Those of us who love watching home renovation shows often fantasize about the dream kitchen. The giant, cutting-edge fridge. The sleek Viking oven. The kitchen island -- and above it, copper pots and pans hung from the ceiling like a culinary chandelier. The oversized sink with stylish faucet. And miles and miles of countertops. If you do any cooking or entertaining, you know that you can't have enough countertop space.

But what sort of countertop should you have installed? Countertop material comes down to about six different types. Here's a brief description of each:

  • Solid surfaces are made of acrylic, polyester or a combination of both. They're resistant to stains and scratches and easy to repair.
  • Plastic laminate might be more familiar to you by the name Formica. It's a durable material available in many colors, textures and patterns.
  • Ceramic tile isn't used as often as it was in the past because most people prefer a seamless countertop.
  • Wood has also fallen out of popularity, due to the mistaken perception that it harbors bacteria. These countertops also require a lot of maintenance.
  • Concrete countertops resemble slabs of natural stone, and can be precast and cured at the manufacturer.
  • Natural stone is currently the most popular trend among homeowners. It includes granite, soapstone and slate.

Once upon a time, granite was only found in very high-end kitchens. It's still not cheap, but not as expensive as it used to be, due to its popularity and availability. People love granite because no two pieces are alike. It comes in all different mottled colors, both bright and deep, with variegated streaks and stripes.

Are you thinking about having granite countertops installed in your kitchen? Or are you hesitant because you've heard granite countertops are high maintenance?

Well, they're not, really. Just follow these steps to keep your granite countertops clean, and you'll be admiring your investment for years to come.