One of our biggest pieces of advice when picking out materials for your remodel is to choose materials that not only look great, but are also low-maintenance. This way, it won’t take much effort from you to keep your newly-redone space looking great! Let’s go over some of our favorite low-maintenance materials:
1. Engineered Quartz Counters (& Matching Backsplash Slabs)
Engineered quartz is a man-made product that uses 90-96% natural quartz and 4-10% resins & coloring pigments to create a significantly more durable countertop option. The engineering process has gotten rid of most of the flaws of natural stone, making quartz stain-, scratch-, heat-, acid-, and impact-resistant. It’s also a non-porous surface, so you don’t ever have to reseal it. Quartz comes in so many color options, you are sure to find something you love! It can look like granite or marble, or even be a solid color like Corian. It also comes in several texture options like gloss, honed/matte, and an in-between often referred to as a “concrete” or textured finish.
Instead of pairing your counters with a tile backsplash, go for an 18” solid slab backsplash that matches your countertop (or complements it, if matching isn’t your style). It will be easier to wipe down than that subway tile backsplash that has grout lines every 3” to 6”, and will have the same warranty as your countertop, which, if you’re using something like Cambria or MSI’s Q-Quartz, is a lifetime warranty.
2. Solid-Surface Showers & Tub Surrounds
Solid-surface showers and tub surrounds come in a variety of materials, looks, and manufacturers.
Some of our favorite products include:
- The Onyx Collection: a cultured granite product with a fantastic lifetime guarantee (no really, it’s a lifetime guarantee – they will stand behind their products), made in Kansas, plus they have matching countertops
- Tyvarian: a cultured marble with high-definition images incorporated into a clear top coat that is backed by a limestone matrix (meaning their colors will not fade), made in Utah
- Swanstone: a classic solid-surface product that has revamped itself and is making a comeback, and offers matching countertops
- MSI’s Stile®: 6mm and 12mm thick large-format porcelain slabs, available in 13 color options, that can also be used as flooring and countertops
And, did we mention: Onyx, Tyvarian, and Swanstone all offer panel options that look like tile, but don’t have real grout lines, saving you cleaning time and energy.
3. TopZero Sinks
We’ve talked about it before and we’ll keep talking about it: TopZero Sinks are described as “the healthiest sink on the market” and it’s easy to see why. These revolutionary sinks become integrated with the countertop during installation so unlike drop-in and undermount sinks, TopZero sinks are seamless and rimless, leaving no space for bacteria or mold to grow. There is no annoying lip to try and wipe crumbs over like on a drop-in sink, and no caulk lines to mold or fail like with an undermount sink. Plus, all TopZero Stainless Steel Sinks are manufactured with premium 304 stainless steel that is non‐porous, hygienic, rust free, and extremely durable.
The best part is that because there are no seams or joints between the counter and these sinks, you never have to worry about re-caulking. Once the sink is installed, it’s completely maintenance-free, for life.
Keep in mind these sinks do need to be professionally installed – this is not a DIY-friendly product. But the value they bring to the table (or should we say the kitchen) is well-worth the initial installation cost. Plus, they now offer this incredible design feature in utility sinks, vanity sinks, and a new porcelain series.
4. Luxury Vinyl Plank or Luxury Vinyl Tile
Luxury Vinyl Plank, or LVP, gives you the look of hardwood floors, with better durability and water-resistance (or sometimes even water-proof-ness). Luxury Vinyl Tile, or LVT, does the same, but with the look of natural stone tile.
Not only are LVP and LVT significantly easier to install than real hardwood or real tile, they are also equal in price or even a more affordable option most of the time.
Real tile, if it’s ceramic or porcelain (or sealed properly) can be watertight, but grout is not. Plus, who wants to spend hours scrubbing and steaming grout lines to make them look white again? LVT eliminates the grout lines and is easily mopped with any non-abrasive cleaner (and preferably one that’s pH-neutral.)
Similarly, LVP can be dry- or wet-mopped, it won’t absorb water spills* unlike real hardwood, and it stands up better to kids and pets.
There are two inner “cores” that make up Luxury Vinyl materials:
Rigid Core (also called Engineered Vinyl Plank, or EVP**)
- Stone-polymer composite, or SPC (rigid core, offers the best durability, especially against water)
- Wood-polymer composite, or WPC (also rigid core, but because it’s a wood-polymer, it feels more like real hardwood when you walk on it)
- Hardened vinyl (not as durable as SPC or as comfortable as WPC)
If the product you are looking at says it’s rigid core, but doesn’t specify whether it’s SPC or WPC, it’s probably a fully PVC core, which is basically the same quality as flexible core.
- Not as durable or as comfortable as hardened vinyl
- Best for installation over existing sheet vinyl or laminate flooring, especially if being installed with the glue-down method
Some of our favorite LVP & LVT manufacturers include Cali Vinyl, COREtec (the inventor of WPC flooring), and Armstrong Flooring.
*Must be installed per manufacturer’s instructions, and any spills should be cleaned up ASAP.
**EVP is not the same as engineered hardwood.
You’ve probably noticed that many of these low-maintenance surface options are replacements for tile. We don’t have anything against tile. We’ve done a lot of remodels with tile. Tile can look really spectacular. That being said, it’s not the easiest option to maintain. We hope these material suggestions have given you some ideas of alternative ways to get a “tile look” while minimizing your long-term care investment.