Granite is the countertop material of choice when there are no other things to think about - like money. It defines elegance in a kitchen. The beauty of the stone contributes to the beauty of even the most modest kitchen.
Pros: Can be very affordable, holds up to heat; comes in beautiful colors; looks permanent and substantial
Cons: Unique patterns can be expensive, requires maintenance, including periodic sealing; absorbs stains; can crack; limited range of colors available
Quartz, engineered stone, is composed of quartz particles and resins. It is available in a larger range of colors than granite and has a nonporous surface that resists scratches. It's easy to maintain, without the annual sealing required by natural stone. Brands on the market include DuPont Zodiaq, Hanstone, and Silestone.
Pros: Resistant to acid and staining; easy care
Cons: Can be expensive
Solid surface is made by blending acrylic polymers (basically plastic) and stone-derived materials. Because solid surface counters are just what they're called, solid in material and color, any scratches can be sanded out. The countertops are custom-made to your specifications using materials from companies such as Staron, Corian, and Hanex.
Pros: Comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns; seamless; stain resistant; come with a warranty.
Cons: Vulnerable to heat which can damage the surface; can be moderately expensive.
Laminate counters bear trademarks such as Formica, Wilsonart, and Nevamar. They're made of plastic-coated synthetics with a smooth surface that's easy to clean. The pieces are cut to size and finished on the ends.
Pros: You can buy laminates in lots of colors; easy to maintain; durable; inexpensive.
Cons: Scratches and chips are almost impossible to repair; seams show.