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Countertop Material Types

Types of Countertop Materials

Selecting the Right Countertop Material is Critical

When you are renovating your kitchen or designing the kitchen in your new house, selecting the countertop material is critical. The variety of countertop materials these days is greater than it’s ever been. It’s easy to get swept away by the beauty of a particular material. However, if you are choosing countertop materials, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of each material. The materials that look beautiful might not be the ones that are best for your application.

At Granite & Marble Designs, we want to help you choose the material that gives you the best combination of appearance and function. We want to make sure you know everything that you need to make an informed decision so you will be happy with your choice not just this year, but for a decade or more. If you would like to speak to a countertop materials consultant about your countertop options, please call 303-551-6000 or email Granite & Marble Designs today.

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Granite is a very popular natural stone. It is partly favored because of its hardness and durability. However, its beauty and natural variety also makes it a striking design choice. It comes in numerous natural colors and patterns. Most are stain-resistant, and some are so impermeable that they don’t need a sealant. Granite is also heat-resistant to at least 480° F, so you can work on the countertop without a trivet.

Note that many of the stone countertops sold as granite are not actually granite. More stone countertop materials are listed below.


Marble is a beautiful stone, characterized by its patterning. Marble has elegant veining running through the material that helps improve its appearance. Because marble has long been used as a building material for landmarks in the Old World and even in the US, people have an association of timelessness with marble.

However, if you’ve visited these landmarks, even the newer ones in the United States, you’ve probably noticed how worn they are. The steps, especially, have grooves and depressions from the succession of feet stepping on them. That’s because marble is a relatively soft stone. Although it looks beautiful, it is not a durable material suitable for use in kitchens and other high-wear areas. If you want a durable stone with the look of marble, however, we might be able to achieve it with certain granite or quartzite selections. If not, engineered quartz countertops can give you the look of marble with greater durability.

Travertine, Limestone and Soapstone

Travertine is a type of limestone mostly deposited around mineral springs. This gives the material its often distinctive colors. Travertines come in yellows and mineral reds, as well as white. Although it’s a beautiful stone, it is relatively soft and vulnerable to acid etching, so it’s not a good choice for kitchens and other counters likely to experience very heavy use.

Limestone is a rock formed by carbonate deposition. This is typically calcium carbonate, the same material that makes up most of the hard water deposits you might struggle to clean off glass shower doors here in the Denver area. Although calcium carbonate is relatively hard for a stain on glass, it’s relatively soft for a countertop. This means that limestone, although it comes in many attractive varieties, is not a good choice for kitchen countertops.

Soapstone is a natural stone that doesn’t have the natural variety of granite, though in other ways it is comparable. Soapstone is durable enough for kitchen counters. It is a non-porous stone, which means it doesn’t need to be sealed. Soapstone is not as hard as granite, which means it is easier to scratch. However, if it does get scratched, it’s relatively easy to buff out the scratch. Soapstone has a more flat, matte appearance compared to the gloss of granite, which forms part of its appeal, although it is not as popular a design choice.

Onyx & Semiprecious Stones

Onyx is a beautiful variety of stone. It comes in many striking colors and patterns. However, it is not a good countertop material in most cases. It is not as hard as granite, and it is vulnerable to many household chemicals. These chemicals may not only stain the material, they can also etch it, resulting in areas where the material may be stained or damaged. Onyx and other semiprecious stones make for good backsplashes and accents, however.

Semiprecious is a combination of gemstones such as onyx, agate and amethyst that are bound with resin. These gemstones are laid by hand and therefore, each slab is completely unique. It is incredibly hard-wearing and suitable for higher-trafficked areas or application.


Quartz is a natural mineral, but quartz countertops are not made from slabs of quartz. Instead, they are made from broken pieces of quartz bound together with a special epoxy that makes them very strong and durable. They are not quite as heat and stain-resistant as granite, but they’re all non-porous.

The main benefit of quartz countertops is that they give you full control over the design. When working with natural stone, you have to accept the limitations of availability among the slabs available, but with quartz you can essentially choose any design you like, and it will be a lot more uniform than the random patterning of natural stone.


While quartz countertops are engineered, quartzite is a natural stone countertop material. The slabs of quartzite are cut out of large stones, giving them a natural variety that is both desirable and sometimes frustrating. Many quartzites resemble marble. However, quartzite is even harder than granite, making it an appropriate choice for kitchens and other areas where the material will receive steady use and abuse.


Porcelain is a very hard ceramic, famed since ancient times for its white color and its strength. Porcelain used for countertops is treated differently from porcelain used in dishes: greater heat and pressure improve the strength of porcelain intended for countertops and floor tiles. As an artificial material, we have greater control over porcelain’s colors and patterns.

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For help selecting the perfect materials for your countertops, please call 303-551-6000 or contact us today.

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Award Winners

At Granite & Marble Designs, our core associates have more than 100 years of combined experience in the stone fabrication and installation business. We know what stones are best for which applications.

We can also help you find the most beautiful stones for your project. Six consecutive years of Parade of Homes award winners speak for our ability to deliver consistently high-quality results.

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