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Education Desk - Countertops

Pros & Cons Of Your Kitchen Countertop Options

Granite

The designer’s choice for at least a decade, granite countertops add class to any kitchen. Granite has a luminous appearance combined with a longwearing surface, and it’s readily available in a multitude of colors and patterns. Granite slabs can be cut and finished to suit kitchens both contemporary and classic, and because it is a naturally occurring stone, each individual countertop is as unique as it is beautiful.

Advantages: Attractive; durable; withstands heat; cut, chop and slice without harming the surface; looks permanent; thousands of colors available; adds significantly to resale value.

Disadvantages: Not DIY friendly; requires sealing every 12 to 18 months to prevent staining; may crack if struck or incorrectly installed; cost can be prohibitive.

Expected Cost: A range of variables including slab thickness, country of origin, number of cuts required, edge treatments, transportation and labor costs can cause the price of granite countertops to fluctuate from as little as $60 to as much as $200 per square foot, including installation.

Quartz

Available in more colors and patterns than granite, engineered quartz countertops are a maintenance-free way to get the look of natural stone. Made of 93 percent quartz crystals combined with heavy-duty polymers, quartz countertops have a non-porous surface of unique clarity and depth. Popular brands including Silestone, Zodiaq and CaeserStone offer warranted quartz countertops in a wide variety of gem-like hues.

Advantages: Unusual, unique appearance; significant return on investment; never needs sealing; naturally stain, scratch, heat and bacteria resistant; won’t be harmed by acids or solvents; easy to clean.

Disadvantages: Heavy; requires professional installation and/or structural reinforcement; seams will be visible in larger kitchens; expensive.

Expected Cost: Costs vary by manufacturer but expect to pay between $50 and $100 per square foot for materials. Installation varies. Most manufacturers offer warranties with professional installation.

Corian

A solid-surface countertop manufactured by DuPont, Corian has come a long way since it was first introduced more than 40 years ago. Now available in a wide variety of contemporary colors and patterns, Corian combines the look of natural stone with the easy care of manufactured materials. It has the smooth, seamless finish of fabricated countertops, and because it is a naturally soft surface, it can prevent breakage if you drop a glass or dinner plate.

Advantages: Seamless; available in a wide variety of unusual colors to suit any décor; adds to home value; lightweight and easy to install; cleans easily; non-porous; stain-resistant.

Disadvantages: Not heat resistant; may develop a film if improperly cleaned; prone to scratches, dings and dents; costly.

Expected Cost: The absence of mining and finishing costs and the ease of installation make Corian less pricey than stone. The cost per square foot installed ranges from around $40 to $70 per square foot.

Laminates

Attractive, waterproof, easy to clean and install, and inexpensive: Laminate countertops are a dream come true for homeowners who’d like to update the look of a kitchen or bathroom without spending a fortune. Modern laminate countertops are widely manufactured in an array of finishes and edge treatments. Some even mimic the look of granite, quartz or marble at a fraction of the cost. Simple installation makes laminates a natural for the DIY enthusiast.

Advantages: Inexpensive; sturdy; easy to install and clean; surface is water-resistant; can be replaced if desired with minimal expense.

Disadvantages: Not heat resistant; prone to chipping and scratching; water invasion through cuts or scratches can lead to warping; exposed ends must be finished separately.

Expected Cost: The materials used in construction effects the pricing of laminate countertops. Simple kraft and melamine countertops can run from $5 to $20 per linear foot, while the introduction of glass fibers raises the price to $40 to $50 per linear foot. Heavy-duty carbon reinforced laminates suitable for industrial applications can cost as much as $60 per linear foot.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile countertops are hard to beat for customization options. Mix and match the huge array of available colors and patterns, or cut the tiles to create interesting accents or repeating motifs. Ceramic tile has a naturally glossy, reflective surface that brightens small kitchens and creates one-of-a-kind designer looks in larger ones.

Advantages: Beautiful; fully customizable; resists heat from pots and pans; individual tiles are relatively simple to replace in the event of damage; custom looks add significant home value.

Disadvantages: Prone to chipping and cracking; grout may stain; uneven surface can be difficult to clean; installation is labor intensive; replacement tiles can be difficult to find.

Expected Cost: A good-quality ceramic tile countertop can be had for between $10 and $30 per square foot (material only). Intricately patterned, imported or porcelain tiles can be very expensive, ranging from $30 to $70 per tile. Labor can be estimated at 18 percent of material cost.

