Stainless Steel Countertops
For the professional chef or the aspiring cook, nothing says "a serious cook lives here!" like stainless steel countertops. A mainstay of commercial kitchens, stainless steel has become fashionable in residential kitchens where everything from refrigerators to lighting fixtures make use of this attractive material.
Benefits of Stainless Steel Countertops
Stainless steel countertops offer some definite advantages over surfaces like laminates, ceramic tile, and wood. For one thing, they are tough. They are highly resistant to damage from water, heat, and many corrosive materials. While they can receive dents and scratches, such occurrences don't damage the functionality of stainless steel. If preventing bacteria and germs from invading your kitchen is among your top concerns, you will be glad to know that stainless steel countertops are the most hygienic material available.
Stainless Steel Style Countertops
Stainless steel is also very neutral in tone so it reflects light and any colors around it. It can be paired with most cabinet or flooring treatments and works well in combination with other countertop materials. While stainless steel countertops compliment a variety of materials, their style is definitely modern, industrial, clean, and professional-so they may not be ideal for something like a French Country interior.
How Stainless Steel is Manufactured
Stainless steel is a low carbon iron alloy that contains chromium (among other compounds) to enhance its corrosion and stain resistance. It is highly malleable and therefore easily fabricated into countertops. Manufacturers fabricate countertops from sheets of stainless steel. The sheets are cut to templates, adhered to a substrate (plywood or MDF), given a little soundproofing, and any seams are custom welded.
Stainless Steel Countertops, Backsplashes, and Edges
Most residential stainless-steel countertops are between 16- and 14-gauge thickness (the lower the gauge, the thicker the sheet). A stainless-steel countertop can be extended up the wall to form an integrated backsplash or may even be used to cover an entire wall adjoining the countertop. Standard countertops have 1 1/2"-thick edges. A variety of edge finishes, like bull nosed, beveled, angled, and marine are available.
Drawbacks to Stainless-Steel Countertops
One complaint about stainless-steel countertops is that fingerprints and smudges stand out on the shiny surface. Manufacturers have introduced new surface finishes-matte, satin, brushed, and etched-to help hide fingerprints as well as the inevitable dings and scratches. Another drawback to stainless steel can be its price. A standard countertop can start at $100-$200 sq/ft installed. Solid surface countertops made from acrylic polymers are available in many patterns and finishes, some that even imitate metal. Like stainless steel they offer easy maintenance (at around 60% of the cost).