Choosing White Kitchen Countertops: Marble, Granite, or Quartz?
“Must. Have. Granite!” Ah, House Hunter watchers of many seasons past surely remember hearing that battle cry over and over and over (and over). Granite and stainless steel, the must-haves of the 90s and early 2000s.
I never really understood the appeal of granite, but then, I never really crushed on any kitchen countertop surface until I started spending more time in the kitchen (i.e. this blog) and, yeah, on Pinterest too. White subway tile, on the other hand, has called to me for years – before you saw it in every other kitchen known to man and woman. But countertops? Not so much.
Once we knew we were really, truly, finally going ahead with our kitchen remodel, I traveled a journey I think that many do: The kitchen countertop research journey. This is a looooong and windy road, my friends, with many stops and conductors with varying “truths” about countertop materials.
Like may people, once I started really noticing countertops and knew I wanted something lighter and brighter, marble quickly earned my affection. Light, bright, white, happy, gray veined, and timeless. Then I learned marble stains and etches easily. So I turned to quartz. But it was too expensive and, well, kind of fake looking. So then I turned to granite, and that was my final decision, except it wasn’t because I was never 100% sure, and then the granite people kept putting us off and meanwhile quartz went on sale, and so we got quartz, and WE LOVE IT.
That was the short version of our journey. Here’s the long version, along with some info that took me weeks (months?) to gather and process about each countertop material. Please note, I am not an expert! This is just what I learned based on hours and hours of online research and many conversations with professionals (some of which completely contradicted one another). But I thought I’d distill my research here just in case you, too, are looking for white kitchen countertops made from some kind of stone. And maybe, just maybe, I can save you a few hours of research on your own kitchen remodel journey.
Option 1: Marble Countertops
Early on, we visited our first slab yard. It was an absolutely massive one with probably 30,000 square feet worth of giant slabs. One room held the exotic granite and marble (those price tags, oy!) And another held the more down-to-earth (no pun intended) granite slabs along with some quartz and marble here and there.
So of course, I crushed hard on the marble, because the look was EXACTLY what I wanted. I finally narrowed my search down to the one slab that would actually fit into our price range, and then the first salesperson (of many in our journey) gave me the “marble spiel.”
Marble etches and stains. It’s just the name of the game with marble.
The salesperson didn’t try to talk me out of marble, he more … set expectations. If you are the type of person who can embrace a countertop with its history literally etched into it, go for it. After all, he said, you don’t visit a 100-year-old hotel, walk up to the lobby counter with the gorgeous marble and notice the etches and stains, do you?
Maybe not, but when you’re a cook who’s pretty messy with the turmeric and the lemon and the wine and everything that can etch, you might, like me, think twice about marble.
- It’s gorgeous. Creamy, white, veined … not a hint of black.
- It’s unique. Nothing looks like marble (except maybe quartzite, more on that below). Even the most advanced look-alike quartz doesn’t hold a candle to the natural beauty of marble.
- It’s timeless. Marble will simply never go out of style.
- Etching/staining. It’s true – acid etches marble. Lemon, wine … you wipe it off and the history remains. Sometimes you see etching, sometimes you don’t. I was pretty sure I would always notice it, and I knew it would drive my husband crazy. Here’s a great piece on The Kitchn about what an etch really looks like.
- It’s expensive. Yep, marble’s costly, though something we might have been open to splurging on if it wasn’t for the other two reasons listed above.
- It’s a luxury material that might not fit in all homes. We own a mid-size early 90s suburban house, you know, one of those that’s all garage? If we were in a 1925 Craftsman or a luxury home, a material like marble might make more sense. But for our house, it doesn’t really fit. Plus, there’s something to be said for not over-improving. Marble felt like an over-improvement.
So marble was out.
Some make the journey from marble directly over to quartz. Others, like me, leave marble behind and then spend an a lot of time ping-ponging between quartz and granite and slab yards, oh my.
Option 2: Quartz Countertops
Quartz is the reportedly impervious, no-maintenance, miraculous wonder-surface that everyone loves right now. The It-Girl.
But quartz isn’t just another stone, I learned. It’s not really a stone at all, in fact. Quartz is man-made by grinding up quartz stone, mixing it with a resin, pigments, and polymers, and then pressing it all together in a slab-making machine. (Here’s another piece from The Kitchn about quartz).
Confused yet? Many of your kitchen remodeling decisions will take you down rabbit holes like this. Enjoy! 😉
So, quartz. Everybody loves quartz, everybody wants quartz. It can be made to look a lot like marble, lots of creamy grays and whites with no black onyx flecks in sight. That’s tempting.
- Unbelievably easy maintenance. No etching or staining. No sealing. No problem!
- Consistency of looks. Once you’ve selected the brand and the style, you know exactly what it’s going to look like. What you see in the sample is what you’re going to get.
- The cost. For us, in our area (the Pacific NW), quartz usually costs more than granite – at least, when we were shopping around, it did.
- The look. I looked at A LOT of natural stone and after awhile, whenever I would look at quartz, it just really looked man-made to me.
