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Stainless-Steel Countertops: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Stainless-Steel Countertops: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Discover more about this sought-after countertop material, along with insights on installation, upkeep and cleaning advice, and typical expenses.

Watching culinary programs, it’s apparent that the majority of professional kitchens are adorned with stainless-steel countertops. They are unparalleled when it comes to resisting heat, water, and stains. While prone to scratches, and potentially appearing stark if not balanced with warmer hues, nothing beats the hassle-free maintenance of metal countertops. Due to its durability, stainless steel reigns as the favored metal for countertops. Here’s a deeper look into installation, maintenance, cleaning, and budgeting for stainless-steel countertops.


After choosing stainless steel, the material needs to be tailored to size and laid over a wooden substructure. For those new to DIY, it’s advisable to let professionals handle this task. Once completed, this substructure is affixed to your base cabinets or island. Stainless steel countertops come with a range of edge profiles like beveled and bullnose, although a wrapped edge is more common. You also have the option to extend the material up the wall for a chic stainless-steel backsplash.

For those adept in metalwork, creating your own metal countertop is possible. While soldering seams demands a high level of expertise, assembling the countertop by overlaying sheet metal on plywood is simpler. Nevertheless, intricate metalwork, especially with costly metals like copper, should be entrusted to a seasoned expert.

Available Finishes

Various finishes are available for stainless steel countertops. The widely favored brushed stainless steel exhibits a directional “grain,” akin to that of wood, and is a common finish on kitchen appliances. Mirror finishes, on the other hand, are highly polished and reflective, though they readily display fingerprints. Matte finishes, such as antique matte, offer a dull or subdued appearance, aiding in concealing fingerprints and water marks.

How It Holds Up

It’s a good idea to opt for a thicker gauge to ensure a durable and high-performing metal countertop. Stainless steel is available in various gauges, roughly from 14 (around 1.4 mm thick) to 20. A lower gauge signifies thicker, sturdier, and often more costly material. Although 14-gauge stainless steel is a standard in commercial kitchens, 16- and 18-gauge steel are fine for most home kitchens.

With proper care, stainless-steel countertops can last 20 years or beyond. If scratches are a concern, consider the wear on your stainless-steel sink. Over time, your countertops will acquire a similar brushed appearance, yet like your sink, they can be buffed and polished. Additionally, metal countertops can be sealed to protect against scratching.

For cleaning stainless-steel countertops, a microfiber cloth is a good choice. When moistened with water, it can effectively clear away most fingerprints and water spots. To handle messes and apply any dedicated steel cleaners, be sure to wipe along the grain of the metal.


Metal countertops come with a higher price tag, though they can be more economical if used as accents within the kitchen. Costs begin around $60 per square foot. Collaborating with a metal sheeting shop might present an opportunity to reduce the expense by having them fabricate your countertops. Alternatively, exploring restaurant supply stores could be a viable option. There are instances where homeowners have repurposed metal tables by using the tops as countertops and islands.

Metal Alternatives

Stainless steel holds the title as the most prevalent metal countertop choice in kitchens. Zinc, also a favored choice, has a pewter-like appearance. A chemical finish can be applied to age zinc, giving it a variegated aesthetic. Copper comes with a heftier price tag, yet for some, the striking finish justifies the cost. Applying a sealant will maintain its warm brown tones, though some color inconsistencies are to be expected. Without treatment, copper will gradually develop a classic verdigris patina.

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