Countertops are an important feature for a home or business. They are heavily utilized surfaces that can have dramatic effects on the look of a space.
When selecting a countertop, you must consider price, durability and the look. Stainless steel countertops combine style with function to make a counter that is timeless in style and durability.
What is a Stainless Steel Countertop Exactly?
Stainless steel is a steel alloy that combines steel with a minimum of 10.5% chromium. The addition of the chromium is what differentiates stainless steel from carbon steel. The presence of the chromium makes the steel non-porous and impervious to oxidation and staining. This material is a poor conductor of heat making it impervious to burns from hot pans. Because it is non-porous, it does not hold mold or bacteria.
Types of Stainless Steel Countertops
There are several types and gauges of stainless steel available. Certain types and alloys are used mostly in industrial applications. Type 904, 316 and alloy 20 stainless steel are all used in industrial applications. These stainless steels are resistant to sulfuric acid, a common chemical found in industrial settings.
Type 304 stainless steel is typically used in kitchens. This steel is also called austenitic or food-grade stainless. It comes in gauges ranging from 14 to 20, the higher the gauge the thinner the steel. Households typically use a 16 or 18 gauge while 14 gauge is the standard commercial thickness.
Can You Cut on a Stainless Steel Countertop?
The ability to cut on stainless depends on the finish you are trying to maintain. Stainless is prone to scratching. Many people consider the scratches and abrasions that accumulate part of the desired patina. For others, they desire the brilliant mirror finish free from scratches.
If you do not want prevent or minimize scratching, always use a cutting board when using a knife. However, if you do cut directly on the steel, the knife will likely be more damaged than the countertop.
How Do You Clean Stainless Steel Countertops?
Stainless is often selected because of the carefree nature of the material. Typically, a mild soap and water is all that is required to thoroughly clean the surface. If you have a mirror finish, it is advised to use specific stainless cleaners and polishes that help minimize, and fill in, fine scratches.
A brushed finish can hide any scratches that will appear in stainless. If you have a brushed finish, a stainless cleaner will help cut down on the fingerprints that will still be visible on a brushed finish.
Other Maintenance Tips of Stainless Steel Countertops
Stainless is a virtually indestructible material. Realistically, it does have weaknesses, but it is unlikely to come across the conditions that can damage stainless in the home. The easiest way to damage stainless, in the home, is through denting. The household application of stainless calls for a lighter gauge that is prone to dents. To prevent damage to your counters, do not place extremely heavy items on stainless surfaces.
The Pros of Stainless Steel Countertops
There are several positives when it comes to using stainless steel. This is why you see it used in so many applications, from industrial to household.
It is easy to customize because of the materials flexibility. Custom shapes are easy to cut as well as mold.
It is extremely durable. The material resists stains, mold, and bacteria. The scratches that form are considered part of the patina and do not compromise the integrity of the surface. It is impervious to most acids, with hydrochloric acid being the only sure kryptonite for stainless.
Stainless is a poor heat conductor. This means that is extremely difficult to burn. You can safely place a red hot pan on the surface without a single mark left behind. Because it is a poor conductor, the heat from the pan will not radiate through the steel, making the entire surface hot to the touch. Instead, the heat will remain only in the location of the hot pan, and only for a brief amount of time.
The finish is versatile, appropriate for several different decors from modern minimalism to vintage industrial.
The Cons of Stainless Steel Countertops
Stainless is prone to scratches. As discussed, many people consider the scratches part of the desired patina. However, if you select a mirror polished finish, scratching is a major concern. You must use specific polishing products to maintain the gloss to prevent and mitigate any scratching. Once a significant scratch forms, which happens easily, it can be difficult to impossible to successfully buff out the scratch.
It gives a clinical and cold look. Stainless is durable, but it can add an edge to the look of a space. Sometimes this is not a desired effect.
Stainless is a loud material. Stainless counters will make a special clang when coming into contact with pots, pans, and cutlery. Doors constructed in stainless have a tendency to cave in and out slightly, making a racket each time.
How Much Does a Stainless Steel Counter Cost?
The cost of a counter made in the steel can vary depending on the level of customizations required. If you are custom installing, the material can run between $75 and $100 per square foot.
It is possible to save more money if you buy prefabricated units and counter sizes. Several manufactures make both custom and prefabricated countertops. Cabinets and units, that are prefabricated, are a price effective solution to integrate the material in a space. Stainless steel islands are a popular choice for both personal and professional kitchens.
Stainless steel is a good material to use when constructing countertops. It is one of the most durable surfaces that you can purchase. It is important to consider the application of the material if you want to prevent a cold, or clinical decor.
However, if your goal is functionality and an indestructible surface, there is no better choice than stainless steel. Choose a finish that hides any signs of wear or embrace the natural patina of the carefree material. It is not difficult to customize stainless into any desired shape or length. It is a material that can be used in homes, offices, and industrial settings.