Solid surface countertops like quartz and granite have become increasingly popular options for home kitchens due to their durability, low maintenance, and stylish appearance. Unlike more traditional materials like laminate, wood, or tile, solid surfaces are designed to withstand years of regular use while retaining their sleek look with minimal upkeep. For busy homeowners who want their kitchen counters to stay looking pristine with little effort, high-tech solid surfaces are the practical choice.
An Overview of Solid Surface Countertop Materials
When exploring solid surface countertops for your kitchen, there are a few key materials to consider:
Quartz countertops, like Caesarstone or Silestone, are engineered from quartz crystals and resin. This combination makes them non-porous, resistant to scratches and stains, and able to be fabricated into seamless designs not possible with natural stone. Quartz counters have a stylish, stone-like look but require less maintenance than granite or marble.
Granite is an igneous rock made of interlocking mineral crystals, giving it an elegant, unique appearance. Granite is naturally stain and scratch resistant, though sealing is required. It’s more porous than quartz, but resists heat well. Granite must be professionally installed but makes a durable, low maintenance option.
Solid Surface (Corian)
Solid surface is a man-made acrylic/polyester blend that can be molded into custom counters. Brands like Corian are non-porous, making them impervious to stains, and can be repaired or resurfaced. Solid surface lacks the natural look of stone but provides endless design flexibility.
Laminate counters have a plastic resin surface layered over wood or composite. More affordable but less durable than natural stone or solid surface, laminates are manufactured in many colors and patterns. Laminates can scratch, stain, or burn more easily than other solid surfaces.
The Practical Pros of Solid Surface Countertops
When evaluating the best kitchen countertops for busy homeowners, solid surfaces like quartz, granite, and Corian rise to the top for several practical reasons:
Durability – Made of natural stone or engineered composites, solid surface counters are designed to withstand daily use, spills, hot pans, and more. They are far more scratch, stain, and heat resistant than laminate or wood.
Low Maintenance – Solid surfaces require very little regular maintenance compared to grout or tile. Wiping with soap and water is often sufficient. Resealing granite once a year will maintain its water resistance.
Customizable Styles – Solid surfaces now come in countless colors, patterns, and edge profiles. Quartz and Corian especially can be fabricated into custom shapes. This allows design flexibility not possible with tile or butcher block.
Hygienic – Non-porous quartz and Corian counters don’t absorb bacteria and are unlikely to stain, so they promote proper food hygiene. Granite and marble require sealing for this same advantage.
Seamless Look – Solid surfaces can be installed as continuous slabs without seams, giving a sleek, modern look. Granite must be pieced together which can detract from its visual appeal.
Increase Resale Value – Updating to solid surface counters recoups over 70% of the project cost in increased home sale prices. They are seen as premium kitchen upgrades.
Easy Installation – Solid surface slabs can be installed directly over existing counters, minimizing installation work. Counters like quartz and Corian don’t require backsplashes.
For busy people wanting stylish, fuss-free counters that stay looking pristine, solid surfaces like quartz, granite, and Corian deliver.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Solid Surface Countertop
Kitchen counters see a lot of action, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each solid surface material based on your needs:
Use – Do you regularly bake, cook, or make crafts? Quartz withstands heat and stains from baking ingredients well. Active cooks should avoid porous options like marble.
Style – Granite and quartz offer an elegant, stone-like look. Corian can be made in any color and shaped into integrated sinks or cooktops. Consider the aesthetic you want.
Maintenance – All solid surfaces are low maintenance, but quartz and Corian never need sealing like granite. Corian scratches can also be sanded away, minimizing repairs.
Cost – Corian is cheapest, followed by high-end laminates. Granite and quartz are the priciest. Factor in professional installation and accessories too.
Hygiene – Non-porous materials like quartz and Corian don’t absorb stains or bacteria. Granite requires diligent sealing for this same advantage.
Evaluate how you use your kitchen and the look you love before choosing a hassle-free solid surface counter. An ideal option balances durability, beauty, and budget.
Popular Brands of Solid Surface Counters
Within each material type, there are a number of reputable brands making high-quality solid surface countertops:
- LG Hausys
Known for durability and stylish stone-like looks, these leading quartz brands come in a wide array of colors and patterns. Caesarstone and Silestone are perhaps the most ubiquitous.
