In the great Indian kitchen, cooking takes on a new life. Spices, masalas and curry pastes take the centre stage along with a lot of frying, sautéing, steaming and tempering. This makes the kitchen and especially the countertop vulnerable to stains and heat damage. A kitchen countertop is as much about functionality as it is about aesthetics. From a functional point of view, the Indian kitchen countertop clearly has to rank high on attributes such as durability, strength, ease of maintenance, heat and stain resistance. In this blog, we examine the options we have, keeping in mind both design and aesthetics.
Prior to selecting the material and colour for the countertop, there are a few parameters to keep in mind:
- Lifestyle –
This is one of the most important factors while selecting the countertop. Indian cuisine involves intense cooking, frying, sauteing, boiling, etc. Hence the countertop you select should endure the test of knives, hot spills, splashes, oil and grease stains etc. Yet, recent trends show a preference for two kitchens – one being the working kitchen and the other being a show kitchen, the latter being restricted to simple serve and eat type meals such as snacks or easy breakfasts. In this case, two different materials can be considered for the countertops.
- Durability –
Since a countertop is going to be a big investment, one which we may not like to change for decades to come, the countertops that we select must be sturdy and last long.
- Aesthetics –
Gone are the days when kitchen countertops were a part of the kitchen just from the utility point of view. Earlier an Indian kitchen countertop meant a cuddapah, a black limestone slab. Now more and more people are experimenting with the look of the countertop in an attempt to enhance the décor of the kitchen.
- Lighting in the kitchen –
Based on the lighting in the kitchen, countertops should be selected. Lighting can dramatically change the feel and the overall impression of the kitchen countertop. Hence before making any decision, look at the sample under similar lighting set up as would be used in the kitchen. It is recommended that in the case of spaces with dim light, light colours should be preferred and when the light is available in abundance, then darker colours would go well.
- Wellbeing –
Nobody would like the sight of a mould or bacterial build-up or dirt getting accumulated on a kitchen countertop. This is the very reason why solid, non-porous surfaces are more preferred. On a daily basis, no one would like to spend a significant amount of time scrubbing and cleaning the countertops.
- Affordability –
Consider how much you want to splurge on a kitchen countertop and then come to a conclusion. Always think long term. A good countertop that will stand the test of time and require minimal maintenance will be the best bet, even if the initial costs are high.
Once you have considered the above factors, let us move forward and understand the different materials currently in vogue and the advantages and disadvantages of these:
- Granite countertops
Granite is one of the most desirable countertops as far as Indian kitchens are involved. Granite, a natural stone is readily available in the market and is one of the hardest solid stones that can be used for making countertops.The most preferred types of granite countertops in India include – Royal Red Granite, Black Galaxy Granite, Green Pearl Granite, White Galaxy Granite, Tan Brown Granite.
- Durability: Granite countertops are durable enough and can go on for decades without any hassles.
- Aesthetics:Granite countertops offer a rich and superior elegance to the kitchen.
- Low Maintenance: Granite is resistant to heat, scratch, and stains. Thus, you can directly put your hot pots and pans on the countertop, use the surface directly for chopping and do not have to worry about stubborn stains of spices such as turmeric. Granite does not absorb water and hence cleaning is much easier if fitted and sealed properly.
- Granite is porous and if not sealed properly then there is a possibility of it absorbing unwanted liquids which can even lead to bacterial build-up.
- Quartz countertops
Quartz is one of the most durable and appealing materials that can be used for kitchen countertops. Quartz is an engineered stone that is composed of around 93 per cent of crushed waste from granite, marble, and natural stone and 7 per cent of polyester resin binders and colour pigments. And due to this quartz can add a spectacular dimension to your kitchen.
- Durability: Quartz is one of the toughest materials which can be used for kitchen countertops. It is exceptionally durable offering decades of dependable service.
- Aesthetics: Due to the rich colour pigments in quartz, it is available in a wide range of colours and textured finishes compared to natural stone. Many a time metallic and glass flakes are also added to make it more attractive. The manufacturing process as well as the raw materials used (it is made from crushed waste of granite, marble and other natural stone and binded with resins and colour pigments) allows it to be created in many shapes and sizes.
