By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Last week we started a two-part column about countertop options. Countertops can be a relatively simple way to spruce up your decor if you plan to keep everything else (like cabinets and the layout) in place for a while. Last week we looked at some common options for countertop materials. This week we will look at some less common — but really fun — options.

Historically, wood was a common kitchen countertop material. It fell out of favor as tile became more affordable, but it’s making a comeback. Wood has a warm feeling and soft texture. Wood won’t dull knives and is forgiving on falling glassware. The countertop surface can be renewed by sanding and re-oiling or re-staining. However, wood burns easily and can absorb food odors and stains. The cost of wood kitchen countertops is $50-$200 per square foot, installed.

Metal countertops are becoming more popular. Stainless steel kitchen countertops have long been used in commercial applications and are now found in homes. Metal countertops are heat resistant and hygienic, but can look cold and institutional.

A copper countertop is an option that gives a warmer look but is softer than stainless steel countertops and harder to maintain. Since metal will scratch, it is best to accept that everyday wear and tear just adds to the character. The cost of copper countertops runs $75-$150 per square foot, installed.

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The beauty of marble makes even a small countertop stand out. Many materials are available for countertops — from natural stone countertops to stainless steel countertops to stained concrete countertops — each with its own flare.

Natural stone is another countertop option that adds beauty to any kitchen or bathroom. No two pieces are identical. All stone is porous and therefore requires sealing. Granite countertops are the most popular choice and is an extremely hard stone. Slate and soapstone are much softer and less porous. Marble and limestone are beautiful, but they are easily stained by food and cosmetics. Stone is resistant to heat but tough on glassware. The cost is $50-$200 per square foot, installed.

Within the last few years, concrete countertops are an option that have come into vogue. A concrete countertop is extremely versatile in terms of shape and color. However, it is heavy and can present support issues if it is more than 4 inches thick. A concrete countertop is fairly porous, so occasional waxing is required to prevent stains. Also remember that nonstructural hairline cracks are part of a concrete countertop’s character. A concrete countertop will cost $75-$200 per square foot, installed.

Engineered stone countertops are becoming more popular and are more durable than real stone countertops. Engineered stone countertops are made as real stone is broken into pieces and mixed with resin and pigments to make a uniform mixture. Engineered stone countertops doesn’t have the veins or other imperfections of natural stone countertops and are available in any number of colors and combinations. The toughest of these products is made from quartz and softer versions are derived from marble. Costs range from $40-$125 per square foot, installed for engineered stone countertops.

When replacing your countertops, you will also need to consider the edge treatment of the counter. Many countertops are edged with the same material, but some materials, such as tile and concrete, can be trimmed with wood. The style of the edge can be square, rounded, or curved. Besides the look, think about the comfort and durability of the trim you choose.

If you can’t decide which material to use, that’s OK. In some kitchens you’ll see one material on the countertops, another against the walls and still another material on the island. You can also try different materials in different places in your home. Think about the function of each countertop, and your educated choices will serve you for years to come. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at as*@re*******************.com.

Countertop options are almost endless