Kitchen countertops come in a wide variety of materials and colors, but what sets them apart is their resistance to heat and staining. For example, tile and marble are known for being non-porous which makes them resistant to stains. They are also considered heat resistant because they don’t absorb the heat from cookware well. On the other hand, laminate countertops are not very heat resistant.
The phrase, “heat resistant,” is a relative term in itself and is mostly used in reference to certain types of materials conducting heat better than others. This makes sense because most would assume that heat resistance refers to how well a surface can resist heat, but there are multiple factors involved when distinguishing what qualifies as being heat resistant. In terms of kitchen countertops, the most important aspects of heat resistance are how well they conduct and retain heat
A material’s ability to resist absorbing heat is referred to as its thermal mass or specific heat capacity. Thermal mass can be thought of as how much energy it takes for something to gain or lose an incremental amount of temperature. The higher a material’s thermal mass is, the more easily it resists absorbing excess heat or coldness.
For kitchen countertops, materials with high thermal masses work best because they will absorb little-to-no heat from cookware; this way they won’t damage under prolonged exposure to hot objects like stove tops. One common reason why laminate countertops aren’t very good at resisting heat is because their thermal mass is extremely low, which makes them absorb heat and discolor more easily.
Heat resistance also refers to how well a material is able to resist damage from high temperatures. As countertops are often exposed to direct heat, they risk wear and warping if not bought with proper heat resistance. High-heat resistant countertops such as quartz or granite may be worth the investment because they can directly withstand the most abuse under continually hot conditions such as stove tops
On the other hand, low-heat resistant surfaces like laminates will most likely warp under continued exposure to direct heat over an extended period of time. These types of countertops should be used with caution and/or in conjunction with proper foil and pan guidelines. Some common materials that would fall under the category of low-heat resistant are laminate, foggy glass (such as that found in fake marble), and plastic laminates.
Let’s look at each of the different types of countertop in more detail
Ceramic Tile Countertops
The materials used to make ceramic tile countertops have excellent high temperature resistance. Ceramic tiles can be found glazed or unglazed, but both types are equally heat-resistant provided that they have undergone proper firing during production. Ceramic tiles can take up to 3 hours of direct exposure at temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also possible to modify the surface of ceramic tiles so they are heat-resistant enough for stove tops or grills.
The most common type of tile countertops are polished porcelain, which has a glossier look than non-polished tiles, but both types offer exceptional durability and performance when it comes to resisting stains and high temperatures.
Engineered Stone Countertops
Engineered stone counters can resist high temperatures that would crack natural stones because they are made by sandwiching thin pieces of stone between sheets of resin. Those sheets reinforce the strength and stability of the material making them up to three times more durable than traditional stone surfaces such as marble or slate. They also protect engineered stone from cracking because they act as insulation. Engineered stones are available in various finishes, but the most common is polished.
While a natural stone, limestone has properties that make it a less than ideal choice for a kitchen countertop because it absorbs heat and stains easily. This causes problems when you have hot pots on the counter because they will be absorbed by the stone and spread to other parts of the surface. It does not crack or burn from direct exposure to high temperatures or flames, but can develop white spots if water gets trapped between the material and the glaze.
In addition, acid-based substances such as wine can leave behind stains over time. Limestone is non-porous which makes it resistant to water and spotting, but that also means that it can be difficult to clean.
Solid Surface Countertops: Durable and Stain Resistant
A synthetic product made to mimic natural stone and manufactured materials such as Corian or Staron, these countertops are extremely durable. Solid surface countertops do not stain easily or absorb heat, making them suitable for use around high heat appliances like ovens and cook-tops. They also resist scratching from knives and other utensils. Solid surfaces are easy to clean because they do not absorb stains or bacteria, and they resist mold and mildew growth.
Marble is a natural stone like limestone and has similar properties. Because marble is porous it absorbs liquids and stains easily, meaning that spills and splatters will leave permanent marks. Marble does not release heat very well either which make sit susceptible to cracking when pots or pans are hot. Fortunately, there are ways to make marble more heat-resistant such as adding a glaze or polishing the surface
Porcelain Tile Countertops
Porcelain tiles have excellent resistance to both water and high temperatures making them an ideal choice for countertops in the kitchen. They are non-porous and extremely durable, making them less susceptible to stains or damage from contact with hot cookware. The glazes that are added during the manufacturing process also protect against scratches and chips.
Laminates are made of three layers: a thin decorative top layer, an inner core filled with melamine resin, and an outer layer called the backing sheet. Unlike engineered stone or tile countertops which have manufacturers warranties ranging from 10 years to lifetime, laminates generally only come with one-year warranty for defects in workmanship. However, they are known for being more heat resistant than other types of countertops because they can withstand temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
A metal countertop can be made of various alloys depending on the manufacturer, but stainless steel is the most common. It resists staining and rusting, has a high level of durability, and does not absorb heat much which makes it one of the best options for kitchen countertops. However, stainless steel can dent or scratch if you drop heavy objects on its surface and it becomes hot when cookware is set directly into contact with it.
Aluminum is similar to stainless steel because they both have good resistance to corrosion and will not absorb heat easily even though aluminum transfers temperatures at a more rapid rate than other metals such as copper or chrome. Because aluminum is so soft it dents easily which means that seams form quickly. It is also not ideal for cutting directly on because it can leave permanent scratch marks
The thermoplastic in glass countertops begins to melt when exposed to temperatures higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it less heat resistant than other materials such as engineered stone and tile. Glass countertops are typically made from a blend of tempered soda lime silicate, similar to plain window glass.
They have high moisture absorption, but do not absorb odors or stains at all. However, they are susceptible to chipping and cracking if they come into contact with hard objects such as knives and utensils during normal wear and tear. As a result of these properties, some users complain that you can feel an uncomfortable sensation when you lean against the countertops.