Well, it’s nothing new, but more Dead Sea scrolls have been located in a previously unexplored cave. Archaeologists have discovered (even before recorded history) when people lived in caves, that they had an area in their abode dedicated to the preparation of food. Traditionally known as “The Kitchen,” the name stuck, and over the millennium this specialized subdivision of the home has developed from a simple stone work surface to the exciting kitchens of today. And, one of the most exciting parts of a new room in this room is the countertop.

The countertop and its upright counterpart, the backsplash, can add to your kitchen’s distinctive flair, but choosing a material for the surface isn’t as easy as it was a thousand years ago. There are so many types of countertops available today that it can be very confusing to decide to buy a new one.

Although it is certainly a factor, your kitchen work surface should not be chosen solely for its aesthetic value. When you’re ready for a new counter, find a contractor who will take the time to review your specific needs. What kind of food do you prepare? How much do you cook? Have children? The answers to these questions will help determine the right counter material for you.

The laminate countertop, known to many as “Formica,” is the most economical of all options and, with proper care, can last a long time. Easy to clean with good stain resistance, it has limitations – easily scratched, cannot be cut, and will burn if you put something hot on the surface. Once damaged, it is difficult or impossible to repair.

The most popular countertops today are stone, which, by the way, is just what archaeologists found in kitchens of yesteryear. The most popular stone materials are granite, marble and the new crushed quartz tops. Granite, the traditional standby mode, is considered by many to be the most beautiful surface available because it shows movement! Movement is the suggestion of movement in the elements that make up the finished surface. The swirls and patterns created by nature cannot be completely duplicated in a stone that is manufactured. Both granite and marble are porous and must be sealed when installed, and at least once a year afterwards, to avoid staining. If you exercise a little care with these stones you can have a work surface that will last until an archaeologist excavates your home.

Quartz (sold under the trade names Cambria, Viatera, Caesarstone, Silestone, etc.) is the second most abundant mineral on earth and is a basic component of granite. In a typical quartz countertop, raw quartz is crushed and combined with pigments to give it color and resins (sticky material) to hold it together. The resulting process creates one of the most durable countertop surfaces on the market today. It is harder than granite, more resistant to scratches and stains, and is non-porous. For geologists who follow the K&B Insider, quartz is ranked number 7 on the Mohs hardness scale! Only diamonds, sapphires and topaz are harder.

The newest countertop offerings are eco-friendly and great for the environment; however, as with most “green” products, they tend to be more expensive than their traditional counterparts.

As with all your home improvement decisions, don’t be too quick to make a selection for the countertop. Research all the possibilities with your consultant and select a surface that is not only easy on the eye, but also tailored to your needs. And it may last until its place is dug up in a thousand years!