SOLID SURFACING was pioneered by DuPont as Corian some 30 years ago and is is now made by half a dozen manufacturers. It's nonporous, does not stain, and offers a large number of colors and patterns from which to choose. Installation is seamless, so there's no place for dirt to accumulate, and it can be curved in all different ways for a customized shape. Integral sinks can be added for a completely seamless installation. Because the surface is solid, without the thin decorative layer of laminate, scorch marks, scratches, and other defects can be sanded out or repaired. It will scratch, though, so you shouldn't cut directly on it. It's also not heat-resistant.

Cost: It's not cheap, ranging from $40 to $75 per square foot. It's less expensive than engineered stone and granite, but pricier than tile.

WOOD (Butcher Block) is the original solid surface. It works with many different kitchen styles, from tradition to contemporary, but today's trend is to mix it with other surfaces. Butcher block counters are warm, resilient, and long-wearing, and the forgiving surface is easy on your knives. Damaged areas can be scraped, sanded, and refinished to get a nearly new appearance. Wood countertops do require regular attention and ongoing applications of oil (as often as every four to eight weeks). Standing water will damage the wood and make it split or crack, so you need to mop up spills immediately. It's not heat-resistant, and it's vulnerable to burns. The biggest common myth about butcher block is that wood promotes bacteria, but that's not necessarily true. The capillary action of the dry wood makes germs disappear from the surface quickly.

Cost: Premium hard-rock maple butcher block, 1 1/2 inches thick, might start at $26 per square foot uninstalled.
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