Wood

Solid wood or butcher-block countertops create a warm, welcoming and homey atmosphere. Wooden countertops have become increasingly popular as homeowners gravitate toward natural materials. As a renewable resource, wood is more environmentally friendly than stone or manufactured materials, and reclaimed or recycled lumber is even more so. Wood countertops can be used in natural finishes or stained to suit overall kitchen or bath décor.

Advantages: Attractive; creates desirable, unusual looks; durable; resists bacteria; easy to clean; scratches can be sanded out and the surface refinished; green; affordable.

Disadvantages: Prone to scratches and dings; not heat resistant; must be sealed periodically to maintain waterproof surface; requires routine oiling to prevent warping.

Expected Cost: Prices vary by the type of wood used. Expect to pay between $45 and $75 per square foot for a serviceable maple countertop. Other hardwoods including American cherry and walnut run from $50 to $75 per square foot. Exotic woods like teak can cost as much as $135 per square foot. Pre-made, unfinished blanks are the most affordable option. A 12’ X 25’ section can cost as little as $100.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the perfect countertop choice for amateur chefs or people who enjoy sleek, modern design. Whether custom fabricated or used in preformed sections, stainless steel counters give kitchens a clean, contemporary look, and they acquire a beautiful, warm patina as they age. Since the surface is virtually germ-free, stainless steel is perfect for anyone who loves to cook.

Advantages: Modern; antimicrobial; easy to clean; can be manufactured to specifications and may be seamless; heat resistant; longwearing.

Disadvantages: Can look cold or industrial; scratches easily under knives or abrasive cleaners; may eventually rust or oxidize; shows fingerprints.

Expected Cost: The cost of stainless steel countertops varies by the thickness of the material used, but typically ranges between $60 and $80 per square foot. Unusual cuts, corners or shapes can increase the cost. Acid etching of the surface adds between $4 and $8 per linear foot.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock that is composed of talc, quartz and other minerals. Much like marble, it is often marked with distinctive veining and no two soapstone countertops are ever exactly alike. Soapstone feels warm and smooth to the touch. Available in blue and green tones but most often seen in shades of gray, soapstone acquires a patina over time and naturally darkens with age.

Advantages: Affordable natural stone alternative; impermeable surface is bacteria and stain-resistant; durable; highly prized by prospective buyers; tolerates heat from pots and pans; scratches can be sanded out.

Disadvantages: Requires regular oiling to prevent cracking; prone to scratching; darkens over time; heavy; requires professional installation and/or structural reinforcement.

Expected Cost: Depending on the thickness and grade of the soapstone used in your countertops, the cost can range from around $55 to $70 per square foot installed, making it one of the most affordable natural stone countertop options.

Marble

The smooth surface, distinctive veining and elegant appearance of marble have made it a prized architectural accent since ancient times. Marble countertops are available in a wide variety of colors and add a touch of luxury to kitchens and baths. Although marble is an expensive material to use for complete kitchen counters, it can be used sparingly to great effect on kitchen islands or vanities.

Advantages: Beautiful and elegant; wide choice of colors and patterns; smooth, durable surface; easy to clean; heat resistant; increases resale value.

Disadvantages: Porous surface may stain and can be etched by lemon juice, vinegar or other acids; needs regular, professional sealing; prone to scratching; requires professional installation; expensive.

Expected Cost: Marble costs vary by thickness and country of origin but range between $60 and $80 per square foot. Special cuts, edging treatments and backsplashes are extra.

Concrete

Concrete may seem like an unlikely choice for a countertop, but modern construction techniques have transformed this ho-hum industrial material into one of the most versatile countertop options available. Pigments create concrete countertops in virtually any color, and the addition of colored stones or glass to the wet mix results in terrazzo or mosaic effects. Concrete countertops are finished to a burnished patina, and industrial sealers create a smooth, non-porous surface.

Advantages: Modern and attractive; can be poured onsite or pre-cast into almost any shape or edge pattern; durable; resists stains, chipping and cracking; available in many colors and patterns; ideal for rounded or asymmetrical designs.

Disadvantages: May develop hairline cracks or settle when curing; sealant coatings can be scratched or damaged by heat; heavy; requires substantial, professional labor for installation and finishing; expensive.

Expected Cost: Pricing for concrete countertops will vary depending on whether the countertops are cast onsite or in the shop. Colors, material additions and unusual shapes or features will also affect the final price. In general, a high-quality tinted concrete countertop should run about $100 per square foot, installed.