- Rock of Ages
- Barre VT
- Quarra Stone Company
For high-end natural granite, these brands offer unique materials sourced from quarries around the world. They each have distributors across the US.
- Corian (DuPont)
Corian by DuPont is the pioneer and leader in branded solid surface counters. Others like Avonite and Wilsonart offer similar acrylic/polyester products with warranties against defects.
Sticking with a reputable brand ensures optimal performance and makes it easier to replace or repair down the road.
Key Benefits of Low Maintenance Solid Surface Counters
The biggest perk of upgrading to solid surface counters is the ease of care and minimal maintenance required. Here are some of the benefits compared to other kitchen counter materials:
Minimal Daily Cleaning – For quartz and Corian counters, just using mild soap, water, and a soft sponge is sufficient for daily cleaning. No special stone cleaners or abrasives are required.
Resist Stains and Etching – Solid surfaces are non-porous and resist stains from spills. Quartz counters are also etched-resistant, unlike marble. This saves time scrubbing.
No Sealing Required – Unlike natural stone, quartz and Corian never need sealing. Granite requires annual sealing to maintain its water resistance.
Heat Resistance – Quartz and granite hold up to hot pans nicely. Corian is somewhat heat sensitive but won’t scorch like laminate.
Renewable Surface – Solid surface counters like Corian can be sanded down removing scratches or stains that laminates can’t. Installers can even replace sections.
Fewer Grout Lines – Seamless installation gives solid surfaces a cleaner look that’s easier to wipe down since there are fewer grout lines that can get grimy.
Non-Porous – Preventing bacteria growth and resisting stains, solid surfaces like quartz and Corian have hygienic advantages over porous options like marble.
With just simple soap and water cleaning, solid surface counters stay looking like new for years with minimal maintenance efforts.
Installation Tips for Hassle-Free Solid Surface Counters
To make living with solid surface counters as low maintenance as possible, proper installation is key:
- Select an experienced solid surface fabricator, not just a generic countertop installer.
- Materials like quartz and Corian should be installed seamlessly when possible for hygiene and appearance.
- For granite, opt for tighter seams placed in lower traffic areas to minimize grim buildup.
- Use waterproof adhesive like silicone instead of basic caulk for bonding sinks or backsplashes.
- Choose integral sinks and backsplashes to eliminate seams that can harbour grime.
- Have the fabricator polish sink, counter, and backsplash edges into a continuous surface.
- Use any excess material to create a matching laminate on nearby walls to prevent water damage.
- Opt for professionally installed matching backsplashes which not only protect the walls but also streamline cleaning.
With proper installation from the start, solid surface counters practically care for themselves for years before ever needing deep cleaning or restoration.
Caring for Quartz Countertops
As engineered stone, quartz counters require the least maintenance of popular solid surfaces. Here’s how to properly care for them:
- Clean – For daily cleaning, mild soap and water or a stone cleaner like Method Granite Cleaner is sufficient.
- Avoid – Steer clear of harsh chemicals and abrasive pads which can dull the smooth surface over time.
- Seal – Unlike granite, sealing is not required thanks to quartz’s non-porous surface.
- Disinfect – For periodic disinfecting, use a non-bleach cleaner made for stone. Vinegar or hydrogen peroxide mixes work too.
- Heat – Always use trivets or hot pads. Thermal shock can damage quartz.
Simple, routine cleaning is all that’s needed to keep quartz counters spotless long-term. Professional refinishing can resurface etching or scratches if needed.
Maintaining Granite Countertops
Though harder than marble, granite still requires some care to prevent staining or etching:
- Seal – Seal granite every 1 – 2 years using a penetrating sealer like Miracle Sealants 511. Proper sealing prevents stains.
- Clean – Use mild soap and water for regular cleaning. For stubborn messes, use a granite-safe cleaner.
- Avoid – Don’t use generic cleaners or bleach products which can etch and dull the surface over time.
- Disinfect – A mix of mild soap and hydrogen peroxide can naturally disinfect granite without stripping its sealant.
- Heat – Always set hot pans on trivets. Thermal shock and excessive heat can crack granite.
- Repair – Small scratches can be buffed out with fine grit wet sandpaper. Resealing restores lost water resistance.
Though granite requires more maintenance than quartz or Corian, proper sealing and cleaning will keep it looking like new for decades.
