(also counter top
, or (British English
) usually refers to a horizontal worksurface in kitchens, other food preparation areas, and workrooms in general. It is frequently installed above and supported by cabinets
When installed in a kitchen, countertops are usually about 25 1/2 inches (650 mm) from front to back and are designed to slightly-overhang standard kitchen base cabinets. This allows a convenient reach to objects at the back of the countertop. They often contain some sort of integrated backsplash to prevent spilled liquids from falling behind the cabinets and the face of the countertop may be decorated in ways ranging from plain to very elaborate. They may be cut away to accommodate the installation of sinks
, stoves (cookers), ranges, and cooktops
, or other accessories such as integrated drain boards and cutting boards
Countertops can be made from a very wide range of materials and the cost of the completed countertop can vary very widely depending on the material chosen. The durability and ease of use of the material often rises with the increasing cost of the material but this is not necessarily so; some very expensive materials are neither particularly durable nor easy to use, just stylish. Some common materials are as follows:
- Natural stones:
- Wood and butcher block
- Stainless steel
- Crafted glass
- Synthetic materials:
- Pre- and postformed high-pressure decorative laminates such as Wilsonart Laminate, Formica (plastic) and Arborite
- Quartz Surfacing or Engineered Stone is 99.9% solid @ 93% aggregate / 7% polyester resin, colors and binders (Hanstone, Technistone, Silestone, Caesarstone, Avanza, Cambria Quartz, Zodiaq etc.)
- Solid-surface acrylic plastic materials such as Corian, Meganite, Avonite, and Wilsonart Solid Surface
- Cast-in-place materials such as Shirestone (resin plus natural stone)
- Phenolic resin
The natural stone or dimension stone
slab (e.g. granite) is shaped using cutting and finishing equipment in the shop of the fabricator. The edges are commonly put on by hand-held routers, grinders, or CNC equipment. If the stone has a highly varigated pattern, the stone is laid out in final position in the shop for the customer's inspection. Then the countertop assembly is installed on the job site by professionals.
Post-formed plastic laminate
A very common style is the formed plastic laminate countertop. These are factory-produced with a single thin sheet of laminate curved and glued
over medium-density fiberboard
or other similar base material. The base material is shaped to provide an integrated front edge, work surface, and backsplash, and on the job site, need only be cut to length before installation (and possibly, have an end trim applied using a glue if the end of the countertop is exposed). Factory-made miter-cut
pieces are also available, allowing the easy production of "inside corners".
Self edge or wood edge laminate
Self or wood edge plastic laminate countertops are also very popular for those who chose to have few or no surface seams. In this style, the top shop uses substrate for the countertop out of MDF, or particle board
and then glue sheets of laminate to the substrate using contact cement
. The laminate is then trimmed using a router
. This method can't reproduce the curved contours of post-formed countertopping but can be made to easily conform to a much-wider range of floor plans with fewer seams.
Custom architectural crafted glass, tempered glass, textured glass pieces, and the ancient art of Verre églomisé
, or reverse gilded glass, are applied to contemporary uses including countertops, backsplashes, and tabletops. Glass work may be customized to suit by craftsmen in the studio, then installed on site either in small components (such as a kitchen countertop composed of three rectangles of verre églomisé) or as immense, single units (for example, a glass countertop and sink basin formed of one continuous piece of textured glass). The glass is non-porous, relatively stain-proof, extremely hygienic, and "extremely heat resistant (up to 700 degrees).
, including ceramic tile and stone tile, is installed in much the same way as flat lay laminate except that the gaps between the tiles are grouted
after the tile has been glued down.
Solid-surface plastic materials
Solid-surface plastic acrylic
materials are usually prefabricated at the installer's shop and then assembled on site. The plastic material is readily glued and the glue joints are then sanded
, leaving almost no visible trace of the joint. The edge treatment for solid-surface countertops can be very elaborate. The material itself is usually only about 12 mm (1/2 inch) thick so an edge is usually created by stacking up two or three layers of the material. The built-up edge then can be shaped to a rounded edge or an ogee
. Fancier edge treatments are, of course, more expensive.
Natural quartz surfacing
Natural quartz surfacing is made from 100% natural quartz cut from blocks into slabs. The slabs are custom cut to create countertops. Quartz is naturally non-porous and scratch resistant. As with solid surface countertopping, the materials are prefabricated and installed by professionals. Thicknesses may be 1.2 cm (1/2 inch), 2 cm (3/4 inch), 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) or 4 cm (1 1/2 inch). Brands include Avanza, Cambria, Durezza, Hanstone
, and Caesarstone.
Engineered quartz surfacing
Engineered quartz surfacing is made from approximately 95% natural quartz and 5% polymer resins. Countertops are custom made and are more scratch resistant as well as less porous than natural quartz surfaces. Thicknesses may be 1.2 cm (1/2 inch), 2 cm (3/4 inch), 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) or 4 cm (1 1/2 inch). Brands include Avanza, Caesarstone, Hanstone
, Silestone, Technistone, and Zodiaq.
Stainless steel, stone, concrete
, terrazzo, and other materials are usually prefabricated and assembled on site as well. The difficulty of prefabrication rises with the more exotic materials. As with solid-surface plastic materials, the edge treatments can vary widely, but the material is usually thicker than with plastic so there is often no need to build up the edge with multiple layers of the material.
Many predesigned, prefabricated units (including sinks, drainboards, and other accessories) are available in stainless steel. These may be used "stand-alone" or integrated into larger custom assemblies. Some stainless steel systems stand on their own legs and do not require the support of cabinetry.
In any of these styles, "self-rimming" sinks can be used. These sit in appropriately-shaped holes cut in the countertop (or substrate material) using a jigsaw
or other cutter appropriate to the material at hand and are suspended by their rim. The rim then inherently forms a fairly close seal with the top surface of the countertop, especially when the sink is clamped into the hole from below.
The materials also allow the installation of a "bottom-mount" or "under-mount" sink. With these, the edge of the countertop material is exposed at the hole created for the sink (and so must be a carefully finished edge rather than a rough cut; this cut is generally done at the fabricator's workshop). The sink is then mounted to the bottom of the material from below. Especially for under-mount sinks, silicone-based sealants are usually used to assure a waterproof joint between the sink and the countertop material. The advantage of an "under-mount" sink is that it gives a contemporary look to the kitchen but the disadvantages are extra cost in both the sink and the counter top.
Solid-surface plastic materials allow a third option: sinks made of the same plastic material as the countertop can easily be glued to the underside of the countertop material and the joint sanded flat, creating the usual invisible joint and completely eliminating any dirt-catching seam between the sink and the countertop. The disadvantage is that the sinks do not have the same impact resistance of stainless or cast iron and may differentially expand and contract with extreme temperature change (as might be caused by a pot of hot water dumped into the sink). In a similar fashion, with stainless steel, a sink may be welded into the countertop; the joint is then ground to create a finished, concealed appearance.
Synthetic and natural materials made specifically for countertops: