A Brief Guide to Counters and Flooring


In the previous columns, we’ve discussed the general range of what to expect when deciding on your materials for your new home or remodel. Here is a handy list to give you a more detailed idea of what your options are for counters and flooring. Ultimately, you should choose the look you love, since you will have to live with it for a while. However, it’s also good to know what types of materials best suit particular homes and lifestyles.

Going to showrooms for tile and other flooring materials can be overwhelming, but there is something thrilling about the hands-on process of touching the materials and imagining them in your new house. To avoid any anxieties during the decision-making process, it’s best to go in with a plan in mind. Have an idea of what materials suit your home best and how much you can spend.

Choosing your countertop.

Granite. This comes in polished and honed. Polished granite is the top choice for most homeowners, as it offers a variety of style and color options, has the high-end look of marble, and remains one of the most durable options. With granite, visit a warehouse and walk the aisles of slabs of various patterns to really get a sense of your future kitchen or bathroom. Honed offers a matte finish, which lends a modern twist to the style while retaining the durability of regular granite.

Quartz. One of the new darlings in countertop materials, quartz countertops are engineered to resist stains, acid, scratches, heat, and impacts. The surface also isn’t porous like natural stone and so doesn’t need to be sealed, so it’s virtually maintenance free. It also ranges in color and pattern to fit most kitchen styles.

Marble. This material offers a high-end appearance with a cost comparable to granite, and the veining is ideal for disguising wear and staining. However, marble can be porous, so without regular sealing and special care with acidic elements, staining and etching can be a problem.

Travertine. This material is favored for its Old-World look, ideal for Tuscan-Revival styles. However, you can combine it with other materials, such as stainless steel or wood, for an updated look.

Laminate. This is the most budget-friendly option of all. This retro material is ideal for a mid-century style, but laminate is also seeing a resurgence in popularity because of new patters made to resemble natural wood, stone, and quartz at a fraction of the cost.

Wood. The butcher-block style works for either a rustic farm-house style or a hip industrial style when mixed with metal finishes and barstools. Wood is relatively budget-friendly and comes with several benefits. When it is properly sealed, it’s safe for food prep—including cutting meat—and you can set hot pots directly onto it without damage.

Stainless steel. For a very modern and industrial look, stainless steel offers durability and ease: it cleans up with cloth and mild soap. It also happens to be the most hygienic material for a countertop, as stainless steel resists bacterial buildup. One of the best features of this material is that it blends well with other colors and materials for a multi-dimensional kitchen.

Tile. Trends have been moving away from this option because of the durability factor—popular throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, tile provides a somewhat uneven surface because of grouting and is prone to chipping.

Concrete. A thick slab of concrete is one of the new trends in home design, as it mixes with many other materials in your home. Concrete is also energy efficient, capturing heat when the temperature rises and then releasing that heat when the temperature drops.

Recycled materials such as concrete, glass, paper, composite, and plastic. These countertops are often a mix of pre- and post-consumer products, and are perhaps the most eco-friendly choice. They are also versatile in style, durable, and very low-maintenance.

Get floored by great options.

To wood or not to wood? Hardwood is still the classic option for most houses, and works for traditional styles as well as modern ones. But this option is expensive and not as durable. Consider this option thoroughly for a kitchen, as a malfunctioning dishwasher or refrigerator or a broken pipe can lead to significant and expensive damage.

Laminate. If you are concerned with water damage but want the look of wood in your kitchen, or if you like wood but can’t afford it, laminate is an ideal way to go. This is a material that can go into any room in a house, comes in many tones and patterns, and is highly durable. However, it can’t be sanded and doesn’t gain the character of wood. Overall, though, many people have a tough time distinguishing laminate planks from traditional wood planks.

Carpet. Some people still want the carpet option, especially in bedrooms or other rooms that can get chilly. It remains a good choice for rooms where you might spend a lot of time on the floor or if you have crawling children. But beware of the high likelihood of staining.

Concrete. This material is a very modern choice. It’s non-porous, is durable, eco-friendly, and can be stained any color.

Tile. There are so many options for tile that it gets its own category.

Porcelain has become a popular choice, as it is stain-resistant.

Slate-look porcelain is another option if you want durability, and is almost indistinguishable from natural stone.

Mosaic tiles are ideal for bathrooms and for achieving a classic, old fashioned look. They now conveniently come in 12”x12” sheets. They are also highly practical for rooms exposed to moisture, as all the grout lines allow for traction.

Vinyl tile or wood-tile comes in different grades and qualities, the most expensive options almost indistinguishable from wood when you see it. Yet it comes with all the benefits of tile, especially practical in kitchens, where you want to avoid water damage.

Travertine tile is as good for floors as it is countertops. It works well in ranch or Southwestern or Old-World style homes. While the natural stone is ideal for hot climates and can work in any room of the house, beware of the noise level that may occur when used on upper floors. It also maintains and distributes heat better than wood.

Natural stone tile has similar appeal to Travertine but has a less slippery texture. This is often used for outdoor areas.

Very often, showrooms will let you bring home samples in order to see how the materials will suit your room. Let yourself live with the sample for at least a few days, and view it in different lighting conditions, in order to make your best decision.

Whether you have questions on materials or you’re ready to plan your next build, visit us at, or come see us at GDC Construction, 1031 Silverado Street, La Jolla, CA 92037 858-551-5222.