- Low Maintenance: Quartz is a non-porous material and hence, it does not absorb any unwanted liquid and so there is no fear of staining or unwanted bacterial built-up. It is extremely easy to clean just with a swipe of a cloth. Quartz is resistant to scratch and does not need to be sealed.
- Low Resistance to Heat: Quartz is not very resistant to heat. And hence, you cannot put the hot pots directly off the flame on quartz countertops. In this case, it is necessary to use hot pads or mats.
- Exposure: Direct extended hours of sunlight might affect the aesthetics of the quartz countertops.
Picture Credits: https://unsplash.com/photos/54hUU5pNSvo
- Marble countertops
When it comes to premium-quality choices, there is no match to the elegance of veined marble countertops. Marble is one of the most classic options which can take the décor of your kitchen to the next level.
- Durability: Marble is durable enough if sealed properly and regularly, but granite is comparatively harder
- Aesthetics: Marble is available in a rich spectrum of colours and veins. Marble quarried from different places has a unique texture and surface appearance, which is why they come in a broad range of premium finishes. Moreover, marble ages gracefully as it develops a patina over time which give it a more pleasant finish.
- Resistant to heat: It offers extremely good resistance against heat and hence you can directly keep your hot pan on the countertops without the heat pads.
- Low Porosity: Marble is porous and hence staining and bacterial build-up is possible if not sealed properly.
- Resealing Marble: It needs to be resealed at least once every year.
- Scratch Resistance: It is vulnerable to scratches and hence care needs to be taken accordingly.
- Costing: It is comparatively expensive
- Maintenance: It requires high maintenance and quick clean-up is a must in case of oil spillage or whenever it comes in contact with any acidic foods and liquids.
Picture Credits: https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-chef-kitchen-home-6378164/
- Stainless Steel countertop
Stainless steel countertops were exclusively used in restaurants till the recent past, however now it has been the current rage amongst homeowners that are looking for contemporary kitchens as it perfectly blends in with any décor style due to its neutral colour. Grace and practicality both are the main characteristics of a stainless-steel countertop.
- Durability: Stainless steel countertops are durable enough offering decades of service.
- Aesthetics: Stainless steel gives a sleek and glossy appearance to the kitchen countertops.Especially today when most of the kitchen appliances come in stainless steel finish, they can seamlessly complement the countertop.
- Low maintenance: Stainless Steel countertops are non-porous and hence stain-resistant and there is no chance of bacterial or fungal built-up. This renders you a countertop that is clean and sterile to use. Plus, it is heat resistant and hence you can directly put your hot pans on the surface of the countertop without any worries.
- Cost: Stainless is comparatively an expensive option.
- Scratch Resistance: Stainless steel is not scratch-resistant; hence you need to be careful enough during your day to day rough and tough use.
- Noise factor: As it is stainless steel, be prepared for some noise while working in the kitchen.
- Corian Countertops:
Corian countertop which has almost become synonymous with solid surface countertops is a brand marketed by DuPont. Solid surface countertops consist of manmade polymers and natural minerals. It is composed of roughly 33 per cent binding resins and 66 per cent minerals. Additionally, there are many options available that will look close to the real stone. Thus, although Corian is manmade, you can enjoy the feel of a natural stone countertop with innumerable patterns and designs.
- Durability: Corian countertops or solid surface countertops are strong and hard enough however granite and quartz are comparatively more durable.
- Aesthetics: Corian countertops are available in more than 100 colours. Due to its diverse range of colour options, you will find the one that will match your expectations and your kitchen décor.
- Flexible: Corian countertops are flexible enough and can be bent into unlimited shapes and sizes.
- Low Maintenance: It is non-porous and hence resistant to stain and bacterial built up.
- It is also heat resistant, still, it is recommended to use hot pads for hot pans.
