The saying goes: if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. While this is more a metaphor than a literal directive, you could say that this applies to materials for kitchen countertops. Kitchens are a constant source of heat, from ambient temperatures from appliances and cook tops to actual hot pans and pots. You want to make sure the material you choose can literally stand up to the heat in the kitchen.
Below is a heat resistance guide to popular materials for countertops. This can help you choose the right one for your needs.
The 1990s saw the explosion of laminate materials for the kitchens, from countertops to flooring. Laminates are materials with a paper core sandwiched between layers of plastic film.
The most popular laminate in those days for kitchen countertops was Formica, and some older kitchens still have them. Manufacturers attempted to simulate the look of natural materials such as granite, marble, and wood, but they are not very convincing.
In terms of heat resistance, laminate countertops have close to none. Because of its plastic component, it will sustain permanent damage with exposure to temperatures as low as 66 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This is approximately the heat generated by a cup of coffee.
Solid surface countertops
Corian was the first brand of solid surface material to come out in the market for kitchen countertops. Since then, more brands have come out. Generally, solid surface slabs are made of various natural and manmade materials, typically 33% polymer resins.
In appearance, solid surface countertops look like stone. It is more resistant to heat than laminates. However, the presence in such large amounts of polymer resins or plastic, means melting is a real issue.
Generally, solid surface countertops will sustain some damage with exposure to a heat source in excess of 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit). This might seem like a vast improvement to laminates, but most hot pans and pots will exceed these temperatures. Using trivets and heat pads can minimize this, but it only takes one moment of forgetfulness and permanent heat damage can occur.
Additionally, solid surface materials are also vulnerable to cracking with exposure to low temperatures, particularly when immediately following exposure to high temperatures.
Quartz countertops are another manmade product, but it is distinct from solid surface slabs. For one thing, it uses the patented Bretonstone process. This involves vacuuming out all the air from the compound, and using vibration and compression to make it a solid slab.
For another thing, its main component is natural quartz in the form of pebbles, small stones, and dust. It also has polymer resins in the mix, but less than 10%. As such, it is much more resistant to heat than solid surface, able to withstand up to 360 degrees Celsius (680 degrees Fahrenheit) without sustaining damage.
That said, the pigments in quartz countertops do tend to change color with exposure to high heat, and even direct sunlight. For best results, protect them from the sun and use trivets and heat pads to protect them from hot pans and pots.
Granite countertops have slipped to second place among the top choices for kitchen countertops, yielding the top spot to quartz. However, granite continues to be popular among heavy kitchen users because it is extremely heat resistant. It formed under extreme pressure and heat over millennia, so any heat a typical can generate is not going to be high enough to damage granite permanently. Some experiments show that granite countertops can handle up to 600 degrees Celsius (1112 degrees Fahrenheit).
A valid concern for some homeowners is that regular exposure to high heat might result in cracks. This can happen because of thermal shock, which is a rapid change of temperature. For example, if you heat up granite to a high temperature and then dip it in ice water, the stone might crack. However, this is unlikely to happen in the general run of things, so no worries.
A very hot pan might leave a mark on the countertops, which might signal burning off part of the seal. However, this will fade after the surface cools off. To be on the safe side (and to keep the seal intact), use a trivet or heat pad to keep it from directly touching the granite countertops.
Marble has a delicate look, but is actually quite tough, as most natural stones tend to be. It is also quite heat resistant, which is why many fireplaces have marble surrounds. It may not be as heat resistant as granite, but it does stand up well to the heat in the kitchen.
The main problem of marble countertops is not its heat resistance, but its relative porosity and softness. It stains, scratches and etches much more easily than granite, which is why most people use marble countertops for bathrooms rather than kitchens.
Concrete countertops are currently trending in the home improvement market as the next best thing in kitchen remodeling. It has a very high resistance to heat, able to handle temperatures up to 570 degrees Celsius (about 1060 degree Fahrenheit) before the sand (silicate) in the mix starts to expand.
However, you don’t have to apply heat to concrete countertops to do physical damage to it. They tend to develop hairline cracks as it settles over time. They are also one of the more expensive materials for kitchen countertops, which would explain why interest in them are waning.
You definitely have to look at heat resistance when choosing materials for your kitchen countertops as kitchens are a constant source of heat. This heat resistance guide to popular materials for countertops should help you choose the right one for your need. It would also help to confer with a countertop specialist in your area.
KNC Granite is your best resource in Washington DC, many areas in Maryland (Baltimore, Annapolis, Bethesda, Rockville) and Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington). We employ experts at fabricating and installing kitchen counters or bathroom vanities. Also we specialize in kitchen remodeling and bathroom upgrade projects, delivering on time and on budget.
We have a large array of granite and marble slabs from which to choose. You can check actual slabs at our showroom in Lanham, Maryland. We will walk you through how we can meet your budget and still give you quality countertops for your home.
We do not only supply top-quality natural stones, however. Also we carry some of the top brands of engineered stone, including Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI, all of which come with manufacturer warranties.
Give us a call or email us for your free in-home consultation and quote!