Our review of Kitchen Cabinet and Counter Materials is designed to help you decide which option will make the most your kitchen remodeling project.
Whether you are opting for natural materials, hardwoods, laminates or glass, the materials that you ultimately decide on will help define the look, feel and usefulness of the busiest and most important room in you home.
Your other kitchen cabinet and counter decision is about Kitchen Colors - do you want matching tones in cupboards and surfaces or do you prefer to add more dimension with contrasts between your kitchen cabinet and counter colors or tones.
Is your kitchen cabinet and counter project to achieve a traditional country kitchen design with creams and greens - or would you opt for an ultra modern design using only white, black and perhaps grey or bright red!...
The type of kitchen you want will help you short list your options from all of the many different kitchen cabinet and counter options available.
Kitchen Cabinet Material Options
Wood is still the most popular choice of material for kitchen cabinets - and amongst the many types of lumber used to make kitchen cabinets Maple is now the most popular, followed closely by Birch.
You can also choose from cherry, hickory and what was traditionally the most popular - oak!, as well as pine. Pine is the most economical choice and has an interesting grain for a rustic finish but it is the softest of the wood kitchen cabinet options and means that after wear and tear it can more easily show bumps and marks.
Wood cabinets can be left with natural tones, color tinted so that a light grain shows through or they can be lighted so that a darker grain shows through the semi opaque paint.
You can get the look of wood on a tigher budget with wood veneer finishes, basically this is a really thin sheet of wood that is glued over plywood. They may look like wood but they don't feel like wood and they are not hardly as durable or solid.
Also the finish is not as solid as a laminate and savings can be lost in the long term because this surface is more easily damaged and instead of repair - it's really going to be a case of replace!
The material of these kitchen cabinets is produced by heat sealing layers of resin soaked paper together to create a really durable material that is flexible to use in that it can be pre-colored and given a texture.
The easiest finish to find is a white or ivory with a high gloss finish which is ideal for anyone wanting to create a modern light and bright kitchen. This is a stronger and more expensive option than melamine.
This is made from a mixture of resin, paper and pressed wood and prices and quality do differ depending on the quality of the pressed wood used in the mix.
Melamine is a versatile material for kitchen cabinets in that it is available in many different colors and hues and different surface finishes, although you'll be in trouble if the the surface is scratched - this material is not as durable as the laminate cabinets and that's why it costs less!
Melamine is made into quality kitchen cabinet and counters to suite many homes.
This smooth man-made surface makes it difficult to change in the future but there a now a number of specialist paints for melamine cabinets on the market but the quality of results do differ widely, see here for out guide to Painting Melamine Cabinets
PVC is a durable material made up of wood fibres covered with a sheet of PVC which is said to be tougher than both laminates and melamine.
Although you can't find it in as many colors and finishes, it is a man made option for kitchen cabinet and counters that is easier on the budget.
Glass has grown in popularity over the last few years because it brings illuminecence and brightness to kitchens by reflecting natural light. Glass shelving makes the room feel larger and is a very versatile material with endless applications - on the down side however...
Whether glass is used as shelving or inlaid in cabinet doors it does mean that all your kitchen goods are on show - this is unless you use colored glass or frosted or tinted glass.
Bevelled glass adds class to cabinet doors and glass inserts add a new dimension counters - this material is a new kitchen cabinet and counter contender!.
If you are going for the ultra modern or even the oriental look with your kitchen design then you might choose the smooth sheen of laquered cabinets. Normally the laquered effect is applied to normal MDF in a way that results in many color options and finishes but... anyone with experience of anything laquered, like laquered boxes, may realise that they chip quite easily and are prone to yellowing over time.
Once only consigned to restaurant kitchens, stainless steel in household kitchens is now in vogue - helped recently by the many varied designs of stainless steel kitchen island extractor hoods which combine a stainless steel chimney and body with a glass hood to great effect.
