Porcelain Countertops: Pros, Cons and Alternatives
Porcelain countertops have been popular in Europe for years but it wasn’t until recently that they began gaining popularity among Americans seeking a unique, stylish surface. Before you run out and start ordering porcelain countertops for your kitchen, however, there are some very real downsides you should be aware of.
Today, we’re going to take a look at these downsides and help you find a type of countertop that meets your needs in a way porcelain countertops might not.
What Are Porcelain Countertops?
Porcelain countertops are made from non-porous ceramic clay that contains various minerals, such as kaolinite and silica. As with all porcelain products, the material is baked in temperatures ranging from about 2200-2650 Fahrenheit. These extremely high temperatures produce a durable countertop material that is resistant to scratching, cracking, UV light, and — naturally — heat.
Those are the major perks of porcelain countertops. A closer look at porcelain will reveal some drawbacks, however, which make it clear why you should consider other materials.
Porcelain Countertops for Kitchen Design Options
A quartz countertop (pictured above) will provide more depth than a porcelain one aiming for the same look. Pictured: 5151 Empira White
Unlike with quartz countertops, the colors and patterns on porcelain countertops are only surface-deep. For example, many porcelain slab manufacturers boast of their ability to produce a ‘marble look’ countertop from porcelain. In reality, this won’t have the same depth as a ‘marble look’ quartz countertop that incorporates actual elements of natural stone for a three-dimensional look.
We’ll explore this in greater detail shortly.
For now, just know that the colors and patterns on porcelain countertops are achieved by adding pigments (known as “glaze”) to the surface. These pigments can make the surface resemble everything from marble to wood and even steel. In the event of a chip or scratch that is deep enough, you’ll likely see that the pigment does not go all the way through.
You don’t have as many finish options for porcelain countertops as you do with quartz or natural stone. There are still options, though, two of the most popular being high-gloss glaze and matte. Regardless of which finish is chosen, it gets baked on during the manufacturing process (as opposed to other materials that receive their finish through sealing) and offers resistance to staining.
With porcelain countertops, you really only have two edge options: square or mitered. Because the material is so thin, manufacturers will often create a mitered edge to give it a thicker look. Other countertop materials, like quartz, give you a much greater range of choice as far as edges go.
Porcelain Countertops Cost
As far as comparisons to other materials go, porcelain countertops cost within a reasonable range. You’ll find them between $60 and $100 per square foot. Surfaces like granite can cost even more while offering less regarding ease and use of durability.
Porcelain Countertops vs. Quartz Cost
Whatever factors porcelain countertops have in their favor begins to really fall apart once you compare their cost to quartz. Quality examples will cost you more than a comparable quartz surface while offering fewer options for customization.
Porcelain Countertops Pros and Cons
So far, we’ve explored porcelain countertops from a few different angles. Now, let’s neatly lay out the pros and cons.
- the porcelain used to create countertops is very durable and essentially scratch-proof as well as heat-proof
- similarly, porcelain countertops are very stain-resistant; unlike porous materials such as granite or quartzite, liquids and even chemicals will not penetrate porcelain easily
- porcelain countertops are resistant to UV light, making them popular for outdoor kitchens
- you don’t have to continually seal porcelain countertops as you do with other materials like quartzite; they are very low maintenance
- the patterns on porcelain countertops are only surface-deep; they do not extend through the full body of the slab, meaning that they tend to lack depth
- you can still scratch them with ceramic knives; doing so will reveal the pattern’s skin-deep nature
- porcelain countertops tend to be very thin, which necessitates visual tricks such as mitered edges to make them appear more substantial
- many of the porcelain countertops in the United States are imported from Europe, which means higher costs for you that don’t necessarily go towards getting a superior material; even ignoring this aspect, there are many better options
Porcelain Countertops vs. Quartz
We’ve loosely compared porcelain countertops to the quartz variety a few times now. Now, let’s delve into some more pointed analysis of why quartz is the better material for modern kitchens.
Porcelain Countertops vs Quartz Design Options
Quartz (seen above) offers more options in terms of both shape and finish. Pictured: Bianco Drift 6131
One of the greatest advantages of quartz, as mentioned earlier, is that you are able to achieve a design that has depth. Quartz is a dense material that combines natural stone with resins and pigments to recreate the appearance of various surfaces. Its resemblance to materials it emulates (like marble and granite) carries through, right down to the grain.
Check out Caesarstone’s concrete-look quartz, for example:
If you were to split the countertops open (which is next to impossible, but just follow us for argument’s sake here), you would find that the appearance carries through the entire slab.
This is one of the most powerful quartz countertop benefits as it means quartz offers a dynamic look that enhances your overall kitchen design.
Beyond the patterns themselves, quartz also offers you more options in terms of edge styles. While you’re generally limited to mitered or square with porcelain, a quartz countertop edge can be anything from bevel to double bullnose, ogee bullnose, ogee square step, triple ogee, and more.
Quartz matches the durability of porcelain as far as hardness goes. Both materials are more than strong enough for everyday use; with either, it’s highly unlikely that your day-to-day activities would cause damage.
While there are some specifics of porcelain countertops that make them better suited for outdoor use, quartz’s matching durability combined with its greater visual appeal undoubtedly gives it the edge indoors.
Increased Home Value
Quartz is currently the most desirable countertop material available, period. If you decide to sell your home, any potential buyer who knows their stuff will see quartz countertops as a plus. They are one kitchen upgrade cost that is well worth it.
Porcelain is popular in Europe and its popularity has grown in the United States recently, but the long-term outlook for the material is less certain than the existing demand for quartz.
The Caesarstone Quartz Advantage
By now, you should have a clear picture of why porcelain countertops — as good as they are — fall short of quartz. Seeing a Caesarstone quartz surface in person will solidify this even further.
For several decades, Caesarstone has been at the forefront of designing modern surfaces that provide a classic look while keeping up with trends. Our manufacturing process provides you near-endless options for not only appearance but shape as well.
Check out Caesarstone quartz countertop reviews (from clients in a wide range of applications from kitchens to bathrooms, and residential to industrial) for more information about why Caesarstone is widely regarded as the best choice on the market.
Let’s wrap things up by running through the main points to keep in mind regarding porcelain countertops.
They are made using ceramic clay that is exposed to extreme temperatures in an oven. This produces a countertop material that is incredibly hard, impervious to hot pots, and virtually scratch-proof.
Where porcelain surfaces begin to show their downsides, however, is when you look at design options. Even the leading porcelain slab manufacturer will not be able to offer you the same range of options you’d find with quartz. Whatever options you do find will possess beauty that is only surface-deep; quartz provides depth with a look that carries through the entire slab.
Lastly, how much do porcelain countertops cost? Between $60 and $100. At that range, you are better off going for the more versatile quartz, which is just as durable for everyday indoor use.
Frequently Asked Questions
How durable are porcelain countertops?
Porcelain countertops are very durable. The manufacturing process results in a countertop that is highly resistant to scratching, heat damage, and cracks.
How are porcelain countertops made?
Porcelain countertops are made by exposing ceramic clay to extremely high temperatures.
How do you make porcelain countertops shine?
You can find porcelain countertops that were manufactured specifically with a high-gloss glaze. You can also have an additional high-gloss finish added after manufacturing. Day-to-day cleaning with soap and water will help you retain a blotch-free finish.