Over the course of a dozen remodels among us, we've had experience with several different kitchen countertop materials. We all have our favorites; for Francesca, it's marble, Sarah favors stainless steel, Julie likes laboratory countertops, and I'm partial to soapstone. Following are our picks, based on years of use (and abuse). Have experience with any of these materials (or others we've left off the list)? Feel free to weigh in.

Above: Francesca's kitchen prep area features a counter made of statuary marble (it's whiter than Carrara marble and features bold gray veining). It's important to choose slabs carefully and be sure to mark the seam areas, so that the variations match up pleasingly (this often requires several trips to the stone yard). ABC Stone Trading at 234 Banker Street in Brooklyn is an excellent source for marble slab for countertops.

Above: Using different surfaces for kitchen countertops is a solution to materials monotony (for instance, Francesca's countertops on the cooking side of her galley kitchen are stainless steel). Stainless-steel countertops can be found at restaurant suppliers; for an online source that ships, try A-Line Stainless Countertops. Photo via Messana O'Rorke Architects.

Above: Consider a brushed finish on a stainless countertop, like the one pictured from a Henrybuilt Kitchen.

Above: Janet's kitchen countertops over the years have included granite, stainless, wood, and soapstone (a favorite for its color, feel, heat-resistance, and durability). It's called soapstone because of the soft feel of the surface, which is due to the presence of talc in the stone. Vermont is one of the world's major producers of soapstone; Castleton, VT-based Green Mountain Soapstone has an informative site. Prices vary and are comparable to granite, running between $50 and $90 a square foot. Perfectionists take note: Soapstone will show signs of wear and will develop a patina over time.

Above: An option worthy of serious consideration: the eco-friendly Squak Mountain Stone Composite Countertop. Developed by an entrepreneur as part of her master's thesis (she was attempting to produce a building material using only locally sourced and recycled materials), the countertop is made from Portland cement, waste flyash, waste glass dust, mixed waste paper, and pigments. Coated with a food-grade acrylic sealant and buffed to a sheen, the material is stain resistent and warm to the touch. Sample packs are available for $50 through the Environmental Home Center. Photo via Sunset; see a slideshow of Earth-Friendly Kitchen Counters at Sunset.

Above: John Boos Classic Maple Butcher Block Countertops are 1.5 inches thick and come in a variety of lengths and widths. Boos offers three different types of wood: hard rock maple, red oak, and lyptus, a dark wood similar to cherry. Maintenance includes periodic oiling; nicks and burns can be lightly sanded and the surface reoiled.

Above: Ikea offers the affordable oiled-beech Numerar Wood Countertop, which comes in precut lengths. A countertop measuring 49 5/8 by 25 5/8 by 1 1/2 inches is $89.

Above: Tacoma, WA-based Richlite makes durable, warm-to-the-touch countertops from resin-impregnated wood pulp from certified forests; go to Richlite for dealer information. Prices range from $10 to $15 per square foot; available in a range of colors.

Above: The popular and highly-rated quartz-based CaesarStone countertop has caught on in recent years (we've heard many positive reports). Made from ground quartz; CaesarStone countertops typically cost about $60 to $80 per square foot, installed, and come in a wide range of colors. Go to CaesarStone for dealer information.

Above: Used in custom projects by Henrybuilt, one of our favorite kitchen-design outfits, Finnish-made Durat is a polyester-based solid-surface material resistant to wear, humidity, and chemicals. Made of 30 percent recycled post-industrial plastic, Durat is 100 percent recyclable, is available in 70 colors, and can be renewed with a light sanding.