

Quartz isn't as heat-resistant as granite, so you shouldn't put hot pots and pans straight onto the surface. Always line the countertop with a mat. The cost of quartz tends to be a little higher with quartz than it does with granite. 

light pink glossy metro subway tiles in a white kitchen with wood countertop

(Image credit: Tile Giant)

Wood

A stylish countertop material that's not so easy-maintenance

Specifications

Average price per sqm: $60-200 per square foot
Maintenance : Dificult - material is prone to staining

Reasons to buy

+
Cheaper than stone options
+
Natural look that ages well
+
Antibacterial if maintained

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires bi-annual maintenance
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Can become stained
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Can scratch

The material

Wood is a great option for country kitchens or for anyone who's looking for something a bit different on their countertop. Linda Haase, an NCIDQ-certified Senior Interior Designer who serves on the advisory board at The Project Girl (opens in new tab), praises wood as a material that 'has a warm feeling that will make your kitchen feel cozy and comfortable.'  

A variety of wood types are used in countertop making, from maple and beech to iroko and other exotic woods. Of course, sustainability is potentially an issue, so always check if the manufacturer uses sustainably managed, FSC-certified wood. 

Wood is generally a budget-friendly countertop material, often costing a lot less than stone. However, the rarer the wood you'll be using, the higher the price will be. 

The maintenance

The main thing to know about wood countertops is that they do require regular maintenance in the form of biannual oiling. Wood stains and scratches easily and failing to maintain it will lead to faster aging and ultimately the need for a replacement. Cleaning is fairly easy - we recommend using a wood cleaner (opens in new tab)

The cons

The maintenance is not for everyone, and you have to be a bit more careful with wood countertops. You can't put hot pans directly on top of them and absolutely can't chop your veggies without lining the countertop with a chopping board. Wood countertops also can fade in direct sun or become darker as they absorb oil over time, but some people like the aged look. 

a modern kitchen with white laminate worktops, and lots of plants on the surface. January 2020: Clare Pater used her skills as an interior designer and her knack for finding a bargain to transform her family's new home

(Image credit: Jemma Watts)

Laminate kitchen worktops

A cost-effective and versatile type of kitchen worktop which has become the most popular option on the market

Specifications

Price per sqm: $40-80 per square foot
Maintenance : Easy – wipe down with cloth and water

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap
+
Versatile, with lots of different looks
+
Easy to maintain
+
Easy to clean
+
Easy to customize

Reasons to avoid

-
May peel
-
Can burn or even melt
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May scratch and become unhygienic

The material 

Laminate is made by bonding a stiff sheet that is made to imitate the look of stone, quartz, or another material onto particleboard. Because it's so cheap to produce, laminate is cheap for the consumer. It has had a somewhat uncool reputation for a long time, but higher-end options these days will give you a decent look. 

If you like a DIY project, laminate worktops are easy to fit yourself.

The maintenance

Laminate doesn't require much maintenance and can take any ordinary all-purpose household cleaner. However, you can't chop things on laminate and the knife will cut through the thin top layer.

The cons

Laminate is an affordable option, but with this affordability comes a lack of durability. You may find that you have to replace your laminate countertop after only a few years because it has peeled or chipped. 

an island with a glass kitchen worktop in a modern neutral kitchen. Kitchen Makers kitchen with island and white cabinets

(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

Glass

Perfect for modern kitchens

Specifications

Average price per sqm: $50-100
Maintenance : Easy – wipe down with warm water regularly

Reasons to buy

+
Can be made in any size or shape
+
Easy to clean and hygienic
+
Extremely durable
+
Limitless color possibilities 
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs frequent cleaning
-
Suits modern kitchens best

The material

Anyone who is worried that glass is too fragile a material to use as a kitchen countertop should rest assured: the glass used in countertop making is reinforced and extremely durable. Not all glass countertops are clear, either: they come in an almost infinite variety of finishes that can imitate anything from quartz to marble. Haase says that 'if you want a countertop that is easy to clean, then glass is the best option. Glass is also very durable and easy to find in many different colors.' 

If sustainability is your main concern, then recycled glass countertops are available. Despite its somewhat exclusive reputation as a countertop material for modern kitchens

The maintenance

The maintenance of a glass countertop is not necessarily difficult, but it's somewhat more time-consuming than with other materials. You will need to wipe your countertop after every use, or you'll soon have staining. In areas with hard water, a glass countertop will likely develop limescale stains over time if not cleaned regularly.

