How To Choose The Best Countertops For Your Kitchen + My Top Pick

Kitchens are one of my favorite rooms to design, whether it’s a full reno or a smaller makeover. It’s the heart of the home! Choosing countertops is one of (if not THE) the biggest & most important decisions to make. It’s so important that I want to take a minute to talk about how to choose the best countertops for your kitchen.

The main reason the countertops are the most important is because they are not easy or inexpensive to change. Cabinetry can be painted or upper cabinets even removed in favor of open shelving. Fixtures & hardware are also easy to swap out and pretty inexpensive.

Knowing how to choose the best countertops for your kitchen can help keep your budget in check and make sure you have a design you can love & build around for years to come.

Modern Farmhouse Kitchen Photo by Rustic Vegan

There are three basic things that affect what type of countertops you choose for your kitchen:

  1. Functionality
  2. Appearance
  3. Affordability

In that order. Let’s break these down one by one.

How To Choose The Best Countertops For YOUR Kitchen

1. Functionality

Think about how you use your kitchen. Do you cook a lot? Love to entertain? Is it part of an open floor plan or enclosed?

Do you have kids that like to eat or do homework at an island?

You lifestyle is the number one factor in functionality. Example: we have a large family but only 3 of us are home full time. We cook a LOT – multiple times a day – and when our son’s friends or cousins are over, they eat at the kitchen island.

We need counters that can hold up to lots of traffic, handle the occasional hot pot or cookie sheet, & is easy to clean.

2. Appearance

The reason I say that countertops are the most important decision in the kitchen is because they can make or break the design as well as the budget. And making a mistake is NOT easy to fix.

I like to find a color, pattern, & material that I love and work my way to a decision from there always keeping functionality in mind. This is where it really helps to have a designer because there are so many options, especially with stone countertops, that it can be overwhelming.

3. Affordability

Once you determine functionality & style, it’s time to be honest about budget. I actually struggled with whether this should be the first factor but with so many choices in materials, designers & homeowners can find options to fit practically any realistic budget.

There’s tons of choices & name brands but the basic choices of solid countertop materials most homeowners consider are quartz, granite, solid surface, butcher block, & laminate. Then there’s specialty materials like concrete & stainless steel. I don’t find that many people use tile anymore but it is still an option.

On opposite ends of the spectrum, specialty countertops are more expensive & usually only used in high end homes or commercial applications whereas laminate/formica & tile are very inexpensive & might be used in rentals or in cases where budget is a major issue.

Laminate countertops have come a LONG way over the years. Some of them look so much like stone or solid surface that they are a much better budget option these days. BUT some of the more elaborate designs can get pretty pricey – on par with stone – but not nearly as durable or desirable.

Laminates are easy to chip, burn, & crack. So it’s definitely NOT the way to go for kitchens that see a lot of action.

Butcher block countertops are absolutely beautiful, completely customizable & pretty affordable. They are actually very functional too since you can slice & dice right on them & they’re heat resistant. If I didn’t cook so much, I’d actually love to have butcher block countertops in at least part of the kitchen.

The downside is that all that beauty takes a ton of upkeep – they have to be oiled & sealed & always cleaned (and dried) properly. And even though they are heat resistant, you wouldn’t want to purposefully leave a scorching hot pot sitting on them. I mean… it’s wood.

I like solid surface counters because of the more modern color/pattern options. Being slightly less expensive than granite depending on the color choice, they are fairly affordable.

Just be aware that the color choices are much more limited & they can be easily discolored (by food, liquids, etc.) or damaged by harsh cleansers.

Most of us are most familiar with & drawn to granite. There are so many choices at all different price points (referred to as grades or levels). Most builder homes like mine have mid level granite – not too fancy & not too simple – unless the buyer chooses to upgrade.

Below is a photo of a kitchen upgrade from laminate to granite.

Granite is a good durable choice, but it’s not my favorite for a few reasons:

  1. It’s not too eco- friendly. It’s a natural stone that has to be “farmed” & often comes from countries all over the world. That means it costs a lot of time, money, & supply chain resources to make it into your home.
  2. It’s just too common. In neighborhoods like mine, every 3rd or 4th house might have the same exact counters. Even if people replace them, you’re still likely to see the same stone in many other homes.
  3. For such a common material, it can get really pricey. If you want a slab that’s less common & more upscale, you’re definitely going to pay a pretty penny.

By far my favorite countertop material is quartz. When it came time to choose the best countertops for our kitchen, I started & stopped with quartz.

My brand of choice is Cambria. (And NO I am not affiliated with the company at all.) Cambria Quartz is so durable it comes with a lifetime warranty. This is an all natural & sustainable countertop option with amazing color & pattern choices! I guarantee that any choice will make your home stand out. And Cambria is right here in the US.

I love it so much that I specify it for my clients’ kitchens, bathrooms, even (covered) outdoor kitchens. It is slightly more expensive than the other options but, similar to granite, there are grades/levels to narrow down the choices based on price.

As always, I would never recommend anything I have not used. I’ve specified granite, solid surface & quartz in client projects. I’ve also installed granite & now quartz in our own home.

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