If you are lucky enough to be remodeling your kitchen or at least thinking about it, you may be wondering what type of countertops would work best for you. There are so many styles, materials and colors to choose from, the whole process can become overwhelming. I just went through this not too long ago and I saved my research. The type of countertop you choose will depend on your budget, the amount of use your countertops get and the look you prefer. Countertops are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Stay away from trendy colors or patterns if your budget won't allow you to replace your countertops in a year or two. Some trends and fads don't even last that long! You don't want to give you kitchen a "dated" look.

The Choices:

PLASTIC LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS which are sold under brand names such as Formica. These countertops are the most reasonably priced. They are available in a large variety of colors, patterns and finishes. Plastic laminate countertops have color throughout which will help to make scratches, chips and nicks less noticeable. Plastic laminate countertops are easily cleaned with a mild detergent and water. They do have some drawbacks though. Plastic laminate countertops do not withstand heat well, they stain and they do scratch fairly easily with no real repair alternatives. Kits can be purchased in hardware stores and home improvement stores, but the repairs are usually noticeable. Wet spills left on the countertop can cause the countertop to lift and bubble. They are also not the most appealing choice because seams show and tend to darken with age which makes them more apparent.

WOODEN COUNTERTOPS OR BUTCHER BLOCK STYLE These countertops are made from hardwood and come in a limited variety of natural hardwood colors. Cleaning consists of wiping with a mild detergent and water. To disinfect use a bleach and water mixture. To remove stains use lemon and salt or baking soda and white vinegar. Butcher block style countertops need to be finished with a food grade mineral oil fairly often depending on use. These countertops can range from reasonably priced to expensive depending on the choice of wood and thickness. Scratches and nicks can be sanded out with a fine grade sandpaper. Deeper scratches can also be sanded smooth, but the entire countertop would have to be sanded down to maintain an even surface. The drawbacks for wooden countertops are they stain easily, they can crack if you do not oil them and they are easily damaged and warped by water.

GRANITE COUNTERTOPS These countertops are available in many natural toned colors and are expensive. Granite countertops should be cleaned with a soapstone on a regular basis. Soap stone is available at hardware stores and home improvement stores. Granite should be sealed to prevent staining, although sealing will not completely prevent stains, it will give you more time to clean up spills before they become stains. You cannot use any acid based cleaners on granite because it will etch the surface. Stains can be removed by using poultices available at stores that sell stone countertops. They are very heat resistant. Granite countertops need quite a bit of maintenance and have to be used with some care. Scratches can be sanded and refinished, but that job is usually best left to a professional. Granite countertops can crack.

SLATE COUNTERTOPS Slate countertops have basically the same maintenance and care guidelines as granite countertops. They are expensive, chip crack and scratch easily. They are available in many natural colors such as shades of blue, gray, green brown or purple. Slate does not stain as quickly or easily as granite, but still is prone to staining.

MARBLE COUNTERTOPS Marble countertops are a beautiful addition to a kitchen. They come in a limited variety of colors. Marble countertops are very prone to stains, they are easily scratched, nicked and chipped. They are also very expensive. Marble countertops cannot be cleaned with any acid based products and acid based spills will result in etching on your countertop. Clean with a soap stone or just a damp rag. Marble countertops are very heat resistant. Damage such as etching, scratches or nicks can be sanded and refinished by a professional.

SOAPSTONE COUNTERTOPS Soapstone countertops are only available in a light gray color because soapstone is a natural stone. Soapstone countertops are very resistant to damage from heat, they do not stain easily and are not damaged by cleaning products. Soapstone does need to be treated with a food grade mineral oil often and every time the mineral oil is applied, the soapstone will darken. The countertop will eventually be a dark gray color. For regular cleaning soapstone should be wiped down with a mild detergent and a rag. Soapstone does scratch fairly easily, but these scratches can be sanded out with a fine grade sandpaper. Soapstone countertops are very expensive. If your countertop cracks, it cannot be repaired, it will need to be replaced.

CONCRETE COUNTERTOPS These countertops can be made into any color. Concrete countertops are custom made for your home. The concrete is specifically molded for your kitchen which makes them very expensive. These countertops have the same staining and scratching issues as stone countertops. They are also very heavy. Concrete countertops do need to be sealed. They stand up very well to heat.

CERAMIC TILE COUNTERTOPS Ceramic tile countertops range from moderately priced to very expensive depending on the ceramic tile you choose. They are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. The grout in between the tiles needs to be sealed to prevent staining and the growth of bacteria and mold. They are heat resistant. Ceramic tiles are prone to scratches and chips. Chipped or badly scratches tiles can be singly replaced so be sure you buy extra, just in case. Ceramic tile is cleaned with a mild detergent and water. Stains can be cleaned with baking soda and vinegar. The biggest drawback is the surface is not level and even, which makes working on it difficult.

ENGINEERED STONE COUNTERTOPS These countertops are sold under brand names such as Silestone. Engineered stone countertops are available in many colors. Regular cleaning with a mild detergent and rag. Do not use bleach or bleach based cleaning products because you can ruin the finish. The color is through the whole countertop so scratches will not be very noticeable. Engineered stone is expensive, but it is easy to maintain. It is very resistant to heat and stains. It does have a "fake" stone look.

SOLID SURFACE COUNTERTOPS Solid surface countertops are sold under a brand name such as Corian. These countertops are available in many colors and patterns. They are fairly easy to maintain. Scratches can be removed by a professional. Cleaning consists of using a mild detergent and a damp rag. Solid surface countertops are resistant to heat. Be sure your countertop is not wet when putting a hot pot on it because this can cause marring to the surface. They are very expensive but, very easy to maintain, They do have a "fake" stone look.

STAINLESS STEEL AND ZINC COUNTERTOPS Stainless steel countertops are very easy to maintain. Stainless steel countertops can dent, but the dents may be able to be fixed by a professional. They do not rust, corrode or stain, but they will show fingerprints and water stains. Stainless steel and Zinc countertops are cleaned with a mild detergent and a damp rag. Scratches can be removed with a mild abrasive cleanser. Deep scratches have to be professionally repaired. Stainless steel and Zinc countertops are expensive.