Marble and granite tend to be the most common choices for countertop materials, but plenty of other options exist for pleasing aesthetics, durability, and usability. A slate countertop, for example, can usually be installed for a lower cost than marble or granite, and it will be more effective at being useful for kitchen applications. Slate tends to be fairly unremarkable in terms of appearance; a slate countertop is likely to be a shade of black or gray, as other options are unlikely to be available. It is, however, reasonably attractive as a material and well-suited to kitchen use.
The slate countertop will resist damage from heat, which means a cook can feasibly place a hot pot or pan on the countertop without damaging it. The slate is usually unsealed, which means there are no layers to burn away or melt. In addition, the stone naturally distributes heat, so heat damage is less likely on this soft stone than on harder marbles or granites. Unfortunately, a slate countertop will not be similarly resistant to scratching or gouging. Cutting on the countertop is not advisable, as scratches can be ugly and troublesome. It is possible, however, to buff out small scratches with a cloth and some mineral oil. Deeper scratches will require a more abrasive scrub such as steel wool.
Marble has a tendency to get stained very easily from liquids, while granite and slate are more resistant to such damage. A slate countertop can absorb moisture over time, since slate is soft and porous, but the absorption rate is fairly slow and the stone is unlikely to be damaged from regular washing or exposure to moisture for many years. Cleaning the slate countertop is fairly easy and can be done with warm water and mild soap. It can then be conditioned and preserved using a coating of mineral oil on all exposed surfaces.
People looking for the aesthetic of slate but with better strength and durability often choose soapstone instead. Soapstone has a similar appearance to slate, though soapstone will often have light-colored veins that further enhance the aesthetic of the countertop. Soapstone is also more resistant to staining and chipping than slate, though soapstone can also develop gouges or scratches over time. Soapstone may also cost slightly more than a slate countertop. Of course, soapstone is still a more affordable option than granite, which is one of the more expensive, but also most durable, materials for a countertop.