Stainless Steel Countertops: Everything You Should Know

Stainless steel countertops have been a staple of industrial and commercial kitchens for decades, offering many benefits. They are easy to maintain and resistant to heat, corrosion, and breaking. Additionally, they are non-porous, making them easy to sanitize, which is critical for commercial settings.

Stainless steel appliances and cooking equipment have been trending in residential kitchens for some years. Over the last couple of years, stainless steel countertops have also become increasingly popular in homes. Let’s look at everything you should know about stainless steel countertops.

5 Pros of Stainless Steel Countertops

Stainless steel countertops are becoming so popular due to their many benefits. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons that homeowners are considering stainless steel countertops in their kitchens.

1. Durable

Stainless steel countertops are incredibly durable and resilient. They are highly resistant to breaking, cracking, chipping, or splitting. Stainless steel can take a lot of abuse without sustaining damage. Over time, these countertops will develop a used look with light scratches and marks. Those add to the appeal for many homeowners, and most are relatively easy to adjust or fix if you are unhappy with the appearance.

2. Resistant to Common Countertop Problems

In addition to their durability, stainless steel countertops are water-, heat-, and stain-resistant. You can put hot pans and cookie sheets on your steel without worrying about marking or cracking it. The steel can easily absorb the heat without any adverse side effects, unlike many stone countertop options.

Stainless steel is also resistant to coloring from food, oils, fats, and acids, which might normally damage a stone countertop. It is also resistant to rust and corrosion due to the chromium in the steel.

3. Beautiful

Stainless steel countertops certainly have a distinctive elegance to them. They give a sleek, modern appearance to a kitchen. It is a very monochrome look. With proper lighting, you can utilize the reflective nature of stainless steel to make the kitchen look bigger than it is.

4. Easy to Clean and Maintain

Because stainless steel countertops are non-porous, they are easy to clean and hygienic. For homeowners, maintenance is very simple. Use a stainless steel cleaning product, such as Rock Doctor Stainless Steel Cleaner & Protectant, to keep countertops clean and streak-free. A proper stainless steel cleaner will help remove dirt, grease, fingerprint marks, smudges, and more.

The Stainless Steel Cleaner & Protectant from Rock Doctor not only helps keep countertops clean without harsh chemicals, but it also helps protect the natural patina of the steel with a special, proprietary blend of natural oils.

5. Easy to Install

For installation, a metal sheet is wrapped around a wooden frame and cut to size. You’ll need extra sizing depending on how you prefer the edges or if you want a backsplash. A hardwood slab is sometimes placed underneath to support the steel countertop and help better resist dents.

No sealing is necessary. Once the stainless steel countertop is installed, it is ready for use.

4 Cons of Stainless Steel Countertops

Every countertop material has its downsides. Here are some of the cons of stainless steel countertops:

1. Scratches and Dents Easily

Stainless steel is a strong, durable material, but there are still limitations. Freshly installed, your counter will be incredibly smooth and uniform, probably with a particular “grain” pattern. This isn’t truly a grain pattern but rather just the direction the steel was polished in.

With use, your countertop will gain light scratches. Over time, these scratches will develop into a used patina effect that many homeowners find attractive. However, not all homeowners find it appealing; some prefer the newly polished look.

If heavy items are dropped from a height, they may dent your countertop. Dents can be mitigated by installing your stainless steel countertop over a hardwood base. If they are in close contact, the hardwood can absorb kinetic energy from dropped pans and reduce denting on the countertop. If you have the budget, a thicker stainless steel countertop (a smaller gauge) will also better absorb impacts and dents.

2. Shows Fingerprints

If you’ve ever had stainless steel appliances like a fridge, you’ll know that fingerprints tend to leave their mark. This will be maddening for some homeowners, and frequent wiping will be necessary. Luckily, the fingerprints are very easy to clean with a stainless steel-specific cleaner.

3. Looks Industrial

Stainless steel has a cold, cool sort of aesthetic. It varies between a modern, sleek look and a stern, industrial look. In terms of color, steel is very neutral, allowing it to match any color or theme you want in your kitchen.

