Countertops Types

Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops are formed using many different materials combined with resin. Sheets of laminate are then bonded to a wood substrate and can be moulded around curves such as the edges of countertops. The surface layer is the coloured top portion of your countertop. Laminate is available in a wide variety of colours and in granular, low-sheen or glossy finishes.

Everyday care and maintenance of your laminate countertops can be done with a damp, soapy cloth. Do not use cleaners that contain strong acids, such as those used for ceramic stove tops or toilet bowls. Do not use cleaners with grit or abrasives. For stubborn stains or spills (i.e., nail polish) contact the manufacturer of the laminate for special removal instructions.

Care & Maintenance of Wood Edges on Laminate Countertops

Wood edge finishes are commonly used to finish laminate countertops. These edges do require some extra care and maintenance. Every couple of years, or when wear becomes visible, the wooden edges should be sanded and re-finished. Refinishing can be done with spray lacquer or using brush-on urethanes. These products are available at most hardware stores or from your cabinet manufacturer.

Laminate Bubbles

Prolonged or extreme heat from hot pots and pans or operating electrical appliances can cause the cement used to bond the laminate to the substrate to soften and release. This could result in the formation of a bubble in the laminate surface. Always use a trivet under all heated appliances such as electric frying pans, slow cookers, coffee pots, etc. Never set a hot pot or pan directly on the surface of the laminate: always use a trivet.

If your laminate does bubble from exposure to heat, it may be possible to re-establish the bond by applying localized pressure to the area of the bubble. In other cases additional adhesive must be applied to permanently re-establish the bond. A professional service provider should be contacted to repair laminate bubbles.

Laminate Swelling

Laminates are made of wood products and will swell if water gets under the top layer and is absorbed by the wood. When the wood dries it will have expanded and will no longer lie as flat as it was in its originally installed state. For this reason, it is important to ensure that countertops are kept free of standing water at joints and where the counter meets the backsplash along the wall. It is also important to repair and chipped or broken laminate countertops or edits so that liquids cannot seep into the particleboard base.

De-Lamination

De-lamination, or lifting of the laminate from the wood substrate that it is bonded to, can occur when exposed to prolonged heat, after the intrusion of water, or where not enough adhesive was applied during construction. De-lamination due to lack of adhesive usually occurs along vertical edges and near corners. De-laminated countertops can be reattached by applying additional adhesive, however, if the detached piece is broken the procedure is much more complicated. Tape the loose edges in place to avoid further breaking or de-lamination until repairs can be made.

Scratches & Chips

Gloss finishes usually show scratches and chips more than granular or low-sheen finishes. No matter what type of laminate finish you have, do not use your countertop as a cutting board. Knives, abrasive cleaners and steel wool can scratch your countertop.

While it is not possible to completely remove scratches, it may be possible to hide small scratches using seam filler products available from plastic laminate distributors. Deep gouges or chips cannot be repaired – replacement may be necessary.

Tile Countertops

Tile countertops can be made from ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles.

  • Ceramic Tiles are made using pressed clay and can be purchased in matte, metallic or glazed finishes. Glazed finishes are more susceptible to scratches.
  • Porcelain Tiles are made with clay that has been baked at very high temperatures. The colour of a porcelain tile is applied to the entire thickness of the tile, rather than as a surface coating. For this reason, porcelain tiles tend to show scratches and chips less. Porcelain tiles require the occasional application of grout sealer to reduce staining and to protect against moisture, mildew and mold.

Natural Stone Countertops

There are many types of stone countertops, each with varying degrees of porosity and resistance to scratching and chipping.

  • Granite Countertops are hard and highly resistant to chips and scratches, but porous and should be treated every six months with a sealer to prevent staining. Marble Countertops are soft and porous, requiring sealers to be applied frequently.
  • Slate Countertops are hard, heat resistant and not porous (does not stain easily), however, sealers can be applied for extra protection.
  • Limestone Countertops are highly porous and stain easily (not recommended for busy cooks).
  • Quartz Countertops often engineered using pure quartz crystals, they are non-porous, durable and resistant to stains, heat and scratches.

Natural stone countertops should be cleaned with a soft cloth and mild soap. Avoid abrasive cleaners. Consult the manufacturer for specific care instructions for the type of stone your counters are made with.

Did you Know?

Acid from citrus fruits can etch some natural stone surfaces and may require professional services to restore. Always use a cutting board and clean up fruit juices immediately using a soft cloth and mild soap.

Concrete Countertops

Concrete countertops contain natural materials such as stone, silica-based cement and water. Concrete countertops are porous and will stain if left unsealed and in their natural state. Sealers are applied to increase water and stain resistance, however, the concrete may be stained or sealer compromised by hot pans, use of knives, or if the counter comes into contact with vinegar, alcohol or acidic fruit juices.

Protect your concrete countertops by cleaning with a soft cloth and mild soap, and re-applying sealers as per the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Avoid corrosive or abrasive cleansers, or cleaners that contain ammonia.

Metal Countertops

Metal countertops may be made of stainless steel (an iron, chrome and nickel allow) or even copper. While they are susceptible to damage from scratching and nicks, these damages are less visible on low-sheen or sanded metal surfaces. Stainless steel countertops can be polished with a damp cloth and baking soda. Copper metal countertops are less common because copper is a soft, smooth metal that is susceptible to scratching and can take on a golden-brown colour with age. Copper is best maintained using a sealer that consists of beeswax or butcherʼs wax.