Options that look great without a lot of effort
Soapstone. This natural beauty is composed primarily of talc, and is available in a palette of grays and charcoals. Like quartz, it’s non-porous, so you avoid the hassle of regular sealing. Soapstone has outstanding heat resistance; if you have a tendency to put a hot pot directly on a countertop, soapstone could be your saving grace.
Because it’s soft, soapstone does nick and scratch easily, so make sure to use a cutting board. (You can repair small scratches by sanding them and applying mineral oil.)
Take note: Soapstone darkens over time, developing a distinct patina—something to keep in mind, depending on the aesthetic you want.
Laminate. Today’s laminate is a far cry from the laminate that adorned many a 1960’s kitchen countertops. You can find this inexpensive and easy-to-install option in hundreds of colors and patterns—even designs that look like granite or marble.
Made from layers of plastic that are bonded to particleboard or kraft paper, laminate countertops are strong surfaces that can withstand stains and some heat (to be on the safe side, use a trivet).
Take note: Laminate is prone to cuts, and cut or scratched laminate isn’t repairable, so make sure to use a cutting board.