Friday, September 5, 2008

A Guide to Countertop Materials Part 2

As part the our series on Countertop Materials here are another three popular choices, including their pros and cons:

Butcher Block
Maple and Oak woods are the most common used for countertops, although other hardwoods such as cherry, walnut and mahogany have been known to be used as well. Butcher block counters are available in several configurations depending on your needs and all are finished with either mineral oil or polyurethane. Mineral oil prevents the wood from warping and drying out, but will not prevent stains. Polyurethane provides and impenetrable plastic-like coating.

Pros - easy to maintain, can be sanded and re-oiled or re-sealed as needed. Looks warm.
Cons - Prone to water and stain damage, must be oiled or sealed periodically to prevent dry out and reduce porosity, burns easily and absorbs odors.

Ceramic Tile
Made for a variety of materials and methods and offer a wide range of design possibilities. The most common being traditional glazed tile, which are made from clay and fired at extremely high temperatures. Its tough glasslike surface is non-porous, although the grout that holds the tiles together is extremely porous.

Pros - available in many colours, textures, patterns and price points. Glazed tiles won't stain and resist heat and moisture.
Cons - Uneven counter surface, installation requires time and attention to detail. Tiles can easily chip, scratch or crack; grout is easily stained, tough on dishes and glassware.

To create countertops, concrete is mixed with pigment, then poured into molds on-site, or pre-cast in a workshop. After it is troweled smooth, it takes several days to dry and harden. It must then be sealed to guard against stains. Concrete counters can be as thick as desired, although anything more than four inches could strain supporting cabinets and floors.

Pros - heat and scratch resistant; can be tinted in a wide range of colors; can be molded into different shapes to accommodate integral sinks, drain boards, and decorative edging.
Cons - Expensive and very heavy; cracking is common so make sure you hire a professional to pour. Very porous so it stains unless not sealed very well. Tough on dishes and glassware.

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