Countertops at a Glance
Are you dreaming of new countertops for your hardworking cook space? Sears Home Services makes shopping for new countertops—as well as all the other items that go into kitchen remodeling—a snap, right down to a free in-home consult that lets you look at samples and design ideas in the space itself.
RELATED: The 6 Best Reasons to Renovate Your Kitchen
Today’s trendiest choices—granite, quartz, and solid-surface, all offered through Sears Home Services—can do a lot to breathe new life into a dated design and, at the same time, increase your home’s value.
• Granite is 100 percent natural stone, cut in slabs and surface-sealed for a one-of-a-kind countertop.
• Quartz, also called “engineered stone,” contains finely ground minerals combined with resins to create a lustrous, rock-hard surface.
• Solid-surface is a synthetic option manufactured of acrylic and polyester resins to create a soft, smooth, matte-like surface.
These sleek options can easily be the most expensive item in a kitchen remodeling project, so you’ll want to do everything you can to keep them looking as good as new, even after years of use. While “each type of countertop has its own inherent properties,” all three will benefit from some “standard good-care practices,” says Joe Maykut, product manager for Sears Home Services. Whether you’re safeguarding your new investment or trying to treat your existing ones better, we can all learn something from Maykut’s professional advice. Start with these top eight tips.
1. Adopt a Cleaning Routine
Countertops are constantly subjected to splashes and spills, from hastily poured milk to a tipped can of soda. “If you spill something, you need to wipe it up promptly,” Maykut advises. Both granite and solid-surface countertops can stain from certain liquids, such as coffee and wine. Quartz, on the other hand, is less likely to stain, thanks to its very low permeability. No matter what kind of countertop you have, it’s still a good idea to wipe up spills as soon as they occur—ignoring them is “simply not sanitary on a surface where food is prepared,” Maykut adds.
Your countertops will also benefit from a daily cleaning using a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. Just spritz the countertop, run a clean, damp cloth over it, then dry with a soft dish towel. Don’t skip that last part: Drying a damp countertop will help prevent the hard water stains that can form if water droplets are left to dry on their own.
2. Use Only the Recommended Cleaners
You can’t always believe everything you read on the internet. This is one of the most common mistakes homeowners make, according to Maykut. “The best cleaner for a countertop is one that’s recommended by the manufacturer,” he says, not necessarily what you find on a mommy blog. “The chemical makeup of a cleaner can’t be left to chance. Skip the countertop hacks you find online and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.” Suggested cleaning products come listed in the informational materials that accompany your new countertop. But if you’ve misplaced them, call the fabricator who installed the countertop, contact the manufacturer, or check the manufacturer’s website—after all, they’ll know best.
RELATED: Don’t Make These 6 Common Mistakes in Your Kitchen Renovation
3. Keep Chemicals Off the Countertop
The quartz, granite, and solid-surface countertops offered by Sears Home Services are so tough and durable that it’s easy to mistake them for a work surface fit for crafts, science projects, and other household activities. It’s time to break this bad habit, though, because chemicals and solvents—including paint thinner, varnish, and caustic products like oven cleaner—can damage the surface of both quartz and solid-surface countertops. Get into the practice of using a dedicated workbench or other surface for projects, and keep the chemicals off your countertop.
4. Always Break Out a Cutting Board
“You can scratch any countertop, especially solid-surface countertops,” Maykut warns, so use a cutting board when you’re chopping onions and other foods. If you’re course-correcting a bit late, know that solid-surface countertops have renewable surfaces, which means that minor scratches can often be repaired by either sanding the surface down or using a soft-type scrubbing product to smooth down the edges of the scratches. Check the instructions that came with the countertop to ensure that you use the correct method. Granite and quartz are less likely to scratch, but it can happen—and if they do get scratched, there’s no way to repair them.
5. Keep Towels and Trivets Handy
While all three countertops are heat resistant, none of them are completely heatproof. “If you take a hot pan off the stove, don’t set it on the countertop,” Maykut says. “That can lead to thermal shock and even cracks in the countertop.” Indeed, a solid-surface material can scorch and crack, while a quartz surface can become permanently discolored. Being natural stone, granite can withstand a hot pot for a short while—a few seconds—but one that’s set out directly on a granite countertop as part of a buffet, for instance, can lead to cracking.
The easy solution? “Always use trivets,” Maykut says, or a mitt or towel to prevent direct contact between a hot plate and the countertop. And for homeowners who have sinks that are also molded out of a solid-surface material—one of the many design options offered by Sears Home Services’ design team—take care whenever you drain boiling water into the sink, because solid-surface sinks are just as prone to thermal shock as the rest of the countertop. Maykut suggests running cold water as you pour, which will help temper the boiling water and protect your solid-surface sink.
6. Stop Sitting or Standing on It
We’ve all been guilty of using the countertop as a stepping stool to reach the highest cabinet shelves or hoisting ourselves up to sit on the counter while chatting with family—but the stress takes a toll on your ’tops. Quartz and solid-surface countertops are the least likely to crack, but granite, due to the natural fissures that run through the stone, may be weak enough in certain spots to crack under the excess weight. Even when granite is professionally re-seamed, you’ll often be left with a visible repair mark to remind you of your goof. And besides, using a sturdy ladder is an all-around safer practice anyway.
7. Seal Granite Periodically
Of the three types of countertops, only granite requires a periodic application of sealant to help it resist stains and maintain a uniform sheen. Granite countertops come professionally sealed, but after a year or so, the surface may start to show signs of dulling. According to Maykut, manufacturers will use different types of sealant, and “most sealants have a one- to three-year life expectancy.” To keep the countertop looking its best, homeowners will need to reapply a granite sealant. Which one and how often depends on the manufacturer, so study your manual. “It’s best to apply only the type of sealant suggested by the manufacturer and at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer,” Maykut stresses.
RELATED: 3 Things to Know Before You Invest in Granite Counters
8. Register Your Countertop Purchase
You probably know that you should register a new appliance like a fridge or stove as soon as you buy it to ensure that you’re covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. But have you ever considered registering your new countertop? Believe it or not, most new countertops are guaranteed against manufacturing and material defects, too, so you’ll want to register your countertop to ensure that the warranty will be in effect.
Fortunately, when Sears Home Services professionals remodel your kitchen, you can count on them to register your new countertop for you, leaving you with nothing to worry about post-renovation. Their representatives know the ins and outs of each countertop option, which is especially helpful here, because not all contractors and fabricators follow the same policy. (Many manufacturers allow a limited time in which you can register, which varies anywhere from 30 days to six months.)
Have you ever been tempted to buy one of those products you see advertised on TV infomercials? Sure, the spokesperson swears it does everything (and more!) but can it really live up to the hype? Sometimes, yes! Click through now to see some of our favorites.