Well, it’s not new, but additional Dead Sea scrolls have been located in a previously unexplored cave. Archaeologists have discovered (even before recorded history) when people lived in caves, that they had an area in their dwelling dedicated to food preparation. Traditionally known as “The Kitchen,” the name stuck, and over the millennium this specialized subdivision of the home has developed from a simple stone work surface to today’s exciting kitchens. And, one of the most exciting new parts of this room is the countertop.

The countertop and its vertical counterpart, the backsplash, can add distinctive style to your kitchen, but choosing a surface material isn’t as easy as it was a thousand years ago. There are so many types of countertops available today that it can be very confusing when you decide to buy a new one.

While it’s certainly a factor, your kitchen worktop shouldn’t be chosen solely for its aesthetic value. When you’re ready for a new countertop, look for a contractor who will take the time to review your specific needs. What kind of food do you prepare? How much do you cook? Have children? The answers to these questions will help determine the appropriate counterpart material for you.

Referred to by many as “Formica,” laminate countertops are the most economical of all the options and, with proper care, can last a long time. Easy to clean with good stain resistance, it has limitations: it scratches easily, cannot be cut, and will burn if you put something hot on the surface. Once damaged, it is difficult or impossible to repair.

The most popular countertops today are stone, which, by the way, is just what archaeologists found in the kitchens of yesteryear. The most popular stone materials are granite, marble and the new crushed quartz countertops. Granite, the traditional resource, is considered by many to be the most beautiful surface available because it shows movement. Movement is the suggestion of movement in the elements that make up the finished surface. The swirls and patterns created by nature cannot be completely duplicated in a stone that is manufactured. Both granite and marble are porous and should be sealed when installed, and at least once a year afterward, to prevent staining. If you’re a little careful with these stones, you can have a work surface that will last until some archaeologist digs up your house.

Quartz (marketed under trade names Cambria, Viatera, Caesarstone, Silestone, etc.) is the second most abundant mineral on earth and is a basic component of granite. In a typical quartz countertop, raw quartz is crushed and combined with pigments to give it color and resins (sticky material) to hold it together. The resulting process creates one of the most durable counter surfaces on the market today. It is harder than granite, more resistant to scratches and stains, and non-porous. For geologists who follow K&B Insider, quartz ranks number 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Only diamonds, sapphires and topazes are harder.

The newest countertop offerings are eco-friendly, which is great for the environment; however, as with most “green” products, they tend to be more expensive than their traditional counterparts.

As with all home improvement decisions, don’t rush into choosing your countertop. Investigate all the possibilities with your consultant and select a surface that is not only easy on the eyes, but also suits your needs. And maybe it will last until your place is unearthed in a thousand years!

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