Kitchen Countertops

By Robert Robillard on Kitchens

Kitchen CountertopsHow To Choose A Kitchen Countertop

Should I update my Kitchen Countertops? I get that question a lot.

Counter tops are the focal point of any kitchen and they play a large role in the aesthetics and design. In addition to being stylish and attractive, countertops need to be functional and practical.

Whether you are completely remodeling your kitchen and installing new cabinets and counter or you are reusing your cabinets and simply upgrading your counter tops, this article will present you with some factual information to help you make an informed decision on choosing the right counter top.

Note on Reusing Your Cabinets:

Painting kitchen cabinets has become more and more popular. Many times clients have solid, quality cabinets but hate the color or that they are slightly worn.  To learn more on saving your cabinets, the right way, read this article:  Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Ask Yourself These Questions

  • Do you really need new counter tops?
  • Are they part of a complete remodeling project, or are you simply doing a kitchen face-lift?
  • Are your existing countertops in bad shape?
  • What qualities are you looking for? [i.e., If you do a lot of cooking, you are going to want durable, functional countertop]

The answers to these questions will give you an idea of how to proceed.

Sealing Granite CountersBudget

The next thing you need to do is determine your budget. The budget needs to be decided before you start shopping for countertops. It will give you parameters to follow, and it will help you avoid wasting time.

Some clients find that they need to be conservative on what they spend on counter tops when they are remodeling the  entire kitchen. Clients that are only upgrading their counter tops find that they can spend more when ot having to replace cabinets or appliances.

In order to determine costs you need to measure the surface area of the counter tops your replacing. Countertops are typically priced by the square foot, having these measurements will help you determine your budget.

Granite Countertops

Granite, a naturally occurring stone, and is a great choice for many reasons. Granite adds elegance and is popular for its durability and uniqueness, no two slabs are alike.

With the proper selection and care, granite provide an attractive counter and ROI for decades. Many people like granite over other stone countertops, based on its resistance to scratches, heat, water, and acids. Granite is porous and can be stained or damaged if not sealed.

Several different types of granite are sold commercially including:

  • True granite
  • Pegmatite
  • Syenites
  • Diorite
  • Larvikytes (labradorite)

Granite comes in different finishes, which include;

  • Polished
  • Honed
  • Sandblasted
  • Brushed

Granite ranges in price from $50 to $400 per square foot. Prices can vary depending on stone rarity, thickness, origin, and manufacturing labor.

Additional costs will be incurred for sink or cook top cut outs, installation, sealing, edge details, template, and special finishes.  READ How To Seal Granite Countertops

Sealing Granite Counters

Marble Countertops

Marble, like granite is prized for its durability, unique beauty and the fact that it adds instant value and ROI to your kitchen.

However, there are differences. Marble countertops are more porous and softer than granite countertops, meaning it’s less resistant to stains and scratches, making marble a better installation choice for areas where the countertop surface isn’t heavily used, such as the bathroom. Being more porous it requires more frequent sealing to prevent stains.

Marble comes in two types of finish:

  • Honed Finish
  • Polished Finish

Honed finish is a favorite of mine.   It is created by sanding the surface so that it has a soft, matte finish. Honed marble won’t show scratches as much, and also shows the stone off as a little less bright.  Honed stone is more susceptible to staining as the pores are open. Sealing is necessary. Polished Finish is shiny exterior, this finish won’t stain as easily but it can scratch and etch.

Marble costs range from $125 to $225 per square foot.

 Kitchen Countertops

Laminate Countertop

Laminate countertops provide a budget-friendly option and come in a plethora of colors and styles. In fact, improvements in print technology, types of inks used, and finishes have made laminate finishes pop with depth and dimension. something budget wise people are loving!

Most laminate countertops are attractive and surprisingly durable and way more affordable than a granite or solid surface counter top.

Laminate is non-porous and does not support mold or bacteria growth which is a nice feature. Another nice feature is the sanitary cove that can be applied to laminate backslashes.   The sanitary cove seals out air and waterborne pathogens that could otherwise accumulate, and does with other countertop materials.

Laminate can easily be damaged and is neither heat nor scratch resistant. Laminate is easy to clean and does not require sealing. Laminate countertops range in cost from $10 to $40 per square foot.

Solid Surface Countertops

Solid surface counter tops, like Corian, have been around for approximately 50 years. They are virtually seamless, come in a ton of shapes, great colors with a vast range of trendsetting patterns and tones.

Solid surface counters are non-porous and do not promote bacteria growth. Because their color goes completely through the material, they resist impact and hide scratches fairly well.  Another benefit with solid surface  counter tops is they also can be touched up to remove scratches.