- It is easy to clean with just a swipe of a wet cloth. In case of any damage, it can be easily restored and repaired.
- Heat Resistance: It is not as heat resistant as quartz and granite.
- Scratch Resistance: As Corian countertops are not as hard as the natural stone, cutting and chopping directly on the surface can lead to scratches. They are vulnerable when exposed to harsh chemicals.
Picture Credits: https://unsplash.com/photos/UXFJ-6Zj27M
- Wooden countertops
Wooden countertops add beauty and warmth to the kitchen. These can be made of solid wood such as oak, teak or walnut and are not commonly used in India. Perhaps, this can be considered for show kitchens.
- Aesthetics: Wooden countertops are very appealing and add a natural vibe to the kitchen. There are many types of woods available that can be worked up into a countertop which will accentuate the look of your kitchen.
- Eco Friendly Material: Wooden countertops when not made from reclaimed wood can be easily recycled.
- Water Resistance: Water can be damaging for the wooden countertops and to keep it dry is difficult as far as Indian kitchens are involved. Therefore, it needs to be regularly treated with protectants.
- Scratch Resistance: Additionally, these countertops are prone to dents and scratches in the long run as they are soft compared to quartz or granite.
- Sealing requirement: It requires sealing and if not sealed properly, it can offer a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and germs or even termite.
- Ceramic Tile Countertops
Ceramic tile is a more affordable option when compared to quartz, natural stone or solid surface countertops. However, if you are looking for customized tiles, then the price would be higher.
- Durability: Ceramic tiles are generally durable however under high impact they might crack due to the brittle nature of the tiles.
- Aesthetics: It is available in many colours, styles and design options and create a look like marble, wood, leather, etc. These are very easy to customize to suit your requirements and in case of any damage, tiles are replaceable.
- Ceramic tiles are resistant to heat.
- It is difficult to clean the grout lines if stained.
- Does not create the same impression as granite or quartz.
- Due to brittle nature, they are prone to cracks.
- Excessive cleaning and scrubbing can affect and ruin the gloss finish.
Picture Credit: https://marble.com/articles/15-cheap-countertop-materials#
- Laminate Countertops
Laminate countertops are prepared by bonding the laminate sheets to the wood substrate. These can be customized or purchased in pre-formed segments.
- Durability: These countertops are durable enough to handle the daily wear and tear in the kitchen. However, in case of any damage it is difficult to repair.
- Aesthetics: An enormous range of options are available to select from.
- Low maintenance: Laminate countertops are easy to clean as they are resistant to stain.
- It is susceptible to scratches and burns.
- Seams are evident.
- Can be considered as a low-end option by many buyers
Picture Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/kitchenware-on-stone-counter-in-modern-kitchen-3847522/9. Concrete Countertop
Concrete countertops can be easily customized as they can be cast and polished in your kitchen itself. This has become a trend these day.
- Durability: Concrete countertops are durable and strong, and this durability can be enhanced by adding a protective coating.
- Aesthetics: They can be acid-stained, or colour tinted to give you that exotic look.
- Low Maintenance: It is resistant to heat and scratches.
- Over a period, cracks may appear. But with new treatments this tendency can be reduced.
- It needs to be sealed regularly due to porous surface.
- Due to industrial appearance, it may not be viewed in positive light by the potential home buyers.
- Engineered Glass –
Engineered Glass or glass countertops are made by blending particles of recycled glass with resins.
- Durability: It is durable but not as hard as granite.
- Aesthetics: It is available in wide range of colours and customization in size, shape, colour is possible. Appearance is more natural compared to solid surfaces.
- Low maintenance: They are resistant to stain, scratches and heat. Sealing is not required. Easy to clean.
- Cost: It is expensive
- Chipping and cracking on glass countertops can occur, making maintenance quite expensive.
A countertop is the backbone of the kitchen and it must blend in effortlessly and seamlessly with the kitchen and at the same time, serve the utilitarian purpose it is meant for. And since cooking in the Indian context requires spending extended periods of time in the kitchen, it is only fair to make the experience pleasing to the eye.