A warm alternative to cool stone, character-rich wood countertops are staging a comeback. Traditional wood surfaces often are reserved for lower-traffic applications, such as islands that double as eating areas. True butcher block, made from strips of wood bonded together, serves as a work surface. It is the only countertop material appropriate for slicing and chopping. Most wood countertops are made from maple, though oak, cherry, walnut and teak are also used. Eco-friendly bamboo is gaining popularity.
Manufacturing ceramic tile requires large amounts of energy because the tiles are fired twice. Installing ceramic tile can affect indoor air quality (IAQ). To protect air quality, install tiles with solvent-free mastic on a durable, rot-proof surface such as cement backer board. Also choose grout sealers free of formaldehyde and low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ceramic tile is easy to clean, heatproof and available in a wide range of colors, textures and designs. It`s also durable and can contain recycled content such as glass, porcelain, salvaged ceramic scrap or feldspar tailings. Using ceramic tile does create an uneven counter surface, however. Individual tiles can easily chip or crack, and grout can stain. Costs vary widely based on the tile choice and difficulty of installation.
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