Choose the Right Countertops for Your Kitchen
So you’re tired of your old countertops, or you're eyeing a kitchen remodel. Granite has been the go-to upgrade for more than two decades, but there are many other types of kitchen countertop materials to consider. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a take-out and microwave person, on a strict budget or plan to go all-out, there’s a world of choices for the heart of your home.
Engineered surfaces are a kitchen workhorse that fit in nicely with any design. Their clean, seamless look and durability come from polyester, acrylic, or a combination. This stone-like material resists stains and scratches. Any blemishes can be sanded out. Its color and finish choices are virtually unlimited.
Cost: about $150 to $200 per square foot.
Another type of solid surface, it is made of up to 90 percent mined, crushed quartz mixed with an acrylic binder. Best known by one of its brand names, Silestone (although there are several others), it is harder than engineered material and is deep and sparkling in appearance.
Cost: $150 to $200 per square foot.
Best known by the popular Formica brand name, this is the most inexpensive kitchen countertop material. While this plastic laminate can be gouged and chipped, it’s a solid and durable choice that can last for decades. It comes in many patterns and can be manufactured to look like granite, stone and woodgrain. Choose the general-grade, 1/16th-inch type.
Cost: ranges anywhere from $2 per square foot for a basic DIY job to about $25 per square foot for a professional installation of a complex design.
Tile backsplashes are almost ubiquitous, but is making a comeback as a retro-cool look, at least for non-work surfaces in the kitchen. You can go with an affordable solid color or splurge on intricate mosaic designs and imported tiles. This look adds textural interest to kitchen islands and breakfast bars. Choose tile that is thicker than the type used on walls, as it can crack, and be sure to have the grout sealed.
Cost: anywhere from $1 to $30 per square foot.
Don’t equate this with something that belongs on the driveway; polished concrete is colored and diamond polished to hold up as well as granite, and it’s just as strong. Each countertop is custom-cast for a perfect fit. Cracking is possible but unlikely if it’s properly reinforced.
Cost: about $100 per square foot and must be professionally fabricated and installed.
Hardwoods like rock maple, walnut, cherry and oak are an attractive choice for select work surfaces. It’s very heat-resistant but tends to be a more high-maintenance surface that requires varnish or oil treatments to perform its best. Research shows the right wood type is not as prone to bacteria buildup as once thought, making it a good choice for the chef or baker.
Cost: ranges from $100 to $200 per square foot.
Granite is undoubtedly the most popular of the natural stone countertops. It’s very durable and comes in a wide variety of patterns and colors. It does need regular sealing and quick attention to spills. Expect to pay $45 to $250 and up for a single slab cut to your specifications.
Cost: depends on grade (closeout/clearance, builder’s grade, premium or designer) and whether you DIY or hire a licensed installer.
Natural stone countertops
Other stone counter alternatives to granite include slate, which is brittle but extremely durable for countertop use, soapstone and marble. Be careful, marble is prone to etching and staining from acidic spills.
Cost: starts at around $100 per square foot and goes up from there depending on color and fabrication
The best countertops for kitchens and bathrooms are those that strike the right balance between price, looks, intended use and your personal price point. While you may do a DIY installation, most people opt for a professional countertop installer. Get at least three quotes and written estimates to get the best results.