Caring for Solid Surface (Corian) Counters
Solid surface counters require minimal maintenance thanks to their durable, non-porous material:
- Clean – For routine cleaning, wipe down with soapy water, ammonia-free cleaner, or sanitizing wipes.
- Avoid – Don’t cut directly on Corian. Use trivets for hot pans to prevent minor surface burns.
- Scrub – Baking soda or Soft Scrub can remove stuck-on gunk. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
- Disinfect – Due to its non-porousness, Corian doesn’t require special disinfecting though sanitizing wipes can be used.
- Renew – Sand out minor scratches with fine grit sandpaper. Severe damage can be professionally repaired on-site.
- Heat – Prolonged heat exposure can damage the surface coating leading to yellowing. Always use trivets.
With just simple cleaning and occasional scrubbing, solid surface Corian counters maintain their pristine factory sheen for years.
Expert Tips for Cleaning All Solid Surface Counters
Keep all your solid surface counters looking like new with these pro tips:
- Dry wipe counters daily to prevent buildup. Use microfiber cloths to avoid scratches.
- Routinely clean with mild soap and water. Avoid harsh cleaners and abrasive pads.
- For stubborn messes, use a cleaner made specifically for stone or solid surfaces.
- Disinfect counters periodically with a non-bleach stone cleaner or hydrogen peroxide mix.
- Use cutting boards and trivets religiously to prevent scratches, burns, and stains.
- Always wipe up spills immediately before they can seep in, especially with granite.
- Annually reseal natural stone like granite to maintain its waterproofing.
- For etched or dulled finishes, call a pro. Refinishing restores the smooth surface.
- Address repairs early before damage spreads or etching sets in.
With the right products and practices, solid surface counters practically clean themselves compared to high-maintenance natural stone or grout.
FAQs About Caring for Solid Surface Countertops
How can I add shine back to a dull quartz countertop?
Use a quartz-safe polishing compound or buffing pad designed for engineered stone. This will restore luster lost over time from cleaning. Avoid wax which can yellow quartz.
Do quartz counters need to be resealed?
No. Unlike granite, quartz does not need periodic sealing since its resin binder makes it non-porous. Proper cleaning is all that is needed.
How do I get baked on stains off my granite counters?
For stubborn stains, make a paste with baking soda and water and let it sit on the stain for several hours before scrubbing with a soft brush. This can pull up set-in deposits without damaging sealants.
What is the best way to disinfect Corian counters?
Corian is non-porous so sanitizing wipes work well for routine disinfecting. A hydrogen peroxide cleaner suitable for solid surfaces can also be used periodically for deep cleaning.
How can I get rid of hard water marks on my quartz counters?
Use a cleaner designed for quartz or a mix of vinegar and water to dissolve mineral deposits. Flush with clean water, then dry thoroughly to prevent new hard water stains.
Will sealing granite counters make them completely stainproof?
Sealing granite makes it highly stain resistant, but no sealant is 100% impervious especially to oils and strong chemicals. Prompt cleanup of spills is still important. Reseal granite every 1 – 2 years.
What household items should be avoided on Corian counters?
Avoid exposing Corian to harsh chemicals like bleach, nail polish remover, drain cleaner, etc. Oils, dyes, and prolonged heat can also stain or discolor the acrylic surface.
With their durability and renewable surfaces, solid surface counters remain pristine for years with far less maintenance than natural stone or tile. Following basic care guidelines keeps them looking like new. Upgrading to solid surface counters makes for a kitchen that’s both stylish and simple to clean.
Solid surface countertops like quartz, granite, and Corian have become trendy options for today’s homeowners due to their stylish but low maintenance nature. Made from natural stone or durable engineered composites, they resist scratches, stains, and heat with just simple cleaning and periodic sealing. Their renewed popularity comes from the convenience they offer busy homeowners who want beautiful, durable counters that are simple to care for.
With minimal daily upkeep like wiping with mild soap and water, solid surface counters retain their like-new sheen for years before needing resurfacing or restoration. Their seamless installation, lack of grout lines, and non-porous materials also promote proper hygiene in the kitchen. When shopping for new counters, be sure to consider how you use your kitchen along with the aesthetic you want before selecting a material. With the right solid surface counters installed properly, you can enjoy stylish, sanitary counters that clean up beautifully with little effort.