Note – Polyester-based solid surface counters have more vibrant colors, are less expensive but also considered to be inferior to newer acrylic-based counters. Acrylic countertops are great if you need to do thermoforming applications.

Some solid surface brands include:

  • Corian
  • Avonite
  • Formica
  • Gibralter
  • Staron
  • Mystera

Solid surface countertops range from $75 to $120 per square foot.

Kitchen Countertops

Synthetic Stone

Engineered stone is sometimes just referred to as quartz, and other times synthetic stone. Brand names, such as Silestone, Caesarstone, IceStone provide a durable surface and are ideal for high-wear uses such as kitchen countertops.

Engineered stone resists heat well and resist stains from liquids like wine and coffee. One nice feature is that synthetic stone slabs can be manufactured all in one piece, which means less seams, and do not need to be sealed regularly. Synthetic stone countertops are also more resistant to the chipping, pitting or cracking that can occur with natural stone.

Synthetic stone countertops can be engineered to match the patterns and grains of natural stone, however, can cost as much or more than natural stone and range from $100 to $185 per square foot.

kitchen cabinets with walnut counter tops

Wood and Butcher-Block Countertops

There is an unmistakable, unique look of quality when I see a solid wood counter-top. Butcher block, one form of wood countertop, has become more popular and give off an old school warmth and charm.

Butcher block counter tops are natural, beautiful, practical, renewable, and are safe and sanitary surfaces. Can you tell I like wood?

If they are scratched or burned, a butcher block counter top can be scraped, sanded and refinished.

Butcher block is naturally porous, and does require regular maintenance in the form of regularly wax or oil treatments. Butcher block and wood counter tops range from $40 to $200 per square foot.

Note – If your wood counter top is stained, looking a little dull, or the finish is worn it is time to refinish it. Refinish it don’t replace it! Refinishing a wood countertop can be a DIY project if you use the right methods and finish.

kitchen countertop

Tile Countertops

Tiles are available in a variety of materials, from ceramic tile to natural stone to recycled glass to handmade porcelain. Like some other options, its shape and coloring can be left to the imagination of the homeowner.

Cost will vary depending on the size of the tiles, size of the countertop and quality of material.

The biggest advantage of tile countertops is that they can be designed in an endless array of patterns, colors and shapes. Damaged tiles can also be replaced easily.

The disadvantage is that the grout lines are hard to maintain, they become dirty and grimy, even when sealed. Tiles can also chip and crack easily. Tile countertops range in cost from $20 to$75 per square foot.

Source:probidirect.com

Source:probidirect.com

Concrete Countertops

Concrete has become an increasingly popular counter top option, mostly because of the ability to customize colors and mold-able design shapes. Rocks, shells or colored glass can be added to the concrete to add texture or design.

Concrete countertops are extremely and range in cost from $70 to $140 per square foot

Stainless Steel Countertop

Stainless steel is associated with professional cooks and kitchens. It is impervious to heat and virtually indestructible. It provides a clean, modern look and is low-maintenance.

Stainless steel can dent and be scratched, particularly lower gauge stainless steel. Most people complain that it is difficult to keep fingerprints off of stainless steel, that its cod to the touch, and that it can be loud when setting pots and pans and other equipment on the counter.

Type 304, or austenitic steel, is a rust resistant material known as “food-grade stainless steel,” allowing food and hot cooking tools to be safely placed on its surface. It is manufactured in a variety of gauges from 14 to 20 gauge. The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel; the thicker the steel, the stronger your counter will be for handling heavier cooking equipment and heavy use without denting:

  • 16- and 18-gauge steel are the most commonly used thicknesses for residential applications
  • 14 gauge is found in commercial settings

Stainless steel counters are available in several finishes:

  • Brushed
  • Satin polish
  • Mirror polish
  • Antique matte

Brushed finish is the most popular because it looks smooth and soft, and doesn’t show as many fingerprints or scratches as the polished options.

Kitchen Countertops

Because stainless countertops are typically custom fabricated, different edge shapes, or profiles, are also available. The most common is an eased square edge. Edge options include;

  • Beveled edge
  • Bullnose (rounded) edge

Stainless steel countertops range in cost from $75 to $150 per square foot.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor / Writer / Video Talent

Robert Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter and operates a remodeling company located in Concord, MA. He is the editor of ConcordCarpenter.com and ToolBoxBuzz, and a has a weekly column in the Sunday Boston Globe. Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals, he hosts the Concord Carpenter Cable TV Show, offering advice on home repairs and maintenance. On his website, Rob uses his knowledge and experience to help and educate on best practices in the remodeling industry. His motto: “Well done is better than well said!”. Contact Rob at: info@aconcordcarpenter.com

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