There are more materials, colors, and patterns available in kitchen counter tops than ever before—and since many are close in price, the decision may be even harder.  And since it is a big investment and a real statement, you really want to get the decision right!

The product testers at Consumer Reports scratched, stained and scorched seven of the leading contenders. What they found may help you as a potential remodeler narrow your choice of materials:

Butcher block. Handy for a lot of chopping and dicing, these mostly maple counter tops are lovely.  The downside is that they will sustain damage from heat, cuts, scrapes and impact. They should also be varnished and treated regularly with mineral oil or beeswax. Estimated cost: $35 – $200 per square foot.

Ceramic tile. Tile comes in a wide selection of colors and patterns, mixes nicely with other materials and works well on a back splash or island top. Not only is it inexpensive, but it also offers excellent heat resistance. The downside is that the grout is likely to stain even when it’s sealed, so you might want to choose a darker grout.  In addition, edges and corners can chip, so buying a few extra tiles will allow you to repair localized damage easily. Estimated cost: $20 – $75 per square foot.

Concrete: Generally custom-formed, concrete can be tinted and textured.  The downside is that it chips and scratches easily, and it can also develop hairline cracks. Topical sealers can protect against stains but not heat; penetrating sealers can handle heat, but not stains. Estimated cost: $70 – $140 per square foot.  For more information about concrete counters, please continue reading here.

Granite: No two slabs of granite are alike, but they all survive abuse with ease and maintain beauty and luster. The downside is that edges and corners can chip, and counters will need periodic sealing. Estimated cost: $100 – $200 per square foot.

Marble: Beautiful and classic, marble takes on a patina over the years that some may see as marred. The downside is that it chips and scratches relatively easily, but small nicks and scratches can be polished out. Estimated cost: $125 – $250 per square foot.

Quartz: Also known as engineered stone, quartz is a blend of stone chips, resins, and pigments, which can take plenty of use and abuse, although edges and corners can chip. While quartz comes in an array of vibrant colors and styles, they can appear unnaturally uniform, although manufacturers are trying for a more random look. Estimated cost: $100 – $185 per square foot.

Stainless steel. Very resistant to heat and stains, this material gives kitchens a sleek, commercial look. The downside is that stainless steel show dents and scratches (think of your refrigerator door) but the material can be welded, ground or buffed. Estimated cost: $75 – $140 per square foot.

If you would like more information about the best counter top for your home, feel free to contact me directly at 240-401-5577.  If you would like to see pictures of the various types of countertops available to choose from, just visit my Pinterest Board, Counterintelligence!