Stainless steel countertops are brains, beauty and brawn rolled into one hardworking surface. This professional chef–worthy surface stands up to abuse yet spiffs up easily to a glamorous showstopping shine. Are stainless steel counters right for you? This will help you find out.
Countertops are typically fabricated from 14- or 16-gauge material, which is then glued to a substrate of plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) to form a rigid surface. Type 304 stainless steel is commonly used, due to its higher chromium content (and therefore corrosion resistance) and ability to be welded without affecting its durability or strength. Most common is a number 4 brushed finish, but stainless steel is also available in satin (smooth), antique matte and any number of specialty patterns.
Advantages: Concrete’s durability is unquestionable. And options beyond the industrial aesthetic are easy with shapes and additives like stains, pigments, aggregates and coatings. Architects and designers favor this material’s ability to unite with other concrete elements in the home, like floors. And because the counters are handmade by artisans, you can easily have details such as integral drainboards.
Advantages: This is a classic and timeless choice for a kitchen. It can perform for decades while maintaining its elegance. For those whose heart is set on a white, natural stone counter, few other options are available with the breadth of choices that marble offers. You can also opt for marble’s drama in any of its myriad other colors. Experienced bakers know that marble’s naturally cool temperature makes for great pastry making.
Composed of smaller pieces of wood, butcher block can make great use of reclaimed or repurposed material. Sustainable butcher block can come from diverse sources, such as reclaimed shipping pallets or deconstructed buildings. Your knives will love this surface and, after it shows some age, you can just sand the wood a bit and refinish with a food-grade natural oil.
Disadvantages: The material is heat resistant only to 350 degrees, so — as with many kitchen surfaces — it’s best to keep trivets nearby. The color palettes tend toward medium to dark hues, though Kliptech (the maker of RecycleTop) has solved that in its similar recycled paper and bamboo product, EcoTop, which comes in lighter colors, including Snow White.
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