The cons

Regular maintenance is the main con, but glass countertops are also prone to scratches. 

marble worktops in a modern Kitchen Makers dark blue kitchen


(Image credit: Kitchen Makers)

Marble

The ultimate in luxury kitchen countertop design

Specifications

Average price per sqm: $100-$200 per square foot
Maintenance : Difficult - marble is porous and prone to staining

Reasons to buy

+
Luxury option
+
Heat resistant 
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Porous, so can stain
-
Scratches relatively easily
-
Not cheap

Pastel mint shaker kitchen with marble worktops and a wooden island


(Image credit: deVOL)

The material

Marble is a natural stone and, for many people, the holy grail of kitchen countertops. It is a staple of luxury kitchen ideas that can still be reasonably priced, although marble is generally more expensive than granite or quartz. If you want the best-looking kitchen countertop there is, you should definitely consider marble. 

One of the best things about marbe is that it always stays cool, which can be very valuable in a hot kitchen. When properly cared for, a marble countertop will last decades.

The maintenance

Now the not-so-good news: marble is high maintenance. It stains easily, and because the stone is porous, the stain can penetrate below the surface making it more difficult to remove. You can remove a stain from marble using acetone, but it will take patience.

For this reason, marble countertops should be sealed with a stone sealer (opens in new tab). Be especially careful with acidic foods like ketchup and lemon around marble - these are likely to stain deeper.  

The cons

The higher price and high maintenance are the main cons of marble. However, this material is still worth considering for its superb aesthetic value and durability. 

Industrial kitchen with hanging storage and stainless steel worktops, some of the best kitchen worktops for professional chefs


(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies)

Stainless steel

The quirky industrial-style option

Specifications

Price per sqm: $80-$225
Maintenance : Easy – just wipe down with a stainless steel cleaner

Reasons to buy

+
Durable and heat resistant
+
Naturally antibacterial
+
Easy to clean
+
Waterproof
+
Very light

Reasons to avoid

-
Cold
-
Not suitable for all kitchen designs
-
Difficult to integrate into large areas

The material

Perfect in industrial-style kitchens, stainless steel is a great option for someone looking for hardwearing, easy-maintenance countertop material. Stainless steel should be on your radar if you do a lot of cooking in your kitchen, or if you are an amateur chef or baker. Stainaless steel is naturally antibacterial, which is a bonus. It is a staple in commercial kitchens for a reason. 

Maintenance

Learning how to clean stainless steel is easy as pie - you just need a stainless steel cleaner (opens in new tab) and a cloth. 

The cons

Stainless steel is prone to scratching, so over time it may start looking a little tired. Also, stainless steel is obviously not to everyone's taste and can look somewhat clinical in a more traditional kitchen. You may want to only consider this material if you like your kitchen design modern. 

open shelves in a dark blue modern kitchen with ceramics, an oven and kettle

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

Ceramic

Marble's easier-going cousin

Specifications

Average price per sqm: $15-200 per square foot
Maintenance : Easy – just wipe off spills quickly

Reasons to buy

+
Highly durable and heat/moisture-resistant
+
Easy to maintain
+
The widest range of prices to suit all budgets

Reasons to avoid

-
Prone to scratches
-
Can crack

The material

Ceramic worktops are a very versatile option and are often chosen instead of marble thanks to their low-maintenance profile. One of the biggest draws of ceramic or porcelain countertops is that they come in at the widest possible range of price points, from the very cheapest to high-end options similar to marble in cost. 

Ceramic is a very hygienic material, which is important in any kitchen.

The maintenance

Ceramic countertops are very easy-maintenance - just make sure you wipe down any spills quickly as they can stain. Avoid cleaning ceramic countertops with bleach.

The cons

Ceramic can scratch quite easily, so if you like quick food prep, this may not be the best option. 

What material is the most durable and highest quality?

According to Linda Haase, the most durable and highest-quality countertop material is quartz, 'although the price tag can be high. Quartz has a very low porosity level, meaning it won't stain easily. It's also resistant to heat, which makes it an ideal material for use in kitchens where hot pots and pans are often used. Quartz is also very durable, with the ability to withstand scratches and dents without chipping or cracking.

'However, quartz may not be the best choice if you're looking for something more affordable. It's also important to note that some people are allergic to quartz. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly alternative, consider marble or granite countertops instead.'

Which countertop material is the easiest to maintain?

'The easiest kitchen countertop to maintain is a solid surface, like granite or marble. These materials are naturally stain-resistant, so you can wipe them down with a damp cloth, and that's usually all you need to do.'

'If you do have a spill, the best thing to do is use cold water and a non-abrasive cleaner. You should also make sure to wipe up spills as soon as possible because if they sit for too long, they can stain the countertop permanently.'

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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