Unlike wood, stainless steel kitchen cabinet and counter products are not affected by changes in temperatures or condensation - so is an ideal material for busy kitchens. A piece of stainless steel that is being incorporated into wood and laminated kitchens alike is the stainless steel kitchen splashback.
A layer of stainless steel is usually applied over an MDF base to give the kitchen cabinet and counter more substance.
Stainless steel is a very easy kitchen cabinet and counter material to clean - which is just as well because it does show all the finger marks, but I am afraid that the scratches are more difficult to get out.
If stainless steel is too cold a look for your kitchen - but you really want to treat yourself to something special... you can go for a warmer metal look with copper. A famous chef designed his own kitchen of wooden cabinets combined with granite counters and a copper kitchen splashback and used other copper accents around the room to great effect.
Kitchen Counter Material Options
Granite is the number one material choice for kitchen home improvement and financing for both flooring and kitchen base cabinet and counter top projects.
Granite is available in color tones to match any kitchen style with earthy warm tones for country kitchens and the prefered choice of black, grey or white for the modern kitchen.
When you get up close to granite you can see the depth and color variations of the individual granite crystals, but when you look at the surface from across the kitchen you see one the solid color of a delux smooth surface. Our top tip for granite is to also use it as a splashback!.
Granite isn't effected by hot pans and an easy yearly application of a non-yellowing paste wax only once a year will help maintain the brightness and sheen of the surface. You won't have problems with scratches or staining like many other kitchen counter surfaces - so although your initial outlay is more installing a granite counter in your kitchen is a solid investment.
Each piece of marble is unique with various shades and tones of veins running through - it's more poros that granite but is certainly solid enough for both kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Marble is still attractive and expensive but is now more popular in bathrooms than in kitchens.
Concrete is being more widely used - mainly because of it's versitility - it can be molded to any shape and tinted to any color - it's durable but it's still just concrete!
Wood has been used as kitchen counters well before laminates were born, a wooden kitchen cabinet and counter is very effective - left in natural tones, tinted so that the grain of the wood shows through or even lighted with an off white semi opaque semi gloss paint for a wood grain glossy and bright finish.
Wood kitchen counters are custom made for a unique rustic look and should be properly prepared for a long lasting and durable surface - and of course special care should be taken not to dent or scratch the wood - a chopping board should always be used.
It lasts and lasts, you can find it in different colors and surface textures and - what is very important for modern living - there is very little that you have to do to look after laminate kitchen counters to keep them looking good.
From the laminate family - the use of formica was widespread when it first came out because it is easy to look after and durable. It is resistant to water and staining so maintains it's matte or polished look.
Glass is being more widely used in kitchen surfaces because it gives such an individual look - also it reflects so much light around the room, is very hygenic, non porous and easy to clean - however they are not guaranteed to withstand really hot pots placed directly on the surface - glass as a kitchen counter surface is new... no-one really knows if they will crack or not!.
You can get almost any size of a special textured glass prepared as a kitchen counter which comes in at 1.5 inches thick! - now as you can see through the thick glass - they look really great over a wood surface or a stainless steel surface.
Using stainless steel as a kitchen counter top in a modern black, white and steel kitchen design is very effective - especially if touches of red are included - for example with only one or two red laquered kitchen cupboard doors!
Kitchen Cabinet and Counter Combi Ideas
Possible kitchen counter combi's are...
New Kitchen Cabinet and Counter installations are expensive projects, it can be difficult deciding whether to start the project now using concrete or formica or wait another year for the kitchen of your dreams with granite or natural stone insets.
The main objects of a kitchen cabinet and counter renovation are that you end up with a more usable kitchen space by using materials that are durable AND attractive and that really suite the style of your home, but of course - even if you are not going to move house - you are interested in which materials will be a better investment as an increase of the value of your home.
Caution is advised as it's all too easy to overspend on this home improvement project because there are also so many wonderfully expensive options - but even if money is no object - it's worth considering from the home improvement investment aspect that the total budget for this project should not exceed 5% of the total value of your home!.
Enjoy your new Kitchen Cabinet and Counter project.
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