The 7 Best Countertop Materials, According to the Experts

Updated 06/11/19

Elizabeth Roberts Architects

Your countertops are likely one of the most used features in your home, even if it doesn't always feel like it. If you love to cook, your kitchen countertops certainly see a lot of use—from chopping and cleaning to withstanding heat and regular wear. Similarly, in the bathroom, your countertops need to be able to withstand daily use and should be easy to clean. That's why it's important to get all of the facts before deciding to make an upgrade to this vital part of your home.

While you can choose a countertop material based on its looks, there are plenty of other factors to consider as well. Think about whether or not it's important for your countertops to be stain resistant and durable. Do you care if the material is humanmade or would you prefer for it to be entirely natural? Are you worried about scratching and cracking?

These are all questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge and renovate your home's countertops. Ahead, learn more about the seven best countertop materials, according to interior designers. From marble and quartz to soapstone and linoleum, there's something for everyone's design tastes and practical needs.

Marble

Marble Countertops
Elizabeth Roberts Architects 

Perhaps the most coveted kitchen and bathroom countertop material, marble is one of your best options, according to interior designers Nina Freudenberger and Jennifer Wallenstein. "I love the way marble looks," Freudenberger says. "I find it to be the most upscale, most beautiful, and varied of all the options," the designer continues.

Wallenstein agrees, noting that while the material offers a classic look, the natural stone is quite porous and will stain over time, especially if it's exposed to citrus fruits or wine. However, Freudenberger points out that this natural wear can be a good thing. "I embrace, rather than fight it," she says. "Over time, it really develops this beautiful patina that just gets better as it is used."

The Takeaway: Marble looks luxe but will stain over time.

Quartz

Quartz Countertops
Sara Tramp; DESIGN: Emily Henderson Design

Although quartz is a popular countertop material, both Freudenberger and Wallenstein offer pros and cons for this one. It's great for utility and is incredibly durable and stain-resistant; however, quartz is an engineered product, meaning it's humanmade, rather than naturally occurring.

"Beware that not all quartz is created equal," Wallenstein says. While some look almost indistinguishable from natural stones, others can turn out more like a pixelated print, the designer warns.

The Takeaway: Quartz is stain-resistant and durable, but it's a manmade material.

Soapstone

Soapstone Countertops
Catherine Kwong Design

"I am crazy about the texture and feel of soapstone," Wallenstein admits. She notes that both elements exist because of naturally occurring talc (a clay mineral) found in the stone. "It's extremely durable and holds up well to stains and heat," the designer adds. The only downside of choosing this material is that it can darken over time.

The Takeaway: Soapstone is durable and smooth, but the color may darken.

Linoleum

Linoleum Countertops
Jessica Alexander; DESIGN: Nina Freudenberger

"I just did my kitchen in Malibu with linoleum, and I think this is a really interesting material," Freudenberger shares. The material was big in the 70s, and it appears to be making a comeback (and for good reason). The designer notes that linoleum is not only an affordable pick, but it's also an extremely hygienic natural material. "I'm finding it a little sensitive to scratching, but I think choosing a lighter color would help with this," she suggests.

The Takeaway: Linoleum is natural, hygienic, and affordable but may get scratched.

Quartzite

Quartzite Countertops
Katie Martinez Design

Not to be confused with quartz, quartzite is a natural stone material that's a great alternative to marble, according to Wallenstein. She points out that it's more durable and less porous than marble, which is less susceptible to stains and scratches.

The Takeaway: Quartzite is a natural stone that's more durable that porous marble.

Butcher Block

Butcher Block Countertops
Sarah Sherman Samuel

Freudenberger has mixed feelings about this countertop material, but it still makes her list of the best options. "I like that is is warm and very functional," she says. However, she'd only use it in very specific situations. For instance, she recommends using butcher block for a kitchen island, rather than for the entire space.

The Takeaway: Butcher block is functional, but you may only want to use it in small doses.

Wood

Wood Countertops
Sara Tramp; DESIGN: Jess Bunge for Emily Henderson Design​

"I love the look of wood countertops, especially in walnut," Wallenstein says. According to her, this is one of the best countertop materials for a traditional, timeless space. Plus, you'll have a myriad of options when it comes to taking care of wood countertops.

"There are great products out there for sealing and protecting them," she explains. "Some come prefinished, but it's important to keep an eye out for issues like warping, burns, knife marks, or cracking," Wallenstein advises.

The Takeaway: Wood offers a traditional look, but it may show wear over time.

Related Stories