Butcher Block Made of hardwood, usually maple, butcher block is very warm and attractive. Pros: Butcher block is easy to install, and if it gets badly nicked or scratched, it can be repaired easily by sanding and resealing. Cons: Butcher block burns, scratches, and dents easily. It needs to be treated regularly with mineral oil or wax, or to be sealed with a polyurethane sealer. The joint between countertop and backsplash must be caulked to prevent seepage. Butcher block is moderately expensive.
Ceramic Tile A designer’s delight, ceramic tiles come in every color and many designs. Pros: Glazed tiles will not stain or scratch, nor will grout that is sealed with an acrylic sealer. Easy to install, even for a do-it-yourselfer. Repairs are easy and inexpensive. Cons: Ceramic breaks easily if something heavy is dropped on it, and grout provides gutters for dirt. Grout will stain if not sealed and maintained. Ceramic tile ranges from inexpensive to moderately expensive, depending on the price of the tiles.
Granite This is the most popular natural stone used for kitchen and bathroom counters. Pros: It is very strong and durable, resisting scratches and nicks. Granite that has been sealed resists stains and cleans easily. Cons: Granite is heavy and requires a strong base. It must be custom installed, and a protective, penetrating sealer must be applied periodically for stain protection. Granite is expensive.
Laminate Known by trade names such as Formica and Wilsonart, it comes in dozens of colors and patterns. Pros: The least expensive of all countertop materials, it can be installed by an experienced do-it-yourselfer. Cons: Nicks and scratches are readily apparent. Will burn and scorch. Has visible seams, which can allow water and grime to get under the surface. Caustic cleaners or drain openers can discolor the surface.
Solid Surface Sold under brand names such as Dupont Corian and Wilsonart Gibraltar, it comes in dozens of colors and patterns. It is made of polyester or acrylic resins combined with mineral fillers. Pros: Scratches and nicks can be easily buffed out with an abrasive pad. It can be installed without seams and can include sinks and backsplash for a continuous expanse. Cons: Solid surface is easily scratched, can be discolored by heat, and requires a trained installer. Solid surface is moderately expensive.