Countertop Considerations

From the very beginning, Ben and I had planned to use some sort of natural stone as kitchen counters.  When we bought the marble slab for our dining table, we thought we’d use the same marble for counters.  It’s beautiful and has held up really well.

The problem though, is the marble we fell in love with was a mis-order, not something routinely stocked.  So we can’t get it now.

With the beautiful marble eliminated, we turned to granite.  I have yet to see a light granite I love.  The only thing that comes close it Bianco Romano, so we figured we’d end up with something dark.  Ben liked Cosmic Black, I thought it was okay.


The boys and I looked at granite on Tuesday, but didn’t see anything we fell in love with.  And they’re out of Cosmic Black.  I liked the look of soapstone, until I heard that you can easily scratch it with your fingernail.  I’m not big on a patina look, and the $105 per square foot price tag didn’t help.  Sadly, I learned our default granite, Absolute Black, costs 80 bucks a square foot.  Our kitchen, not especially huge, has 34 square feet of counter tops, excluding the bar top we plan to add.  Do the math.  80 times 34 equals $2720.  Ouch.  Soapstone would come to $3570.  No thanks.  Maybe granite isn’t in the cards.  But, this one is pretty.  And so is this one.

We didn’t even consider a different marble because Carrara isn’t practical for a kitchen.  Ben hates the look of concrete (he doesn’t like how modern and cold it looks) and doesn’t like Corian or Silestone.  We’re both opposed to a metal like stainless steel or copper.  We don’t want tile because we’re not going to clean tons of grout lines.  Formica is too cheap looking.  What does that leave us with?  Wood.  Specifically, Bubinga.  In huge slabs, not butcher block.  Here it has been used as a bathroom vanity top.

I haven’t seen the slabs yet, so that concerns me.  We haven’t completely committed, but we’re strongly considering.   And, just so you can see the thought process in my mind, here’s a pro and con list of each material:

Granite Pros:

  • Durability
  • Seen in many kitchens

Granite Cons:

  • Price, running at least $50 per square foot, for anything we like at least.
  • Availability, limited to the suppliers stock.
  • Seen in many kitchens.  Is granite the Formica of the new century?

Marble Pros: 

  • It’s preeeeeetttyy

Marble Cons: 

  • Everything else, not durable or practical in a kitchen

Wood Pros:

  • Used for hundreds of years.  Can look both modern and classic.
  • If damaged, can be sanded to look new again.
  • Price: For 2 inch thick slabs, the price for the raw cut wood is $2376.  It will cost another $100 to have a cabinet company sand it to 180 grit for a total of 2476 bucks for the entire kitchen.  Still $244  cheaper than Absolute granite, not including the bar top.

Wood Cons: 

  • Can be damaged easily by knives
  • We don’t have much wood in our house, other than our floors, so it could look out-of-place
  • I haven’t seen the slabs yet.  This is a huge con for me right now.
  • Ben has to DIY the counters.  If we had a fabricator do the work and they messed something up, we could hold them accountable to fix it.  Now Ben is liable.
Because I want our counters to look pristine, I’d ask people to not cut directly on the counters.  And I would get a nice cutting board to leave out as a subconscious reminder.  Here are some pretty kitchens I found in my Pinterest research.

Who has wood counters?  Love ’em or hate ’em?  Do you treat them as a large cutting board?  Anything we should know before taking the plunge?

32 thoughts on “Countertop Considerations

  1. What about quartz? We have a Caesarstone counter in our kitchen and I LOVE it! I’m not a big fan of the color variation that granite has and quartz is a more abundant naturally occurring stone. The raw materials are mixed together and then formed into slabs so you get consistent coloring. I’m not super familiar with granite but quartz is heat resistant so you can place a hot pot directly on the counter and I have never had anything stain it and ours is a light biscuit color.

  2. Um, I don’t know about the rest of ya’ll, but I love, LOVE wooden countertops. I had a small piece of butcher block in our previous house, and I didn’t treat it differently than our cheap laminate. I suppose one concern would be cleanliness (like if you slap a hunk of raw meat down on the countertop, is the juice gonna soak in?), but if it’s properly sealed, that shouldn’t be an issue, no?

  3. I had wood counters at my old place – they had a very patina look as well. It was difficult to keep them looking new – they were beautiful though. . My new house came with Corian professional series counters that look like marble. I’m not a fan of corian either, but am very plesantly surprised by how ‘un-corian’ they look and how great they’ve held up. I would have never considered them myself – but glad I have them.

  4. Unless you pick an extremely soft soapstone, your fingernails will have no effect. Granite stores are notoriously misinformed when it comes to soapstone.
    yes, you can scratch it with metal, but a quick wipe with miniral oil and it disappears. no refinishing needed, no sealants. And f you do end up with a deep scratch, you can fix it yourself with a little sandpaper and mineral oil, no professionals needed. Soapstone is amazing because it’s completely non-porous, impossible to stain or burn. you can take a 600degree dutch oven and put it right on the counter, no issues.

