There is a funny myth out there that granite countertops are the crown jewel; the very best possible thing you could have in a kitchen. They are considered a sign of quality, even a major selling point for houses on the market. “New kitchen and bath, with GRANITE countertops!” boast the flyers and advertisements.
Whenever I see that – and I see it a lot – I just have to shake my head, because I know that granite countertops are really not all that great. Not only does quarrying the stone cause irreparable environmental damage, but the stone itself also isn’t all that sanitary once it is installed, due to the numerous micro-fractures across the surface; a favorite place for bacteria to build up.
Also, in order to lessen the number of micro-fractures, and prevent staining to the surface of the stone, it is recommended that granite be sealed every year or two, but honestly, who remembers to do that?
Add to all that the higher than healthful levels of radon emitted from several types of granite available in the marketplace, and you have a unique kitchen countertop material that is a lot less appealing than those realtor ads make it sound.
So, what’s a frustrated, countertop shopper to do? Why not take a look at these five great, environmentally-sound better than granite Kitchen Countertops alternatives.
5 Best Granite Countertop Alternatives That Are Better Than Granite
Here are the best granite countertop alternatives that are better than granite, recommended by healthy home experts:
- Recycled Glass
If you love the look of granite but want to avoid the pitfalls I mentioned above, quartz countertops are the way to go. As Quartz Kitchen countertops that look like granite are made from abundant quartz aggregate – along with binders and pigments. Quartz countertops can mimic the beautiful look of stone, but with a virtually impermeable surface that requires no sealing. Even the lightest of colors won’t show stains under normal use. Manufacturers to check out include Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and Okite. Quartz Kitchen countertops are better than granite countertops.
Once the standard for countertops in kitchens around the world, wood countertops is experiencing a comeback thanks to its aesthetic appeal and renewable nature. Wood countertops are also more economical than most other alternative countertops. Although wood mars more easily than most other surfaces, many people enjoy the look wood countertops acquire over years of use, and maintenance is as easy as a light oiling (with food-grade oil), and the occasional sanding out of stains. Inexpensive versions made of beech can be purchased from Ikea, or, for a bit higher-end look, Proteak’s FSC certified teak countertops are hard to beat. Wood Kitchen countertops are better than granite countertops.
For sparkle and shine, it would be hard to beat recycled glass. Most glass countertops on the market are a form of terrazzo. Terrazo is an age-old method of creating hard surfaces by combining aggregate, such as marble chips, with concrete. The resulting material is poured into place and smoothed out using grinders and polishers. Companies such as Vetrazzo, Eco by Cosentino, and Icestone have taken this method and replaced the stone aggregate with recycled glass chips, creating lovely, eye-catching surfaces. This makes recycled glass Kitchen countertops better than granite countertops.
When it comes to durability, ease of cleaning, and sleek styling, steel countertops are tops. Evocative of the professional chef’s kitchen, steel gives a crisp, modern look to a kitchen. Although durable enough to last for hundreds, if not thousands of years, your cabinets (and you!) aren’t likely to be around nearly as long, so the fact that stainless steel is also recyclable is an added bonus. Therefore Steel Kitchen countertops are often a better option than granite countertops.
Whether poured in place or slab, lightweight concrete makes a lovely, versatile countertop surface. With the addition of pigment, surface detailing, and various types of aggregate, this material can be endlessly customized. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is the ability to create integral sinks, which provide a seamless surface transition. There are many artisans who specialize in creating and installing concrete countertops, as well as some larger companies such as Sonoma Stone.
Have you used one of these granite alternative kitchen countertops in your home? What has your experience been? Let us know in the comments section below.
Photo Credits: Quartz (Cambria countertop), Recycled glass (Vetrazzo), Steel (Boston Design & Manufacturing), Wood (Proteak), Concrete (Sonoma Stone)
What about soapstone?
Rachel Hulan says
Hi Joyce. Soapstone has pluses and minuses, so it really depends on what you are looking for in a countertop. On the plus side, soapstone is almost completely non-porous, which means it resists stains well. It is also less brittle than granite or marble, so chipping isn’t as big an issue.
On the minus side, it is still a stone that requires quarrying, which means there is environmental damage done when it is extracted. Because it contains talc (which gives it that soapy feel to the touch), it is softer than granite and can develop scratches and dents over time. It also needs regular oiling to keep the surface from getting a blotchy appearance.
