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Community and Q&A

Favorite countertop material

JoeNorm | Posted in General Questions on

Question is in the title.

What are favored countertop choices among green builders.

On my last project I made my own out of wood, they’re great but stain pretty easy.

Looking for something semi modern, DIY option is a plus.



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  1. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #1

    Hey Brett,

    As you know, concrete has a lot of embodied energy, but concrete counters sound just right for you. They can be very modern in style, and are a great DIY project, in which case they are super affordable compared to others.

    Laminate and tile are good DIY options too, though maybe not the most durable.

    A not-so-DIY-friendly option are the new stone composites. I've seen a bunch over the years that look really great and homeowners seem to report that they hold up nicely.

    I'm not sure about this, but if you want to go the greenest route, I would think you'd need to do wood again. And probably a species that you can find locally. They do stain, but you can call it a patina when showing them off to friends.

    Let us know what you decide to go with.

  2. Expert Member
    AKOS TOTH | | #2

    I've seen couple of concrete counter tops at friends houses and they look and work great. It takes a lot of care and detail to get it right, it would be a good idea to do a smaller piece first to work out the details.

    I'm mixed on quartz countertops. They are good for most use, but you have to take some care with them as the epoxy used can be stained or damaged from high heat. Stay away from solid light colors, even the smallest discoloration shows.

    A good way to get a budget quartz counter top is to go with 10mm thick (typically sold for bathroom walls) over 3/4" plywood with the edges built up. This gives you the look of quartz on the cheap with a bit of DIY.

    At home I have a granite with a butcher block side counter. The granite has held up great, I regularly put hot pots and pans even from the oven on it without issues. The wood is like all wood. Easily stained but easy to fix.

  3. josh_in_mn | | #3

    Also there's materials like RichLite, PaperStone, and the like, which are phenolic composite construction. They're easily workable with woodworking tools, and look great. Stain resistance is somewhere in between wood and stone. They do require periodic re-finishing with a wax/oil based finish.

  4. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #4

    I made a cherry countertop about 15 years ago with edge grain pieces glued together, that held up well, but we were careful with it and it wasn't used a lot. I finished it with Waterlox, which is great for wood. I made a cherry table about 20 years ago and still use it a lot. The Waterlox finish looks almost new, despite never having been recoated.

    The other way to go with wood is to do just oil it and let the patina develop. Cut in it, put pots on it, etc.

  5. frasca | | #5

    Not sure how green it is, but solid surface (Corian, Livingstone, others) are really easy to DIY, and if you’re at all handy with a router you can cove backsplashes and do a seamless bowl which are easy to clean and nearly maintenance free.

    Unlike Quartz you aren’t filling anybody that it’s real stone, but there are some colors and patterns that look really good.

  6. igrigos | | #6

    We installed Paperstone last year and we're definitely happy with them. I was on a fairly tight budget, so a DIY option was a definite priority. I also wanted something durable, low maintenance and environmentally friendly. I ordered straight from the manufacturer (Icestone is the main contact I believe), and got it delivered via freight shipment. I needed a tractor / forklift to get it off the truck.

    My kitchen layout was fairly simple ( a couple long wall sections and a 7x3 island) so with some planning, I was able to get everything I needed out of a single 5x12 sheet of paper stone. Using a guide and a circular saw with a decent blade, I cut each section out, then routed the edges and sanded it smooth. A layer of butcher block wax helps to keep it looking nice and new. I think the total cost to myself was just about $30/ sq ft including shipping.

    Only complaints are that that the finish does need to be applied regularly, as otherwise water spots show up on it. Also, the slate color we got does show all the crumbs and residue, but that is probably true of any black countertop.

  7. JoeNorm | | #7

    Thank you for the replies.

    I've considered Paperstone and concrete. It's true that from an energy standpoint our local Doug Fir is a great choice, easy to work hard as a rock, and a renewable surface.
    I've always been tempted by concrete, but always shy away from if for some reason for the mess and space required to pull it off.

  8. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #8

    Granite is pretty good stuff, with a lower carbon footprint than concrete or quartz or most other non-wood solutions even if shipped from the other side of the earth. It's not exactly DIY friendly though.

  9. NateSc | | #9

    I did half concrete and half white oak in our kitchen. I used wide slabs of oak, and after all the joining, planing, gluing, sanding, finishing, the labor is probably comparable, or a bit less for poured in place concrete.

    The issue with concrete is that it stains. No sealer will be able to deal with all that goes on in a kitchen. The worst is hot oil splash. I think the best thing to do is dye the concrete black to hide the stains. I used miracle sealant, which is a good product, but it just cannot handle that level of abuse. I don't think anyone that's experienced, and not trying to sell you something, would tell you there is a sealer that will hold up like it's granite or a baked on finish. Otherwise, concrete is a great surface.

    The white oak I finished with rubio monocoat. Not a single stain anywhere. Oil or wine or anything will wipe right off days later. I had one spot get hit with a permanent marker, so I sanded that spot out and reapplied the finish, which blends perfectly. Also food safe.

    For a countertop, Douglas Fir is a little soft in my opinion.

    Another option is tile - stainproof and maintenance free. Normally for a shower I like the old style portland cement grout with a surface sealer, but in a kitchen I would deal with the headache of epoxy grout. Hard as a rock and impervious to all stain and water.

    All of these solutions would only cost a few hundred bucks in material. If you have the budget, of course a $10-15k granite counter does it all, but that's a lot of cash to make a sandwich.

  10. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #10


    I've come full circle back to laminate. durable, easy to change out, can be dressed up with various edge treatments, cheap.

  11. thrifttrust | | #11

    I'm planning to use soapstone. While plenty tough for use as a countertop it is soft enough to cut with woodworking tools. It is usually used mat so the final finish is a sanded finish. At least one company specializes in providing DIY kits.

    Check out:

    Douglas Higden

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