    As for the cost, you can save TONS of money on soapstone by doing them yourselves. you can cut and finish soapstone with woodworking tools. rough-cut (ie to your size specifications, but without the rounded corners and such) are only $30-$0 a sq ft. do some searching online for DIY soapstone.

    I’m a huge (obviously) fan of my soapstone, which I did myself. don’t cross it off yet!

  5. We have black granite in our bathroom – it shows every drip. Water dries with a ring, so you dodged a bullet by staying away from black. How about quartz? I am planning one small section of countertop as butcher block with the remainder as quartz or recycled glass. Good luck!

  6. The wood tops are pretty, but if they are only $250 (~10%) less than the granite that you feel more comfortable, why not just spend the extra to have something that you know will work? It’s not like you are saving tons and tons by choosing wood. Whatever you choose, I look forward to seeing how it all comes together! You have such a great eye.

  7. for the price of wood, you can afford to ding them up a bit! 🙂 we have plans to re-do our kitchen within the next several months and are looking to do it on the cheap. butcher block (or any wood for that matter) seems to be the cheapest, easiest option. personally, i love concrete counters – i’m into the rustic, masculine vibe but they wouldn’t be as easy to install as wood. i havent heard any major complaints about wood coutners so, as long as you treat them properly, i bet they would be a good choice! (oh, and by “treat” i mean oil/maintain them…not talk nicely to them. but i guess you could do both.)

    1. Wow! Lots of great input here! You all rock my socks.

      Um, we’re both not really on the man made train. Too uniform and not varied enough for our taste. That’s kind of what we like about granite/marble/soapstone/wood. Of course it still needs to function well.

      Emily, Based on Ben’s research, the wood we’re using is pretty hard and non pourus. And I make people use cutting boards (plastic) when handling meat, just because I’m paranoid like that. 🙂

      Trish, Thanks for your experience. 🙂 I think worst case scenario, we can sand the counters down and re oil for a new look. At least I hope. 🙂

      Romie, Kudos to you for DIY soapstone! I think Ben has eliminated it though. 😦 I’d love to see pictures of your counters, though.

      Dawn, that’s a great point. That would bug the crap out of me.

      Olivia, The wood is $250 cheaper than granite for just the kitchen counters. The granite price doesn’t include the bar top. And, the more we’ve researched and now that I’ve see a small sample (not the actual slabs) I’m actually really excited! One thing that we worried about was getting the wood smooth, but Ben talked to a cabinet maker this morning and he gave him the price of $100 to sand both perfectly smooth on both sides. Which is fantastic. And, we can get the bar top out of the two slabs. 🙂 Thanks for your enthusiastic atticude, too!

      Lizzy, That’s kind of our thought process. And damages seem to be fixed easily with sand paper and more oil. At least I hope.

      Thanks again, everyone!

  8. Amanda, have you considered concrete? I believe is not less expensive than Granite, however. How about Stainless Steel or Quart? I think they both are antimicrobial.

    ~ Liliana

  9. I love the idea of wood counters (debating between butcher block and concrete when we redo ours), but I don’t know much about how they hold up. Dana at House*Tweaking loved their butcher block island at their old house, though. You might read this post and this post before making a decision.

    1. Thanks for the links, Liliana and Cait. I’ll have to check those out when I have a little more time later today. 🙂 We’re hoping that the entire kitchen renovation will boost resale, even if the counters aren’t a major factor. I just want something that will look pretty and be functional. Haha, don’t we all?

  10. Sounds like you’re sold on wood, but have you considered slate? We DIYed our countertops (in our TINY) kitchen with salvaged blackboards and it cost … ummm… $85 for the whole project. We got the slate at our local salvage yard for $2 a linear foot. I know not everyone is into DIY and may not have access to old blackboards, but slate is beautiful, wears well and I believe is less porous that granite. It looks very high-end, too. I love the dark gray color.

  11. Black granite looks beautiful, but truly it’s the worst. I had it in the kitchen and bathroom at my previous house and it showed every fingerprint and drop of water and was a lot of work to keep shiny and clean. It sounds dramatic, but I would never put it in my home again. House*Tweaking did a post awhile back on care of her butcher block, I wonder if wood would be the same,

  12. How about quartz, I didn’t see where that was one of your options. There is no maintenence with quartz, no sealing once a year or anything like that. I have it in my master bathroom and in my kitchen and it’s wonderful. I cut directly on it in the kitchen. We had a house fire and had to redo our entire house pretty much and we had tile in the kitchen, won’t do that again, grout lines were a bear to keep up with, but we have been really happy with the quartz.

  13. I hate granite , I think it is so over done , very much formica of the 90’s to me , I hate the feel of it , too pourous for me and too busy usually although I have seen a white grey granite that looks more like marble and it is the exception , I love the look of marble , but I have seen chipped edges and I wouldn’t like that at all , I do have oak counters on my kitchen island and I love it , I have to recoat it once in a while but we do not baby it at all , we NEVER cut on it .
    I am choosing silestone for our new house , one that looks like marble , its quite gorgeous and smooth and durable and stain proof , so excited actually.
    Good luck choosing , my new kitchen will again have oak butcher block counter from Ikea ,and as a designer I did have a client put in all oak butcher block for her counters and she loved them.