I hope that answers your question!
Granite countertops birmingham al says
Excellent article and I do agree with every single piece of information here.
Rachel’s answer is perfect!
Great job Rachel.
Have you ever tried to keep stainless steel countertops clean? Impossible. Plus they scratch easily. I have them in my laundry room. Scratches, fingerprints, rust spots. I also have a moveable kitchen island with a stainless top. It’s not exactly stainless. In about a month it looked like I picked it up off the side of the road so I got rid of it. I’m all for things having that well-worn look, but stainless is just not functional.
Ron & Lisa Beres says
Interesting Jen! Thanks for sharing. We don’t personally have stainless steel countertops, but do have ss appliances which are great and finger- and smudge-proof (ish). Sometimes the point between what is practical and what is environmentally friendly isn’t always so cut and dry. One has to weigh the pro’s and con’s and find the best solution for them. In this case, the sanitary, durability and heat-resistant are qualities that would have to supersede the fingerprint issue.
Be very careful of the quartz. We got the white quartz and now it is cream coloured. The company told us there’s nothing they can do due to our unique environmental condition, who knows what that means? We have now been told there’s a limited guarantee, which was a surprise as it was sold to us with a lifetime guarantee.
Leigh Terry says
I agree. Granite countertops may look attrative and durable but there are other types that are equally as tough and adorable. I, however, like the one that can last for a long time and needs little maintenance. Perhaps steel is perfect for my needs.
I wish laminate never fell out of favor. People pretend they care about durability, but in reality, in 10 or so years they grow tired of their kitchen and want something more current. At least with laminate countertops, you don’t have to feel half as bad about ruining the planet every time you feel like updating your living space.
We have quartz- we already have radon issues living on a shale acre (circa 1872 house) so no granite for us. Plus, granite is not sustainable. I cringe at all the home shows with young kids demanding granite. We put quartz on our island and loved it so much that we used the same product thru out kitchen and baths- I have smacked glass, stainless, etc while loading the dishwasher and cooking and no chipping or cracking. I have spilled natural food colorings all over it by mistake and no staining. We are going on year 3 and I love it!
Ron & Lisa Beres says
Thanks for dropping by and sharing your feedback on quartz! We, in fact, were just as you described when we purchased our first home and chose granite. But, when you know better – you do better! I love hearing such practical feedback about quartz b/c it is also so aesthetically beautiful.
I manage a unit with concrete counter tops, and the are horrible. Not good for any rental. Seal does not last long, any citrus cuts through the stain that was used on the counter tops leaving a horrible mess. Last thing I’d ever have in my home or rental would be concrete counter tops.
The radiation that comes from granite is so low, it isn’t something anyone should worry about. The radiation coming from smoke detectors is a higher concern than granite, although neither are really worth losing sleep over.
Also, quartz is a natural stone that is quarried but it is considered manufactured because it is broken down and combined with a resin and pigments. This effectively makes the porosity level excellent for defending against stains.
I can tell you that my quartz in the bathroom stained red when a little paint got on it without my noticing. And quartz is crushed granite with resins so I fail to see the postive environmental impact. And I do seal my granite – and nothing else is more durable.
Paul Gallagher says
I have to disagree with this article entirely.
Granite does have to be sealed once a year.. big deal… and the radon exposure has been disproved over an over again to be any factor of concern.
QUARTZ is a bunch of stones adhered together with plastic. this plastic can be discolored by chemicals and UV rays, it can scratch and chip just like any natural stone. Its made to look like granite countertops but its a manufactured material and will never have that one of a kind mystic about it. stainless will scratch an look like an industrial kitchen in no time.
WOOD???? you want to talk about bacteria issues as well as not being able to handle day to day use… Recylcled GLASS.. this is put together with plastic.. glass also scratches.. go with quartz over glass if you want plastic countertops. I had “Rock Maple wood countertops” on my island.. lasted 6 months before I had to replace the entire island because of dents and scratches… with something that could support a larger granite countertop.. which i should have dome in the first place.
CONCRETE.. this is not a very durable surface and will not handle scratches and etching from some chemicals. All of the products have come a long ways and all have certain looks that can look great but the question is for how long and with how much care and maintenance?
