How to Choose Kitchen Surfaces Article -
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How to Choose Kitchen Surfaces

If your kitchen is the hub of your home life, you're going to want some serious surfaces that can stand up to all the action.

From countertops to cabinets to floors, you need practicality without sacrificing style. Here's our quick run-down of some of your options to help you plan.


  • Laminate is made of plastic resins pressed into 1/16-inch sheets. This is the most popular choice, and it comes in a variety of colors and textures. Durable and attractive, laminate is also the most affordable option. Matte finish is best--gloss looks great, but scratches easily.
  • Ceramic tile is durable, available in many styles, and allows you to be creative. You can mix colors, design decorative borders, or even install a few hand-painted or embossed tiles to create a beautiful overall look. If you choose ceramic for your countertops, go with glazed: unglazed tiles can stain, especially around sinks. Note that the grout in between tiles can be hard to clean. Tile is not recommended if you use your counters for rolling and kneading doughs.
  • Wood is stylish and works well for island countertops where you prepare food. However, wood is porous and can stain so should not be installed near a sink. To protect the surface, continue to use cutting boards for chopping.
  • Granite and marble are durable, beautiful and expensive. If granite and marble are too costly, consider installing a stone countertop in one area of the kitchen for preparing dough. Go for softened, rounded edges, as stone edges can be sharp.
  • Whatever surface you choose, be sure to specify that you want a recessed or undermount sink. This ensures that food can't collect around the rim of the sink when you're cleaning up.


  • Choose finishes that are made to withstand everyday use and frequent washing. An undercoat of paint, stain or glaze should be covered by layers of clear, protective topcoat.
  • Pre-assembled stock cabinets are readily available at home improvement centers, and free advice from a designer is often included.
  • Semi-custom cabinets are factory made to your specifications. You choose the finish, hardware, door style and cabinet configurations from the manufacturer's pre-determined selections.
  • Custom cabinets are designed for your specific needs. Custom cabinets are the most expensive, and require the most lead time when ordering.
  • Cabinets with elaborate detailing tend to catch dust and kitchen grime. For easiest cleanup, go with simple fronts and let your cabinet hardware make a design statement if you wish.


  • Vinyl comes in sheets and tiles, and is the most popular material for flooring. It is the least expensive and requires little maintenance. Available in many colors and styles, vinyl is also the easiest to install.
  • Hardwood flooring is a good choice for kitchens because oil-based finishes make it nearly impervious to moisture. If you tend to make a big splash during cleanup, consider using a small, washable rug to catch spills in front of the sink. Natural, beautiful and warm, wood flooring comes in strips, parquet tiles or wide planks.
  • Ceramic and stone tile flooring is practical as well as dramatic, but it can be chilly on bare feet and unforgiving on dropped objects. Ceramic tile comes in a wide variety of patterns, shapes and textures. Be sure to have a professional calculate whether your floor joists are strong enough to support the added weight of the tiles.

The surfaces you choose for your kitchen remodel should be both long-lasting and attractive. And, because your choice of materials will greatly affect your budget, it's worth the time to research the possibilities and make informed decisions.

Dec. 1, 2009 10:42 pm
How about Quartz counters and cork floors. Both recommended by Mike Holmes.
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