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Take Your Pick The types of kitchen countertops available for any renovation project

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February 2015 Job of the Month:

In a historic district, you might expect the interiors of the houses to match the exteriors. If you do, you probably wouldn't guess what would happen to this particular house. The house had been built in the 1920s or 30s, and restrictions prevented the homeowners from making some renovations to the exterior. The interior, meanwhile, was fair game.

The homeowners wanted to modernize their kitchen, but first, they had to choose a material among the various types of kitchen countertops. The material can affect the atmosphere and color scheme of a room. Each material can withstand different types of damage. Some materials can be molded to fit a room, while others cannot. Some materials are available in a wide range of colors, while others are not.

Bamboo, with its rich nuances in color and grain, can be a beautiful addition to any room. Bamboo is inexpensive and a good option for do-it-yourself projects. It's durable and long-lasting with or without a finish. It can resist damage from scratches or it can be re-sanded easily.

However, bamboo is not the most ideal cutting surfaces, since its toughness can dull knives. Bamboo is a good choice for drop-in sinks but not for other types of sinks. It's also available in a limited number of sizes and styles.

If bamboo isn't to your taste, there are other types of kitchen countertops. Stainless steel can resist stain and heat damage. Pots and other heated items can even be placed directly on the surface. Stainless steel is non-porous, so nothing can penetrate it and cause damage underneath. It's a flexible material, so it can be tailored to fit anywhere. Sinks can be included or drop-in sinks can be added.

On the other hand, stainless steel is available in only one color, neutral gray. Stains, fingerprints and crumbs are highly visible. It's easy to scratch or dent, although dents can be reduced by laying the stainless steel on top of wood. Patina marks are not necessarily bad, but don't expect the smooth, unblemished surface of a new stainless steel surface to last for long. Another option is granite, which can offer protection from mold, mildew, heat, and blemishes. Granite is available in various colors and can include specks, veins, and other variegations, which can create beautiful, unique surfaces.

A sealer is required to protect a granite surface, and it must be reapplied, sometimes annually. Granite can be easily installed, but it is heavy, so additional supports may be needed. Color changes at a later date are impossible, and it is not the easiest material to remove if glued to surfaces. Wood, meanwhile, can create a warm atmosphere. A wide range of wood types are available, and it can be an environmentally friendly alternative to other types of kitchen countertops, since many wood countertops use reclaimed wood. However, it's not scratch-resistant. Wood is softer than many other materials, so it's easy to damage and may need to be refinished at a later date.

Concrete can be cast-in-place or built off-site, while other types of kitchen countertops must be built off-site. Cast-in-place countertops can be molded to the exact dimensions of a space. A wider range of colors are available with concrete than with other materials. Uniform colors, textures, and variegated effects are all possible. Concrete can be warm, neutral or cold; it can fit within a wide range of environments. Color changes at a later date may be possible. A wider variety of custom-molded edges, lips and backsplashes are possible with concrete than with many other types of kitchen countertops. Like stainless steel, sinks can be built into concrete or added later. Wooden and stone bases can support concrete, so additional supports are not needed. However, concrete must be sealed to protect it from blemishes, and the sealer must be reapplied periodically. Concrete is also more expensive than some other types of kitchen countertops. Countertops built off-site and then installed will be in pieces, since they will be too heavy to transport in one piece. Cracks are also possible.

The homeowners at this historic home wanted a warm material with a natural, smooth gray look that complemented the paint and the rest of the kitchen. They felt that concrete could achieve these effects. The sink also needed a two-inch edge, which is difficult to achieve with other materials. We created a cast-in-place countertop that molded to fit the space exactly.

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