Kitchen Design/Remodeling/countertops


QUESTION: I want to replace my counter top with  ceramic tile. I have been discouraged to do this as I hear from a lot of people that it is not as sanitary as smooth top counter top as the bacteria gets trapped in the grout and that there's the problem of it breaking and all. What is the best, most economical type of counter top I could install? I don't like granite or stone or any kind of shabby chic or rustic style. I am content with wood laminate- Wilsonart kind if I can find the vintage color I like and that it is glossy and not pitted to look like stone.  I originally wanted stainless steel kind because of the germs and it being the cleanest type and easiest to clean as well but I wanted it to be the vintage kind and not the industrial kind. Also, I wanted to install a vintage cast iron sink to replace my Elkay one that is still very good. I bought this cast iron one about 3 years ago and want to install it but what kind of problems would this give me? And I also have the hoodie ring(metal ring that went around the sink used in the 60s) . I also have the vintage faucet that has not been used and is made of plastic from the top of the handle but not the rest of it as it appears to be steel as it doesn't sound hollow like chrome. It has the copper part and steel parts that go underneath the sink. Please give me your expert advice so that I can proceed with my project. thank you.

ANSWER: Hello, Esther.

There's good news regarding tile countertops: First, you don't have to "settle" for ceramic tile. Porcelain tile is more durable, although it's a little more expensive -- but it's still less than stone or solid-surface. Definitely less expensive than stainless steel. And, secondly, there's epoxy grout that's much better than standard grout, although it's also more expensive. Laticrete ( says this about their epoxy grout, "Inhibits the growth of stain-causing mold and mildew in the grout joints with Microban anti-microbial product protection."

Grout joints are much smaller than they used to be, approx. 1/8". The advantage that you have with tile is that it's relatively easy to do an undermount kitchen sink, so it's easy to clean -- but you have to find a tile that has the appropriate trim (quarter rounds), and the sink shouldn't have a high lip. Hopefully, you won't have to use a hoodie rim, unless you select a laminate countertop.

Before you make a final decision, please check out two kinds of countertops that are the best for easy cleaning, and bacteria resistance: "Corian," and engineered stone (many manufacturers and styles available). Yes, they're more expensive than laminate or tile, but they're much more durable. I just visited a client whose kitchen was completed six years ago. She is one of the most devoted home chefs I've ever known, so her kitchen gets serious daily use, as well as heavy use for entertaining. She chose "Silestone," one of the engineered stones. It looks as good as it did the day it was installed!

I've written several comprehensive articles about countertops, that gives detailed information about all available products, and associated investment. Here are the links:

Good luck with your project!

Warm regards,

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, NCIDQ, C.A.P.S.
D. P. Design

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have seen these materials you're referring to and I just don't like any of them. They all resemble stone of some sort and I'm just not crazy about that. If we have wood laminate the Wilsonart kind that is glossy, wouldn't it be fine if I used clorox to kill the germs? I want either ceramic tile or this one. What are your thoughts on stainless steel and can any contractor who deals with kitchen remodeling be able to set it properly and what specific kind would be the least shiny to camouflage the scratches it would take. Or do you think it is too much for a regular kitchen. I want something that is practical and easy to remove germs. Thank you.

Hello, Esther.

Laminate countertops are fine, as long as they're not damaged by harsh abrasives or scratches caused by knives, etc. I'm concerned about using strong bleach on a regular basis. There are many non-abrasive (and non-toxic) cleaners that do an excellent job for killing bacteria.

Regarding your question about stainless countertops, they should only be fabricated and installed by a professional that specializes in working with stainless steel. There is a world of difference in your investment for stainless steel and tile or laminate. If you're going to invest that much money, get the best -- you won't regret it. Stainless steel is a great countertop surface, but as you stated, it's easily scratched. There's no way I know of to prevent it. Most people who choose stainless steel like the "patina" that evolves over time.

Bottom line, my recommendation is to select tile that will have small grout joints. As stated in my earlier answer, the major advantage you have with tile is that a kitchen sink can be mounted below the tile, which makes cleanup much easier (and less area for germs to hide under the lip or hoodie rim). There are food-safe grout sealers, or you can use the epoxy grout I mentioned before. You'll get better lifetime use and appearance from tile.

Hope this helps you. Good luck with your decision!


Diane Plesset, CMKBD, NCIDQ, C.A.P.S.

Kitchen Design/Remodeling

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Diane Plesset


I will answer questions about kitchen design, remodeling: appliances, cabinets, countertops, lighting/switching, accessible kitchens, kitchens for multiple cooks, kitchen trends, flooring, windows and doors, ventilation, safety, function, and style.


25+ years as a kitchen designer; over 10 years as a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer. Hundreds of projects completed, in all styles, all ranges of investment. Multiple design awards and published articles (see below). Public speaker and lecturer about home remodeling. Co-host of a local radio program for over three years, currently the host of "Today's Home" on Lifetime WebRadio every Sunday afternoon (website:

NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association); NAHB (National Association of Home Builders); PRO (Portland Remodelers' Organization); IDPC (Interior Design Protection Council)

"THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" (book published in 2003), Gentry Magazine, Designers' Illustrated Magazine, Interior Coordinator Magazine (Japan); San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oregonian, Statesman Journal Newspapers.

Multiple degrees, including bathroom design, kitchen design, lighting design, and residential interior design. Classes and seminars attended frequently, to maintain current knowledge about products, trends, codes, and technology.

Awards and Honors
Multiple certifications: Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer (NKBA), Certified Interior Designer (NCIDQ, National Council of Interior Design Qualification), and Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (NAHB). Awards include: Henry Adams Designer of the Year, CoTY, Master Design, Chrysalis, Best of the Best, Excellence (Best home in its category), and NABE (Best how-to book, 2003).

Past/Present Clients
To see photos of completed projects, please visit my website:

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