Countertops are made from a variety of materials such as laminate, ceramic tile, natural stone, engineered stone, concrete and metal. With proper care, all countertops are durable. However, they are not indestructible and require a certain level of care. You can protect the finish of your countertop by cleaning with a soft cloth and using a mild soap. Avoid corrosive or abrasive cleaners or cleaners that contain ammonia.

Laminate is made from many different materials combined with resin. In laminates, the colour is a thin layer at the surface. Sheets of laminate are bonded to a wood substrate and can be moulded around curves such as the edges of countertops. It’s available in a wide variety of colours and in granular, low-sheen or glossy finishes.

For everyday cleaning, simply use a damp, soapy cloth. Do not use cleaners that contain strong acids or abrasives such as those for ceramic stovetops or toilet bowls. For stubborn stains or spills such as nail polish, contact the manufacturer for special cleaning instructions.

A wood edge on a laminate countertop is a common finishing option. These wood edges do require some maintenance. Every couple of years or when wear is visible, you will need to sand and refinish the edges. Refinishing can be done with spray-on lacquer or brush-on urethanes. These products are available at most home improvement centres.

Why did my laminate countertop bubble?

Prolonged or extreme heat (e.g. from hot pans) can cause the contact cement, used to attach the laminate to the substrate layer, to become soft and release. This could result in the formation of a bubble in the laminate surface. The bond may be re-established by applying localized pressure to the area of the bubble. In other cases, additional adhesive must be applied to permanently re-establish the bond. A professional should be called to repair a bubble.

A trivet (a three-legged stand placed under a hot serving dish) should be used under all heated appliances such as electric frying pans, coffee pots, hot pots, etc.

Why did my laminate countertop swell?

Laminates are bonded to a substrate made of wood products. When water gets under laminate, it’s absorbed by the wood and the wood swells. Even after the wood dries, the substrate will not lie as flat as the original product. For this reason, it’s important to keep laminate countertops free of standing water at joints and where the counter joins the backsplash. You should also mend a chipped edge before water seeps into the particleboard base and loosens even more laminate.

Why did my laminate countertop delaminate?

Delamination, the lifting of laminate from the wood substrate, can happen for several reasons: insufficient adhesive applied during construction, too much heat applied to the surface or water penetration. Delamination due to a lack of adhesive usually occurs near the corners on vertical edges. To reattach corners, simply apply more adhesive. If the detached piece is broken, the procedure is much more complex. Make sure broken edges are taped down to avoid any further delamination or fracturing of the laminate until a repair can be done by a professional.

Can I fix the scratches and chips in my laminate countertop?

In general, gloss finishes show scratches and chips more readily than granular or low-sheen finishes. No matter the finish, do not use your countertop as a cutting board. Even abrasive cleaners and steel wool can etch your laminate countertop. You cannot remove scratches completely from plastic laminates. However, you can hide small scratches with seam filler. Deep gouges or chips cannot be repaired.

Tiles can be made from ceramic, porcelain or natural stone. Ceramic tiles are made from pressed clay. They come in matte, metallic or glazed finishes. Glazed finishes are more susceptible to scratches. Porcelain tiles, also made from clay, are baked at high temperatures and hide scratches and chips better than ceramic tiles because the colour goes through the full thickness of the tile. To reduce staining of the grout on your tile countertop or backsplash, apply grout sealer every other year.

Stone countertops require at least the same degree of care as laminate countertops. Natural quarry stone may be as hard as granite or relatively soft and porous like marble. Slate, travertine and limestone can also be used for countertops. They each have varying degrees of porosity and resistance to scratching and chipping.

Granite is highly resistant to chips and scratches but is porous and should be treated every six months with a sealer to prevent staining. Marble is softer and more porous than granite and sealer should be applied more frequently. Slate is durable, heat-resistant and doesn’t stain easily. For extra protection of slate surfaces, you can apply a sealer as well. Limestone is not recommended for busy cooks, as it stains easily.

Acid from citrus fruits can etch some natural stone surfaces and may require professional services to restore. To clean any of these countertops, use a soft cloth and a mild soap. Consult the manufacturer of your countertop for specific care instructions.

Engineered stones are composed of natural minerals such as granite, marble and quartz. Particles of stone aggregate are combined with resin and colour pigments. They do not have the veining or cracks that appear in natural stone, making them more robust. Engineered stone countertops vary in their resistance to scratches and stains. For most countertops, regular application of sealer is required.

Concrete is composed of stone, silica-based cement and water. In its natural state, concrete is porous and will stain. Concrete countertops must have sealers applied for water and stain resistance. Staining can occur if the sealer is compromised by hot pans, cutting or acidic fruits, vinegars or alcohol. Consult the countertop manufacturer for advice on how frequently you should seal your concrete countertop.

Stainless steel is an iron, chrome and nickel alloy and is susceptible to scratching. Nicks and scratches are less visible on low-sheen or sanded metal surfaces. Stainless countertops can be polished with a damp cloth and baking soda.

Copper takes on a golden-brown colour with age. Because it’s a soft, smooth metal, copper is more susceptible to scratching and should be sealed with beeswax or butcher’s wax.