The Best Inexpensive Countertops

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Because stone countertops can cost as much as $150 per square foot, homeowners on a budget need to find less pricey alternatives. Whether you’re redoing your bathroom or kitchen, a tight budget forces you to think creatively. The end result may ultimately be more innovative and attractive when you think outside the box.

Tile

  • Because tiles come in an array of sizes and patterns, you can create almost any kind of vibe in a room. Granite tiles lend an upscale appearance to countertops, though ceramic tiles carry a lower price tag. The material resists scorches, stains and scratches. By keeping grout joints to a minimum, cleaning won’t be such a chore. If you’ve never tiled before, hire a pro for the job. Expect to pay $10 to $30 per square foot, including installation, as of April 2011.

Laminate

  • Even buyers with a penchant for luxury will appreciate the new look of laminate. Whether you want an artsy surface or the look of granite, manufacturers make something for everyone. Order samples to appreciate the texture and finish. Though laminate may not be as durable as stone countertops, no surface is indestructible. Textured laminates hide imperfections better than shiny options. With installation, plan to spend $10 to $30 per square foot.

Linoleum

  • Composed of linseed oil, linoleum contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and does not emit off-gasses. Durable and distinctive, this green choice resists fingerprints, stains and bacteria and is warm to the touch. The look is decidedly retro: Imagine a 1950's diner countertop. While manufacturers sell linoleum by the yard for less than $4 per square foot, expect to pay $40 per square foot with installation.

Fiber Cement

  • If your heart is set on stone, try fiber cement instead. The slate-like material evokes the look of counters in chemistry labs. You can sand out scratches, and regular maintenance with mineral oil prevents staining. Because brands like Fireslate weigh 40 percent less than stone, fiber cement is less likely to cause base cabinets to collapse under the load. Expect to spend $20 to $40 per square foot with installation, depending upon the thickness you choose.

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