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Kitchen counters: appearance and functionality

When selecting counters for a new kitchen, you need to look carefully at the characteristics of all your options, including appearance and functionality. It is important to know the different types of counters and their features, sizes and the accessories associated with each one. Here's an overview to help you select the right kitchen counter for your needs.

Would you like some tools to help you plan your renovations? Take a look at our guide: Plan your dream kitchen.

Preformed and hard surfaces: 2 interesting options

There are two types of work surfaces: preformed and hard.

Pre-formed work surfaces are available in renovation centres. They can include a backsplash and are offered in different styles from a rounded to a straight, modern edge. They are easy to install for amateur DIYs and are available in 4', 6', 8', 10' and 12' lengths. Pre-formed surfaces are offered in various colours and styles, such as natural stone or wood.

Pre-formed countertops have a standard depth of 25 1/2" and are installed on 24" deep base kitchen cabinets. There is no opening for the sink and plumbing; you need to cut out the openings using the templates available.

Hard surface countertops made of materials such as granite and quartz are increasingly popular. Stone is extremely heavy and breakable, which means handling and installation should be entrusted to professionals. Measurements should also be taken by the same professionals who will be able to cut or form the material according to your specifications.

Components and features

No matter what style you've chosen for your kitchen, all counters have certain features and elements in common.

1. Work surface

Regardless of the material they are made of, work surfaces can be separated into two categories:
  • 1.A Work surface
    These are counters installed on base cabinets lining the walls, with a standard height of 36" and a depth of 24". This type of surface may or may not include a backsplash integrated to the counter. Since it is flush with the wall, only the visible contour of the countertop is finished.
  • 1.B Kitchen island
    The island is a free-standing work surface, not attached to the wall but situated in the middle of the room. It has a standard height of 36", but can also include a lunch counter, at a standard height of 42".

2. Edge profiles

There are a number of edge profiles to choose from for your countertop, provided you remain faithful to the architectural style of the kitchen. Choose the edging style at the same time as the work surface is chosen and cut to measure, since the edging is cut from the countertop material. A basic square profile suits contemporary decors, whereas edging with more detail work integrates more effectively with traditional kitchen decors.

Several options are possible for tile edging. Cap tiles or V-tiles can be used to wrap from the top edge of the counter to the front space or apron of the counter. Some prefer decorative wood or ceramic trim. Wood edges can also be used to enhance the look of concrete, wood and laminate work surfaces.

3. Backsplash

Certain preformed countertops include a backsplash which prevents water from dripping down at the back. A backsplash may be added after the countertop has been installed; it remains a functional option that also enhances the style of your kitchen. Different materials options include stainless steel, glass, ceramic tiles or "pate-de-verre".

Materials overview

Before settling on a final choice, review its durability, heat, water and stain-resistance, the maintenance it will require, and of course, its appearance. After all, your cooking experience will be the chief beneficiary. Also note that using a combination of materials can also enhance the design of the room.

Pro tip

Installing tiles to create a countertop is definitely a project most can undertake. Although some background knowledge is necessary, there's no need to call in the specialists. Cut out the openings for a drop-in sink and faucets in the support material before you install your tiles.

Enjoy the design flexibility of tiles; work with your own individuality to create a unique design. Tiles can harmonize with all decor styles.

Unusual materials

There are other, less common materials that are equally interesting. They may appeal to your environmental conscience or to your design sense.

Metal

Attractive and hygienic, metal countertops such as stainless steel, copper and zinc, harmonize well with wood and ceramics. Although they are prone to damage from scratching, these countertops age well and are easily cleaned. Highly resistant, they can handle hot pots.

Metal countertops are expensive, and you need to install a substrate first. Just as with concrete and stone, it is difficult to make on-site modifications. Installation is a professional-level job.

Glass

Glass countertops are often made from recycled products, making them an attractive choice for environmental reasons. They are available in a limitless number of colours and you may also choose to add a pattern within the material for a contemporary design touch. Non-porous, glass is easy to clean and very heat-resistant.

Paper

Made of paper pulp, these work surfaces are heat and stain-resistant, antibacterial and waterproof. And, since they are available in many colours, you can integrate them into all types of kitchen decors.

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