Granite counters may be a popular choice, but they aren’t low-maintenance.

Granite-Charlotte/Creative Commons

Countertops are one of the primary focal points of a kitchen design. Not only do they make up a large portion of the kitchen, but they are also put to use just about every time you do something in the kitchen, and they take up a good chunk of your budget when doing a kitchen remodel. But all countertops are not created equal. In addition to the wide variety in prices for countertops, different countertop materials can vary drastically in their ease of care. So which one is the easiest to maintain?

Countertops are available in everything from wood or concrete to laminate or marble. All of them have their pros and cons: Wood that isn’t sealed looks beautiful and is great for food prep, but can’t handle heat and needs to have mineral oil applied to it every few weeks to stay conditioned. Concrete can look incredibly polished, but it’s heavy and hard to repair if it chips. Marble is beautiful, but it stains easily, as does the grout on tile countertops. Metal can pick up scratches and laminate can chip. Granite may be the most popular choice in countertops, but in order to prevent staining, it needs to be sealed upon installation as well as periodically throughout the years.

The best material for a countertop in terms of maintenance is engineered stone, also known as quartz. Quartz countertops are made from a combination of stone chips and resin. Quartz doesn’t look as natural as real stone, but it can withstand hot pots, sharp knives, and red wine spills without any sort of additional sealing or care. It’s also waterproof so it won’t get damaged near a sink like some other countertop options.

Another countertop material that gives quartz some competition is solid surfacing, which is made from 100-percent polyester. The advantage of solid surfacing is that scratches can be sanded down and any large chips can be filled, but it is not as resistant to heat and scratches as quartz.

Quartz is virtually maintenance-free unless an edge of it is chipped, in which case you would need a professional to repair it. But if you are looking for a countertop that you don’t have to touch other than for basic cleaning, even in high traffic areas, quartz may be choice for you.