Your guide to granite, marble, quartz, and other countertop materials
Kicking off a kitchen remodel? You have a lot of work—and decisions—ahead of you. You’ll need to pick out new cabinets, floors, appliances, and more. Yet, the most impactful decision, by far, will be your choice of new countertops. There are so many options, styles, and colors to choose from. For many homeowners, finding the right countertops for their kitchen remodel is one of the most challenging parts of the project.
In this article, we’ll guide you through your many countertop options and help you decide which material—granite, quartz, marble, stainless steel, or butcher block—is right for your kitchen. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of each, and make the case for how each might figure into your kitchen remodel.
When most people hear “stone countertops,” they instinctively think of granite. It’s the definitive material for most kitchen remodels (although, as we’ll discuss, quartz is a close second and preferred by many people!). Cut from natural stone and then sealed, granite countertops are incredibly durable and beautiful. They’re difficult to damage and, unsurprisingly, retain their value for many years because of this quality.
Granite countertops come in two types: slab and prefabricated. Both are natural stone. “Prefabricated” just means the stone has already been cut to a default size prior to arriving at the distributor. Because of this one-size-fits-all approach, it’s generally cheaper than granite slab, which has not yet been cut or fabricated to size. If you’re working on a highly custom kitchen remodel, you may need to buy granite slab so that your contractor can customize not only the size, but also the edging and other details.
If you love the look of natural stone, it’s hard to go wrong with granite. For reasons we’ll discuss below, it’s a better natural stone alternative to marble for kitchen remodeling projects.
Durable: Granite is a tough material that can stand up to accidental slashes, cuts, and impact.
Heat-Resistant: Granite is highly heat-resistant, which means you can put hot pans or trays on its surface without causing permanent damage.
Unique: No two pieces of granite are exactly the same, which means your kitchen’s granite slab will truly be one-of-a-kind.
Not Invulnerable: Just because it’s solid doesn’t mean granite countertops can’t be chipped or cracked. Also, granite absorbs liquid, which means it can stain easily if not protected by sealing.
Requires Maintenance: Your granite countertops will regularly need to be resealed to protect them from stains and other forms of damage.
Weight: Like other stone countertops, granite slabs are incredibly heavy. If your cabinets were not built to support their weight, they may need to either be replaced or reinforced prior to installation.
Read More: Our Complete Guide To Granite Countertops
When stone countertops first came into vogue, granite was the obvious choice for many homeowners. However, in recent years, an alternative—quartz countertops—have really taken off. Unlike granite, which is cut from natural stone and then sealed, quartz is real stone that has been processed and sealed into a protective resin. As a result, quartz countertops can look like just about anything: they can take on patterns, colors, and looks just not found in natural stone.
Generally speaking, quartz and granite countertops are about even in terms of cost. If you’re comparing the cost of quartz and granite countertops, you’ll really need to look at the specific countertops in question: both occupy the same average price range.
Another place the two materials are just about even is their overall durability. Quartz trades the heat-resistance of granite for better moisture and leak resistance. They’re both very solid and stand up well to everyday use.
The final verdict? The choice between quartz and granite is less about specifics and more about your personal taste and what your kitchen remodel needs. If you’re looking for the strength and beauty of natural stone, granite is probably right for your kitchen. If you want a more modern design, quartz probably has something you’re looking for.
Variety: Quartz countertops are available in far more colors and design variations than granite or marble, which means they work with more kitchen styles.
Maintenance-Free: Unlike granite, quartz countertops come sealed in a permanent resin and do not need to be regularly resealed.
Durable: While not invulnerable, quartz stands up to everyday wear-and-tear and is stain-resistant.
Not Heat-Resistant: Unlike granite countertops, quartz countertops can be damaged or discolored by high heat. You’ll need to continue using hot pads and trivets when cooking or baking.
Manufactured: While granite and marble slabs convey the beauty of natural stone, quartz countertops have a manufactured, “finished” look. This appeals to some people, but make sure you’re comfortable with it before you buy.
Read More: Our Complete Guide To Quartz Countertops
If you want to add class, elegance, and luxury to your home, marble countertops are the right material. After all, there’s a reason marble was the medium of choice for Renaissance sculptors. It has a timeless beauty and radiance to it. By adding marble to your kitchen, you’re not just choosing a countertop. You’re making a statement.
However, there are some drawbacks that should make you reconsider your decision to put marble in your kitchen. Besides its high cost (discussed below), marble is also the least durable of the three stone countertop options discussed in this article. It just doesn’t stand up to everyday cooking and cleaning in a kitchen. For homeowners with their hearts set on adding marble to their home, we recommend using it for bathroom vanities and remodels, where there’s not as much pressure on homeowners to protect the stone.
If you’re comparing the cost of marble versus granite or the cost of marble versus quartz, you’ll find that, generally speaking, lower-end marble costs more per square foot than high-end granite or quartz. According to data from HGTV, the average cost of granite, per square foot, is $75. Meanwhile, the average cost of marble countertops starts at $100 / square foot and can actually be as much as $200 / square foot! In general, it’s more expensive to install and—the larger your kitchen—the more your costs will ballon if you opt for marble.
Luxury: Marble is considered the material of choice for luxury condos and home builds. It’s beautiful, and the right marble countertop is a true showstopper in any kitchen.
Price: Per square-foot, marble is one of the most expensive countertop materials you can buy. It’s far more expensive than butcher block, and even pricier than quartz or granite. Get a quote before you fall in love with marble—it might not be right for your remodel’s budget.
Protection: Unlike granite and quartz, marble countertops are not scratch-resistant. You’ll need to use cutting boards and take special care to guard your countertops against accidental damage.
Stains: Marble absorbs liquid more readily than other stone countertops. This is potentially bad news in your kitchen, since it means you’ll need to be vigilant around spills and cutting boards.
Your other countertop options
So far, we’ve compared granite, quartz, and marble countertops. Here are two other options you should probably know about as well:
Most often seen in commercial kitchens, stainless steel is stain and heat-resistant and offers an incredibly modern look. However, what works in a professional kitchen might not feel right in your home: stainless steel can make a space feel cold and unwelcoming. Also, while steel countertops stand up well to both stains and heat, they can and will scratch. If you’re considering stainless steel—either as your main countertop or as an accent piece—make sure you like the worn “scratched-up” look before you finalize your purchase.
In sharp contrast to stainless steel, butcher block feels warm and inviting. It’s a perfect fit in farmhouse-style kitchens that harken back to the kitchens of the 1920s and 1930s. However, butcher block also has significant limitations. Like all wood, it absorbs liquid and stains easily, can be damaged by knife cuts, and is not heat-resistant. If you want the look of butcher block, consider adding it as an accent piece where it won’t see heavy, everyday use.