In the past, most kitchens and bathrooms sported laminate countertops. You might see the occasional ceramic tile or butcher block, but not that often. Today, homeowners have so many options that choosing between the different types of countertops can seem impossible. Deciphering countertop pricing is even worse. But, despite the hundreds of options, most countertops fall into seven basic categories, each with an average installed cost range.
If you stick with simple solid colors, ceramic tile countertops start around $5 per square foot installed (2010 prices). Though prices range up to $100 per square foot installed for hand-painted or patterned tile, most kitchen choices fall into the $10 to $30 range. You'll need to reseal the grout annually, so include that in your total cost.
At $15 to $60 per linear foot installed, Formica and other laminates are among the most economical countertops. For the DIY kitchen remodel, buy laminates preformed with a backsplash and front edge for $12 to $15 per linear foot (2010 prices). Laminates come in lots of different colors and patterns, and prices vary accordingly.
Synthetic solid surface countertops--which come in every imaginable color and texture, including stone and metal look-alikes--cost from $40 to $80 per square foot installed. Compressed quartz, a blend of 95 percent ground quartz and five percent polymer resin, runs $100 to $200 per square foot installed (2010 prices).
Wood countertops start around $30 per square foot installed, but prices typically range between $50 and $100 (2010 prices). According to Bob Vila, "Oak, maple, cherry, red beech, walnut, teak, and mahogany are all hardwoods favored for countertop applications."
Expect to pay from $40 to $120 for natural stone countertops of granite, slate, marble or soapstone (2010 prices). Black slate, red slate and granite countertops tend toward the upper end of the range. Prices vary by location. Without nearby quarries, you'll pay more because of shipping costs. Granite tiles are less expensive than slab granite, but you'll have more seams.
Commercial-kitchen-inspired stainless steel countertops cost from $50 to $200 per square foot installed (2010 prices). Etched and textured finishes, intended to disguise scratches, land in the upper range. Less common copper countertops range from $150 to $200 per square foot installed.
Poured on location or pre-cast, concrete countertops start around $60 per square foot installed (2010 prices). Most average around $100. Concrete is extremely porous and easily stained, so calculate regular resealing into your estimate.