Granite is by far the most durable surface that comes in 1000’s of colors and styles to suit your needs. This is why granite remains at the top of the food chain.
Actually there have been many studies about the bacteriocidal properties of wood. Bacteria require a moist environment to proliferate. Wood dries out quickly, removing the moisture kills the bacteria. Your old maple cutting board is far superior to granite, corion, and other pourous materials. Google it
paul Gallagher says
This article is about countertops which when used get wet..
bacteria growth on wood vs rock.. your joking right. prime example might be to have a walk in the woods. Much of the soil that you see comes from the bacteria and its break down of trees and tree parts over time. Not from rock. The rock has been their a lot longer and in much the same state during that time.
Cindy Anderson says
I think you missed the “sustainability” point. This article was looking at counters from that angle. Granite, not so sustainable considering the mining processes, and energy used in transporting it from overseas, where most of it comes from. If you can somehow salvage counters that have been thrown out, then it becomes more sustainable. Concrete counters also not so sustainable. My research indicates a lot of folks are reusing wood. The other writer mentioned the antibacterial properties of wood, especially maple, which is something I had read several years ago as plastic and wood cutting boards were compared—wood won out.
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Alison McKellar says
Love the ideas but unfortunately concrete has a very heavy carbon footprint and I’ve heard that this outweighs any environmental benefit of using recycled materials.
Amy Winters says
Thanks for pointing out that quartz countertops can mimic the look of stone but have an impermeable surface and don’t require sealing. My husband and I are currently planning a remodel of our kitchen, and we’ve been trying to decide on a material for the countertops. I really love the look of stone, and it sounds like quartz will achieve the beauty I’m looking for in addition to benefits in cleanliness and convenience.
Ron & Lisa Beres says
For sure – quartz is certainly becoming the new granite! It’s very popular now and aesthetically beautiful while still being practical.
Millie Hue says
It got me when you talked about the quartz material. As you mentioned, it will not stain no matter how strong the source is. This is perfect for those with kids like us since they spill everything. Like before, the accidentally hit the milk bottle on the table which caused the floor to be filled with it.
Ron & Lisa Beres says
Yes, it’s not only practical, but quartz is a gorgeous choice and becoming so popular today!
Colleen Borgesano says
Sintered stone countertops I believe solve most of the issues with the rest of the options
Granite Countertops says
Great post!! Thanks for sharing this informative post with us!! I think Quartz is the best option among all described here. These countertops are really strong and stain free. Looking for others to share their opinion. Thanks!!
Zar zar says
I love all your comments, as i am remodelling my Kitchen and i am looking for a sustainable counter top. I think I will go with the quartz.
Carol J says
I’m not really sure about recycled glass and wood as they can harbor bacteria (wood) and can chip easily (recycled glass). But I’m really sure about quartz. We got our Caesarstone countertops about 5 years ago and it’s the best countertop we’ve ever had. It still looks brand new even if the kitchen is used almost every moment of every day. It’s also easy to clean and it doesn’t need resealing. I’m really happy we got it.
How do Formica and laminate countertops affect the environment? Having had both granite and Formica countertops, one thing I dislike about granite is when you drop a glass object of any kind on the countertop it explodes like a bomb into tiny splinters everywhere. You don’t even have to drop the glass, actually just knocking it over will cause it to break. I don’t experience this with laminate countertops. Laminate is a softer surface and creates a quieter environment. The newer laminates are beautiful and are getting better at mimicking the granite appearance. Also, per previous comment, folks get tired of their kitchens in10-15 years and want to update, therefore, lasting forever is not a huge benefit. From a practical perspective I think laminate is better. However, always good to have options. So, again, what is impact of Formica and laminate counters on environment?
Ron & Lisa Beres says
Laminate countertops are not sustainable or renewable. This issue isn’t that they don’t look nice as we’d agree that the patterns and textures have improved drastically over the years and laminate countertops are a cost-effective option. However, the top layer of melamine adheres to a substrate underneath which is typically MDF (medium-density fiberboard or plywood) that contains formaldehyde resins to bond the wood pieces together. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen that can off-gas as VOCs into the air you breathe; it’s linked to respiratory issues, allergies, asthma, and even certain cancers.