Counter Intelligence: New Choices for Kitchen Countertops

We bought our condo from plans and were presented with several upgrade options: stainless steel appliances, porcelain tiles, and hardwood floors, to name just a few.  Our consultant realized our budget constraints and waved most of these options aside, insisting that we could probably do them ourselves for less money than the builder was asking.

(Granite; Photo: Charles Luck Perspectives)

But the one change that she insisted upon was switching out our laminate countertops for granite. It seems like granite has become de rigueur in most kitchen renovations, to the point that I find it a little boring. Needless to say, we stuck with the laminate but lately I have been wondering what other options are out there to give our kitchen a little kick.

recycled glass(Recycled Glass; Photo: Vetrazzo)

Recycled Glass:

As someone who is always looking for a way to be more environmentally conscious, I love the idea of recycled glass countertops, which contain up to 100% post-consumer waste. Like granite, they are beautiful and unique; no two are going to have the exact same pattern. But, like granite, they tend to be expensive, at least until more manufacturers get on the bandwagon.

recycled bio glass(Recycled Bio-Glass; Photo: Interior Design)

Despite the high price point, there are a lot of benefits. Glass surfaces are easy to maintain, require no special cleansers, and are heat- and scratch-resistant. They will need to be resealed every few years but otherwise should last for decades if you can manage not to crack or chip it. Best of all, they come in a variety of colours and finishes, many of which mimic more expensive stone counters.

petrified wood(Photo: Houzz)

Petrified Wood:

Wood countertops have long been a popular choice, bringing warmth to the décor that granite or other stones cannot. And, depending on the variety of wood that you choose, it can be affordable. But wood is porous and I am not disciplined enough to keep it properly sealed and stain-free, and too uptight to not be bothered by discolorations in the surface.

close up petrified wood counter(Petrified Wood; Photo: Concetto)

But petrified wood is a relatively new option that solves many of these issues. It has the warm tones of wood but, depending on the pattern of the slab, it can look like wood or stone. It’s a show-stopper and conversation generator; only those in the business will probably have seen one before. And it’s durable! But, not surprisingly, it is a very expensive option.

Alkemi, a recycled material combination of post consumer acrylic and aluminum(Alkemi; Photo: Renewed Materials)

Recycled Metal:

The increased popularity of cooking shows has led everyone to express their inner chef through stainless steel countertops but it can look at little sterile. Maryland’s Renewed Materials has developed Alkemi, a surface that combines post-industrial and post-consumer acrylic with aluminum scraps.

alkemi colour options(Alkemi; Photo: Materials and Sources)

The metal filings under the surface provide a gleaming metallic finish, while the acrylic is available in several colours. Like acrylic counters, Alkemi is easy to clean but it is susceptible to scratches and burns.  And it is about half the price of traditional stainless or copper countertops.

Greentea Design kitchen

Concrete counters with a reclaimed wood Maru table in the Greentea Kitchen

(Photo: Greentea Design)

I’m very tempted by several of these finishes, though it might have to wait until our next place. If you are in the market for new countertops, don’t be afraid to break away from predictable granite. You might even want to do two different types: one for the main counter and the island in another; the options for some kitchen experiments are endless!

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