  14. i love the wood. our previous owners installed it on the island only but i am considering it for our main counter space when we replace the formica there. mine isn’t stained (like your photos show), so i actually treat it more like butcher block and cut on it all the time. it stays cleans and once a month or so, i easily sand out the cutting marks and treat it with mineral oil. i am like you, i LOVE marble, but my kitchen is small and really part of the ‘great room’, so i like the casual feel of the wood and think it would look great with simple white subway tile or wainscott (when we get there eventually!). i think anything can be manageable – to me, it comes down to what you love and how it will go with your space.

  15. I have granite countertops and although they are durable they are also the reason we often have to replace our dishes. Sometimes when loading or unloading the dishwasher we will bump a dish against the countertop and they either break or chip. No matter how durable the dishes this has happened. It looks clean most of the time. The downfall is you can’t see crubs easily on it, so sometimes you think it’s clean but there are crumbs hidden on it. With wood – even though it’s sealed would it still be able to absorb water and bubble? I like that it’s softer than granite and isn’t the new standard in homes. I like that it’s unique looking. Marble countertops seem kinda cold for a kitchen… But maybe that’s because they are cold. That’s what they use in ice cream parlors to mix ice cream ya know? I think wood is a neat choice.

  16. We love our new counters. We had laminate which came with the house. Our new counters are “glassos” and stain resistant as well as heat resistant. I have several cutting boards.
    Not a fan of granite. I do love wood. I love sleek with earthy touches.
    Good luck with your counters.

  17. I’m voting for Ubatuba Granite. We just had it put in our new kitchen against white cabinets and white subway tile backsplash, it looks amazing. Just look at the sample from the place you want to order, It has a range of shades from more green to more black. (Ours is more black, and just has a slight undertone of green)

  18. I adore the look of wood countertops, but I think I’d eventually give in to temptation and cut on them, then I’d regret it forever! But if you have the restraint, I think they’re amazingly gorgeous!

  19. new to your blog 🙂

    im a fan of wood. we are doing a small reup of our kitchen and im cleaning up an old restaurant maple table top. a little work but i think it will look great, and i bake a lot so the big wood surface to work on is going to be awesome.

    but that being said from reading your post seems like youd like granite. so since price is close why not go for it?

  20. My dear mother has butcher block countertops. They’re amazing and very durable. You do have to wipe up wetness quite quickly and acidic stuff like lemon juice can leave a black mark for a while, but it always seems to fade again – and as you said, you can always sand them down!

    She leaves out one of these massive chopping boards (it’s basically the depth of the counter) on the main surface and we use that for cutting and other messy things – you can replace it every couple of years but it keeps the counters looking good. If you ordered a bit of extra wood top I bed ben could make one himself! The lip is good as it helps make it feel part of the counter top.

  21. I don’t understand cutting on countertops. The previous owners of our house did that to our laminate and it grosses me out! I’ve never not used a cutting board but most people I know have laminate or granite. We’re probably going to replace our’s with granite just because it’s standard, we have a small place, and it’s traditional for resale value. If you’re planning on staying in your house, go for what you want!!

  22. I put butcher block on my island in my last house as a temporary solution until I found something I liked better. I ended up falling in love with the wood. I would cut right on it and it held up very well. I think I might do another butcher block island in our next house we build.

  23. One of the ladies from Our Best Bites just re-did her kitchen and used wood countertops, you should check out her kitchen reveal. I’m kind of surprised he likes the dark granite, but not concrete. I have a friend that did concrete counters and buffed them, but they have smooth curved corners and they’re beautiful! They look like unpolished granite or soapstone. Something to consider. He did them himself with forms in their driveway!

    1. Meg, that is such a great idea! We are sold on wood, but I really would love to see pics of your kitchen. 🙂

      Sara, Thanks for the link! That seems perfect for us.

      MyVegasLife, that’s a bummer. I would be so annoyed by that. I’m OCD and like to have a full matching set. I’d be going through dishes like crazy.

      Amanda, I think the saving grace for wood counters is the option to sand down for a new look. I wouldn’t cut on it, but someone else might.

      Bryn RK, That sounds beautiful! We’re going to share more about counters later today, so we’ll explain a little more on wood versus granite.

      Nora, I don’t either. Why not use a plate or cutting board?!? We’ve never been big on making decisions strictly based on resale. We do what we like and hope others will too if we decide to sell.

      Amanda Scacchi, That’s great to hear that you loved it. The more I think about it, the more I think we will, too.

      Sally HP, Oddly enough, Ben doesn’t like industrial stuff. At least not for our house. I think concrete counters are pretty in the right application, just not for our house.

      Thanks again for all of your help!!

  24. I love wood counter tops–they feel timeless to me. I agree with Chris that granite is going to age poorly once the trend moves on, leaving all those granite kitchens looking outdated.

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