Most property managers and landlords know that kitchens are high on the list of features most important to tenants. The quality of the appliances and the cabinet finish aren’t the only potential deal-breakers when it comes to attracting new renters. Countertops affect not only the appearance and atmosphere of the space, they determine the room’s functionality.

More often than not, property managers and landlords select counter materials either for their aesthetic appeal or for their affordability and ease of repair. Although either approach is understandable, what’s important to consider when building or refurbishing rental units, the best approach to making a decision on countertop material is to look for a solution that combines aesthetic appeal, practicality, and affordability.

Below are some guidelines on the qualities of seven standard countertop materials and the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide which is best for your rental property’s kitchens.

Quartz (engineered stone)

Man-made quartz (not to be confused with natural quartzite) is currently the top-selling material for kitchen surfaces, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association. The reason for the popularity of man-made quartz is its stain- and scratch-resistant qualities. In fact, man-made quartz is more durable than granite.
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Man-made quartz is produced by combining mineral fragments with heavy-duty resins, making it resistant to chipping. It’s priced slightly more than granite but less than marble. Since it is produced with waste stone rather than mined stone, man-made quartz is considered environmentally friendly.

The appearance of man-made quartz is its drawback. Some people don’t like the overly uniform look of the material, making it a potential deal-breaker for renters who are drawn to the natural irregularity of marble or granite. However, new advanced manufacturing technologies are enabling fabricators to begin producing more natural patterns in the material to more closely resemble natural deviations on other stone materials.

Granite

The second-most-popular countertop material, granite is a natural igneous rock containing between 20- and 60 percent quartz by volume.  Granite appeals to people who prefer a natural-occurring variegated appearance.

Although granite is less durable than quartz, it is nonetheless is scratch, stain and chip resistant. Manufacturers reveal that darker-colored granite is denser than lighter-colored varieties, which makes it less permeable, which increases its durability.  Lighter-colored varieties of granite may require sealing procedures and demand more maintenance over the years.

Marble

Marble is an enduring kitchen surface favorite, not only due to the classic elegance it adds to a kitchen, but also because it is relatively affordable. Marble is widely available which makes repairs and maintenance simple and is often priced considerably less than quarts and granite,

People who love cooking, baking, and especially pastry-making are drawn to the naturally cool temperature of marble. The drawback is marble is very porous and therefore vulnerable to scratches and permanent staining. Choosing marble for rental unit countertops means depending on tenants to be very careful and attentive to which foods and condiments come in contact with the marble, and are hypervigilant about consistently cleaning the surfaces thoroughly.

Solid Surface

Solid surface countertops are composed of artificial polymers and resins mixed with mineral dust and fabricated to resemble natural stone. Solid surface countertops are affordable and easy to maintain. They require no dealing and materials for patch repairs and replacements are readily available.

On the downside, solid surface countertops are vulnerable to scratches and damage from exposure to high heat. Tenants would need to understand how important it is that they pay close attention to avoid exposing the countertops to sharp kitchen tools or hot cookware. Generally, scratches and surface damages can be repaired by buffing, but that could mean you’ll be hiring a solid surface technician on a routine basis.

Ceramic tile

Ceramic tiles are a relatively inexpensive option. Tile provides a wide variety of options for customization, and broken or damaged tiles are easy to replace.

Among the main pitfalls of ceramic tile counter surfaces is the propensity for the grout in between the tiles to collects dirt and stains that are usually difficult to clean successfully. While tiles are easy to replace, they’re vulnerable to chipping and cracking over time as a result of accidental impacts.  Tiles are generally covered with a glossy protective enamel that can rub, chip or fade off over time, which is why it’s best to avoid aggressively scrubbing the tiles. Ceramic tile kitchen surfaces can also give the kitchen a dated look that may turn off potential tenants.

Laminate

Laminate kitchen surfaces were very popular during the 1960s and 70s. But today’s laminate—made from layers of paper and resins that are bonded to particleboard—can be fabricated to provide just about any look you want at a fraction of the price you’d pay for the real thing. Laminate has a non-porous surface that resists stains, scratches, heat damage, and impact better than stone, and cleanup is easy with just soap and water.

Laminate is inexpensive and extremely easy to replace on a tight budget. However, laminate has its disadvantages, Despite being stains, scratch, and heat resistant, it is still vulnerable to scratches and it can melt when it comes into contact with high heat. Overall, installing laminate countertops in your rental property kitchens does not add value. Laminate cannot be recycled, and its production involves the use of numerous chemicals, which means it is not a “green” product that most people look for today.

Butcher Block

Butcher block countertops add the warmth of natural wood to a kitchen and can be incorporated in a variety of designs—from rustic to modern. Butcher block countertops are made with thick slabs of wood—generally maple, bamboo, cherry or red oak—bonded together with heavy-duty glue. The different types of woods are arranged to create distinct surface patterns. While butcher block countertops look spectacular when they’re first installed, they’re difficult to maintain. Wood counter manufacturers recommend against using a sealant, not only to maintain the look of the wood surface but also to avoid exposing food to the chemicals used in sealants.

Unsealed wood, however, comes with its own set of issues, including discoloration and even rotting due to exposure to water and moisture. To best protect butcher block surfaces they need to be oiled every six months, and manufacturers warn against taking the “DIY” route as many have ended up with damaged countertops. Manufacturers encouraging scheduling professional technicians to regularly oil the countertops. Even when oiled, wooden countertops are not scratch or heatproof.  Very minor damage can be fixed by sanding the wood and re-oiling the sanded area, a procedure that is also best left to professionals. Over time, the countertops will develop a natural patina, which appeals to those who love the look of “aged” wood. But when making your decision, keep in mind that not everyone is fond of the “aged wood” look in their kitchen.

Before making a final selection, be sure that the countertop material and color you select works with the room’s existing materials and design. Also, remember that your decision will most likely be long-term. A countertop is a significant expense, so choose wisely. Look for something that offers timeless appeal and has a broad appeal.

Whether you’re renting or selling the property, the kitchen is extremely important to potential tenants or buyers. Select a countertop that will be as appealing 20 years from now as it is today.