- The resin. For the price tag, I like the idea of putting a natural stone on my countertops, not something that is held together with resin. I know granite is probably sealed with something similar, but just something about the whole thing skeeved me out a bit.
- The heat. Quartz can have issues with heat. I’m not used to placing hot pans right on my countertop and I’m not sure I will, but the fact you can’t do this with quartz was kind of a bummer to me. Our gas stove also has a powerful burner that runs pretty close to the edge of the countertop, and that made me nervous if quartz sometimes can’t handle heat (but nearly two years in, so far so good – the quartz is fine).
- It can chip. Because it’s ground up stone held together by resins, you need to be careful with the edges, i.e. along the edge of your sink. So no bumping heavy cast-iron pots along the edges!
- It’s trendy. Though some might consider this a positive, I also see it as a negative. Quartz is what everyone wants, just like granite was 20 years ago. Are certain quartz patterns going to look tired and dated in a few years? I think that’s likely.
Option III: Granite Countertops
Granite was so overdone for so long that a lot of people seem to be tired of it. It can be a little concerning to be bombarded with the subtle (or not-so-subtle) message that you’re making a huge investment and it’s instantly going to be dated.
But if you cringe at the idea of granite, chances are you’re thinking of a couple of very specific types. Maybe that heavily speckled black and white Dalmatian situation, or perhaps the black-brown stuff known as ubatuba that was uba-everywhere?
But you know what? I kind of think that saying granite is dated is like saying that wood is dated. Or paint is dated. There are so many variables – colors, patterns, composition – that can affect a granite slab’s look and performance. Why rule out an entire material based on the fact that a particular look/color was ubiquitous for far too long?
- The cost. We found that granite was much more reasonably priced, at least around here, than quartz or marble.
- The durability. I love that (some) granite is virtually bulletproof. I’m hard on things and I go kind of crazy in the kitchen. So a tough surface makes sense. BUT! I say that with a huge caveat: Not all granites perform the same. Just like wood, some granites are softer. Some are more fragile than others, some are more porous and susceptible to staining. My suggestion is, once you select a granite, take a sample home and throw some lemon juice and red wine on it and see what happens.
- It can take the heat. Literally. You can set hot pans directly on it.
- The look. For me, I wanted white white white. And with granite, getting that true white look is impossible. You’re going to see specks, flakes, veins, and variations. In my experience, almost all “white” granite has some black (onyx), burgundy (garnet) and/or purple (amethyst) in it.
- Lack of consistency, looks-wise. Within each type of granite (as in, say, Colonial White), the colors and composition can really vary by slab. One slab of Colonial White might be entirely different than another. Which makes sense, as it’s carved out of a mountain, but still worth noting. So if you are buying granite, be sure to go to the yard and pick out your exact slab(s). And make sure your slabs were mined one after the other so the stone is as similar as possible!
- Maintenance. Yep, you have to reseal it regularly – once every six months or every year.
- It can emit radiation. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?! Apparently some granite slabs can emit a bit of radon along with small amounts of beta and gamma radiation. Here’s more about that strange curveball.
- It can be considered dated. Quartz is in, granite is out. Is it fair? Does it make sense? No, not really, but that does seem to be the current consensus.
Varieties of white granite
If you’re shopping for white granite countertops that are as white as possible, here are the names of white granite that I encountered in my search:
- Dallas White
- Delicata White
- Salinas White
- River White
- Colonial White
- Kashmir White
- Glacier White
- White Springs – Gorgeous, especially with a leathered finish. We seriously considered this one, but ultimately we decided against it because it has a lot of burgundy (garnet) in it.
- River White
- White Princess Granite, White Fantasy, and Fantasy Brown. But wait! There’s a twist! Because apparently these three varieties are actually quartzite!
Option IV: Quartzite Countertops
Yep, there’s one more option, if you can believe it! When I first started out, I thought quartz and quartzite were synonymous. Nope! Quartz and quartzite are completely different.
There are a few type of “granite” out there that look remarkably like gray and white marble. But it’s actually quartzite. Which looks a lot like marble because it’s more similar in composition to marble than it is to granite!
In fact, it’s so similar to marble in composition that it can etch and stain just like marble too. In fact, I took one sample of a popular type of quartzite, Fantasy Brown home. I tested it with lemon, wine, turmeric, etc. and guess what? It stained and etched!
So there’s the scoop on white countertops for your kitchen!
What, exactly, did we choose? We went with Lagoon by Silestone. It’s an older pattern, but we knew it would work well in our kitchen. Plus, we got it on sale! Our quartz countertops are grayish white with barely discernible gray specks and a few darker gray swirls here and there.
It’s been nearly two years since our countertops were first installed, and we still love them! We’ve had a few close calls with stains (hello again turmeric), but a bit of elbow grease (and baking soda or a good cleaner) they come right out. We’ve had no chips, either.
So all-in-all, after a crazy amount of research and weighing the pros and cons, we are super happy with our white kitchen countertop choice. And I hope the same for you!