Kitchen countertops are one of the major components replaced when remodeling or updating a kitchen. The right countertops add instant appeal and warmth to the kitchen. There are many options to consider with the market offering a great variety from wood, stone or metal. Choosing the right countertops for your kitchen depends on your budget, texture, finish and durability desired.
Ceramic tiles are one of the most affordable options because they can be mass-produced. Prices are as low as $1 to $100 per square foot. It is one of the most versatile materials to work with and can adapt to almost any type of kitchen design. Options range from porcelain to hand-painted terracotta. Ceramic tiles are heat resistant and ast for a long time. A handy homeowner can save a lot of money by installing the tiles themselves. Glazed tiles are easy to clean but the grout will need to be resealed periodically. Ceramic tiles also scratch easily and can be fragile. Keep extra tiles handy just in case a tile cracks or chips. They can be replaced individually.
Laminate countertops are readily available and very affordable. The laminate is made from pressurized layers of paper and resin. It is also nonporous and does not need to be sealed. The prices range from $10 to $50 per square foot. Though laminate countertops are not as luxurious as their stone or solid surface counterparts, they continue to be a popular choice for homeowners on a budget. And because it's made of paper, manufacturers print faux stone patterns on the surface giving the homeowners the natural stone look at a fraction of the cost. Laminates are durable with proper care but are easily damaged and susceptible to burns and scratches. Once the surface gets damaged, it is permanent. Homeowners can save money by installing the countertops themselves. However, if the kitchen has unusual shape it is best to have professionals do the installation.
Wood fell out of fashion when natural stone and solid surfaces became the more popular choices. However a trend to green living is giving wood countertops a comeback. Wood countertops may cost as much as natural stone surfaces depending on the wood species. Prices range from $50 to $200 per square foot installed. Wood countertops add warmth to a kitchen or soften those with industrial features. One of the most popular kinds is butcher block. Other options include teak, mahogany and walnut. Wood surfaces have good durable material to work with but are not hard on knife blades. Wood surfaces should not be used on continually wet areas like the sink. They are easy to clean and maintain as long as they are sealed with mineral oil to prevent drying.
Solid surface countertops are perhaps the most durable of all kitchen countertops. At prices ranging from $40 to $100 per square foot, solid surfaces are popular to homeowners who want the look and feel of stone but want more durability. The solid surface countertop is a made out of a blend of stone derived materials and acrylic polymers making it sustainable and extremely durable. It is susceptible to extreme temperatures and though it can get scratched, the material is easily buffed or filled. Solid surfaces also come in an array of colors and may be made to look like stone. One of the few downsides is the countertops are not easy to install. Professional installation is highly recommended.
Natural stone surfaces, particularly granite, are one of the most popular countertop choices today. Other natural stone options include marble, slate, soapstone, limestone and lava rock. Although natural stones have become fairly accessible, the cost is still high with prices starting at $50 to several hundred dollars per square foot depending on the kind of stone and where in the world it comes from. There are many benefits to natural stone. It is durable, easy to clean, stylish and adds value to the home. However, natural stone surfaces are susceptible to stains and must be sealed regularly. Because it is extremely hard and difficult to cut, installation should be left to professionals. Homeowners on a budget can achieve a similar look by purchasing natural stone tiles at various home improvement stores. Although it will not be seamless like the giant slabs of stone, the tiles can achieve a similar look and can be installed by an experienced do-it-yourself enthusiast.
Engineered stone is made of 90 percent stone material, known as stone aggregate. combined with resin and pigments. The prices range from $40 to around $130 per square foot. And while it looks less natural than natural stone surfaces, there are more color choices available. Its uniform build means there are virtually no imperfections on it. Quartz-based stones won't stain and are very durable. However softer stones like marble-based surfaces may need to be sealed from time to time. Like natural stone, engineered stone should be installed by a professional.
Metal countertops such as stainless steel, copper and zinc have been popular in industrial kitchens because they are heat proof and hygienic. Metal countertops can be an investment. Prices range from $ 75 to $150. Stainless steel is the most popular and is a standard in industrial kitchens. It looks modern and stylish but the surface is prone to scratches and dents. Homeowners who want a softer or warmer look can combine stainless steel with other materials or choose other metals like copper and zinc. Both metals scratch easily but minor flaws are encouraged as it adds to the patina.
Concrete countertops were once limited to shades of gray and tan. Today, concrete comes in virtually any hue the homeowner wants. Although concrete countertops do not sound as luxurious as natural stone, the look and the price are similar ranging from $75 to $200 per square foot. Concrete countertops are very durable but are prone to staining and must be sealed periodically. Homeowners can also turn their concrete countertops into art by putting objects in the concrete such as sea shells. There are do-it-yourself kits available for those who want to make their own countertop. However, if not done properly the concrete can crack.
- "Good Houskeeping"; GH Recommends: The Best Kitchen Countertop Surfaces
- "Inspired House Magazine": Choosing the Right Kitchen Countertop; Max Alexander; November/December 2003
- "Winston-Salem Journal"; Quartz, Granite Make Good Countertops; Andrea Brill; May 6, 2011
- "Consumer Reports"; Find the Best Countertop; August 2008
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