Some homeowners embrace the cool, elegant look. Others use the benefits of stainless steel where it is best suited. For example, you might install stainless steel countertops around your oven and stove and have granite countertops for your prep areas. Stainless steel around your oven and stove lets you set hot pans and dishes down to cool, while the granite adds interest and color to your kitchen.

4. Produces Loud Noises

There’s a reason restaurant kitchens always sound loud and boisterous. When you drop things on a stainless steel countertop, they make a lot of noise. Stainless steel is noisy. Clashing and clanging pots and pats, along with the risk of dents, will teach you to put them down gently. The extra noise does take some getting used to.

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How Are Stainless Steel Countertops Installed?

Stainless steel countertops are generally custom-fabricated specifically for your kitchen. Sheets of stainless steel are cut to match your countertop space. The sheet is typically wrapped over the edge to look similar to other countertop materials. This wrapping helps protect the borders and looks nice but also costs more.

You can even have the stainless steel run up the wall for a backsplash. Alternatively, you can have the stainless steel cut to be flush with the wooden support base to save money. There are many edge options to choose from, including beveled, bullnose (rounded), no wrap, and square.

What Are the Finish Options for Stainless Steel Countertops?

The finish you select for your stainless steel countertops can have a dramatic impact on the look and feel of the surface in your kitchen. Here are four types of stainless steel countertop finishes to consider:

  • Mirror Polish: The steel has been polished and given a mirrored-appearance, allowing you to easily see your reflection on its surface. It looks great. However, imperfections, scratches, and especially fingerprints are more noticeable on a mirror polish finish.
  • Satin Finish: A slightly rougher grit is used compared to the mirror polish to achieve a satin polish. Satin and brushed metal finishes are the most common. This finish has enough polish so that you can see vague shapes and shadows in the light reflected from its surface. It hides scratches more easily than a mirror polish, and it is harder to see fingerprints.
  • Brushed Finish: Sometimes called a “directional satin finish,” a brushed metal finish is similar to a satin finish. The difference is all the polishing is done in the same direction, giving the steel a sort of “grain” looking pattern.
  • Antique Matte Finish: As the name suggests, the matte finish is even less reflective. The steel has a neutral gray appearance.

There are a few more options when it comes to stainless steel finishes. You can have your countertops blackened, blued, or all manners of other treatments. All you have to do is find someone capable of doing the job (though you should double-check that their method is food-safe).

Tips for Buying Stainless Steel Countertops

Purchasing new countertops can be stressful. With so many different options to choose from, it can be a long road just to choose the right material for your home. And once you make that decision, there are many other decisions you need to make, as well. Here are a few expert tips for purchasing stainless steel countertops.

  • Cost: High-quality stainless steel countertops cost between $75 and $150 per square foot installed, a ballpark similar to the cost of marble. The price will vary depending on the gauge (thickness) and how much customization you need. The thicker the countertop, the more steel required, and the more expensive the steel is. But a thicker countertop is less likely to dent.
  • Gauge: In a home kitchen, contractors will typically recommend 16- or 18-gauge steel for countertops. Lower gauge steel is going to cost considerably more, but higher gauge steel won’t be durable enough for most homes.
  • Appearance: Remember to research edge profiles and finishes prior to making a final purchase. You will want to consider how each will make your countertops look, as well as how these decisions will impact the cost of your final purchase.

How to Care for Stainless Steel Countertops

One of the best features of stainless steel countertops is how easy they are to maintain. Don’t use harsh cleaners or abrasives on stainless steel countertops like steel wool. Instead, use Rock Doctor’s Stainless Steel Cleaner & Protectant.

Our proprietary blend of natural oils and solvents will clean and protect your stainless steel, chrome, or aluminum surfaces and eliminate fingerprints, smudges, dirt, grease, and other kitchen spills. It will polish your stainless steel countertops back to their original shine.

Stainless steel does indeed “stainless.” It is not, however, “stain-free.” It can stain or darken with enough exposure to water or acid (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.). Wipe up water and acids immediately, and don’t let them set on your countertops. If you do run into a stain that isn’t coming out easily, use a little baking soda and rub it in the direction of the steel grain. Follow up the stain removal with a quick clean.

Do you have questions about Rock Doctor’s products? Feel free to call today at 913-894-0288, and one of our experts will answer any questions.