The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Countertops

The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Countertops: Find information on all types of kitchen countertop materials, including durability, design and pricing. Weigh your options with information.

House hunting reminds me of those dreams where you scream and scream and no one hears you. You do so much, and yet it all depends on the agents and the sellers. You research. You drive around. You act friendly at open houses. You visit various homes, stroll around rooms that bear no resemblance to the glorious spaces you see on HGTV. The houses we can afford are undoubtedly fixer uppers, but there’s no Chip or Joanna to ensure us of its potential. There’s no experts telling us how easy it’s going to be to tear off the ancient parquet. We can only cross our fingers and hope that the terrazzo peaking out of the old yellow laminate in the bathroom stretches across the entire home.

We recently made an offer on one of these old houses. It’s located in a lovely safe neighborhood, near excellent schools. But then Irma came…Hurricane Irma, that is. Most of South Florida lost power, cellular service and wifi. It’s now been over a week, and still no word from the seller. We are completely at the mercy of the seller and her agent, who confirmed a reasonable counteroffer would be the next step. We are bewildered and mentally, emotionally exhausted. The agent had reassured us so much before Irma, that my husband and I allowed ourselves to linger in day dreams of design. We are still hoping for this house, blaming Irma for the delayed response. FPL has promised full power restoration today, so Irma’s influence has ended, and all we can do is hope.

One thing is certain. No matter what house we buy, remodeling will be part of the package, since all we can afford in South Florida are fixer uppers. The house that we made an offer on is in desperate need of a new kitchen, so while Irma kept us locked inside without power, my husband, my parents and I discussed the various options for remodeling a kitchen. My husband seemed to lean toward butcher block or stainless steel. My mother suggested quartz. My father pointed out that butcher block can sometimes harbor bacteria in its wooden material. He then brought up concrete. However mom reminded us, that most concrete counters require a special craftsman which can be costly. I worried about fingerprints on the steel. Inevitably the subject changed, but I realized that I really have very little knowledge about kitchen countertops, and if I’m going to make a smart choice, I need to know more…a lot more.

My husband seemed to lean toward butcher block or stainless steel. My mother suggested quartz. My father pointed out that butcher block can sometimes harbor bacteria in its wooden material. I worried about fingerprints on the steel. Inevitably the subject changed, but I realized that I really have very little knowledge about kitchen countertops, and if I'm going to make a smart choice, I need to know more...a lot more.

I made a list of 15 countertop options. I start with the most popular materials and end with the less common but also worthy options.

1. Granite: It’s glamorous and long lasting. But it can also be expensive. It weighs a lot and needs to be sealed every few years to keep up its sturdy smooth finish. $30-$100 per square foot.

2. Quartz: It appears like granite, but it’s made with some resin, so it may have a more manufactured look. It’s just a bit more practical because it comes pre-sealed. $40-$90 per square foot.

3. Marble: It’s gorgeous and handles heat well. It also always magically feels cool to the touch. However, it’s a little sensitive and tends to stain or chip. $40-100 per square foot.

4. Solid Surface: Made from chemicals like acrylic, so it gives off a modern vibe. Scratches are easy to sand away. But it can come off a little unnatural, plus chemicals and cooking don’t seem like a good mix to me. $35-100 per square foot.

5. Tile: Wonderfully affordable and cozy. It’s a strong contender for DIY. The only downfalls are the grout which can get a little crusty and be hard to clean, also sometimes cutting boards don’t lay evenly over the tiles. $10-80 per square foot.

6. Stainless Steel: It offers a fabulous “serious about cooking” look. It’s durable, but it can dent. It’s also very loud. Installation tends to be expensive. $65-$100 per square foot.

7. Laminate: Made from particle board and resin, it has a poor reputation for style, however, the world of laminate has expanded into a variety of style options. Now, designs imitate stone, granite, wood really well. It’s not quite as long lasting as other materials like granite or quartz because moisture can cause peeling slowly over time. But, it’s super affordable, lightweight and now stylish. $10-$30 per square foot.

8. Soapstone: It’s about as heavy as granite and even more pricey, but it offers a unique look with a near matte finish. It can be a little delicate when it comes to scratches. It needs regular polishing. Also, when choosing the color, one must keep in mind that soapstone darkens over time. $75-$100 per square foot.

9. Concrete: Awesomely adaptable and customizable, concrete can be molded into any shape and various materials can be embedded. It’s porous though, so it can stain. It is also very heavy and difficult to install. $75-$100 per square foot.

10. Butcher block: So pretty and warm, it alludes to a farmhouse. Knives scratch it, but it adds to the look. It needs to be regularly oiled to stand up to scratches and moisture issues (wood swells with water). $35-$70 per square foot.

11. Recycled glass: It’s not as cheap as you would think, but it is environmentally friendly and beautiful. It stands up next to granite and quartz, and you’re lending mother earth a hand. $50-$110 per square foot.

12. Granite tile: It has the benefits of a granite countertop, but it also has the downfalls of tile like tiny spaces of grout. It’s a more affordable option if you really want granite. It is easier to ship and install. $50-75 per square foot.

13. Zinc: Very sleek and naturally anti-bacterial, zinc is ideal for kitchens. The zinc is an interesting material because its look changes over time. It’s basically a sheet of zinc laid over wood, but it’s utterly expensive. $150-200 per square foot.

14. Glass: It’s basically indestructible, and has a really interesting and fresh look. They don’t stain or scratch; it’s considered one of the most durable countertops. $75-$105 per square foot.

15. Paper Composite: Made from paper and resin, this material is environmentally friendly and tends to have a matte finish. It can give off the feel of a concrete countertop but it weighs significantly less. It does need some maintenance though, like oiling and sanding. It can scratch and certain chemicals can cause damage. $85-100 per square foot.

What’s the countertop in your kitchen?

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