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Tania from "Run to Radiance" gives us the ultimate guide to all the countertops in todays marketplace
How To Pick Kitchen Countertops & Which Counters Are Best – The Ultimate Guide
Published on AUGUST 11, 2017 BY RUN TO RADIANCE
After successfully completing 4 kitchen renovations over the past 7 years, it’s safe to say that I’ve learned a thing or two throughout research, trial and error and sometimes sheer luck. 😉 My favorite part of any kitchen is choosing counters. Besides just being pretty, picking your counters signifies one very important thing—you’re almost done and back to a working kitchen, woo hoo!
This post is a lonnnngggg one but I’ve done my best to show you all the types of countertop materials as well as the countertop materials by cost. Yes, this includes inexpensive countertop options by cost too! Ready?
How to Pick the Right Countertops
Choosing kitchen countertops is a personal choice that needs to take a lot into consideration, including:
- If you’re going to put in brand new countertops, then you better make sure you love how they look! There are so many different styles and options out there that come in an endless supply of looks and finishes.
- Are you the kind of person who is excellent at meticulously wiping up every spill the instant it happens? Or are you more likely to want to entertain without worrying about policing the countertops? How much maintenance can you genuinely handle? I am a firm believer that lifestyle trumps everything—even aesthetics (which is why I personally will probably never get marble counters even though they are my favorite!).
- Regardless of what material you go with, you’re likely to lay down a hunk of change for your new counters. While it’s a worthy investment, don’t stretch yourself—stick to your budget.
- How do you need your kitchen to function? Are you a gourmet chef, or someone who just likes to boil water for pasta? Think carefully about things like how many co-cooks will be with you in the kitchen (especially consider your children!), and how often you plan on entertaining.
What is the Best Kitchen Countertop?
At the end of the day, this is solidly up to you. Personally, I’ve had counters made from tile, laminate, granite, concrete and quartz. Hands down, my favorite is quartz. I love the durability of quartz, the lack of maintenance and the almost limitless selection of finishes and looks.
What is the Cheapest Countertop?
Both tile countertops and laminate are affordable countertop options. Tile countertops can have some additional fees, however, like labor and supplies like grout. Additionally, you might be able to find a killer deal on a remnant piece of granite or quartz at a discount store. If finding the cheapest countertop possible is a high priority, it’s important to consider the cost of installation, labor, and material when calculating the final price.
Types of Countertops
Solid Surface Countertops
What is a Solid Surface Countertop?
A solid surface countertop (often called by the brand name Corian), are acrylic based and made of pigments mixed with resin and minerals. In short, it’s a mix between granite and laminate. There’s a lot of great information about solid surface countertops here.
Pros & Cons to Solid Surface Countertops
Corian Countertops Pros:
- These are an affordable countertop option
- Seams are nearly invisible
- Can be molded into almost any shape needed
- Often more affordable than granite or quartz
- Easy to clean with common household cleaners
- Come in a wide variety of colors and finishes…see more here
- Low maintenance—no sealing required
Corian Countertops Cons:
- Not heat resistant—a hot pot or pan sitting directly on the counter will most likely leave damage
- Scratches can occur—make sure to use a cutting board and not slide items over the counter
- However, since solid surface countertops are the same all the way through, it is possible to buff out scratches (woohoo!)
- Dents can also occur
How Much Do Solid Surface Countertops Cost?
While costs will vary depending on complexity and finishes, the cost is about $40-$150 per square foot installed.
Quartz and Engineered Stone Countertops
What is an Engineered Stone Countertop & What are Quartz Countertops Made Out of?
Engineered stone countertops (commonly known as quartz) are made from crushed quartz stones and resin.
Pros & Cons to Quartz and Engineered Stone Countertops
Quartz Countertops Pros:
- Since these are manufactured countertops, they are available in a wide variety of finishes and colors
- As manufactured counters, they will appear uniform in finish throughout your kitchen
- Quartz counters are non-porous, so they will resist stains like oil and wine better than average
- As a non-porous material, they are naturally anti-bacterial
- Low-maintenance—no re-sealing required
- Edges can be shaped into 19 different edge profiles
Quartz Countertops Cons:
- Higher price point than some other materials
- Less resistant to heat than granite countertops (make sure you use potholders and trivets when setting hot items on your counters!)
- Seems are necessary for longer slabs
Check out this post from Liz Marie Blog for more pros & cons and her review of quartz countertops.
How Much do Quartz Countertops Cost?
The cost of quartz countertops vary based on the pattern and finish you select, but on average the cost of installed quartz countertops cost $70-$100 per square foot.
Crushed Glass Countertops
What are Crushed Glass Countertops?
Crushed glass countertops (also known as recycled glass countertops) are made from recycled glass bound with cement or resin. They can also be a solid piece of glass with no binders. The glass often comes from curbside recycling and post-consumer materials, making them the most eco-friendly countertop option.
Pros & Cons to Crushed Glass Countertops
Crushed Glass Countertops Pros:
- Crushed glass countertops are the most eco-friendly option available
- They resist heat and scratches
- You can work with a manufacturer to design the counter yourself—you can choose the glass and binder for a completely unique look. You can even add lighting into or under the counters
- Easy to clean—just use soap and water
- Resin-based countertops are non-porous and do not require re-sealing
- Glass counters can endure high heat
Crushed Glass Countertops Cons:
- Glass countertops can be scratched fairly easy
- Chips can occur if items are dropped onto them
- If the countertops get chipped, cracked or dented, they are impossible to repair—the entire counter will have to be replaced
- Cement-based glass counters are porous and will have to be sealed regularly
- Will likely have visible seams, depending on size
How Much Do Crushed Glass Countertops Cost?
Depending on the finish, basic crushed glass countertops cost between $50-$105 per square foot installed.
What are Granite Countertops Made Of?
Granite is a natural material that is found in mountains (typically in India, Italy or Brazil). The granite is removed from the mountain in large blocks, then sliced into countertop-sized blocks. Mining and cutting the granite out of takes place at the quarry itself, and then is shipped to the United States.
What’s the Difference Between Honed vs Polished Granite Counters?
A honed granite countertop will appear matte or satin in appearance. A polished granite countertop is finished with polishing pads, giving it a glossy finish. A polished finish is ideal for daily use since it is non-porous. Honed counters require frequent re-sealing and are more susceptible to staining.
Pros & Cons to Granite Countertops
Granite Countertops Pros:
- Granite counters are easy to clean—just use soap and water
- Granite is resistant to scratches and heat
- Tends to have a higher resale value
- Each slab is completely unique since they are 100% natural
- Granite counters can be finished in over 20 different edge options
Granite Countertops Cons:
- Granite countertops do require some maintenance. Some professionals even recommend resealing granite countertops (especially honed counters) every year—you can perform this simple water test to see when sealing is needed
- Higher price point than other options
- Slabs will have a seam, and since granite is natural each slab will appear slightly different (which could be a pro or a con)
- As a porous material, granite can harbor bacteria when not properly sealed
- Granite counters can chip if a heavy object is dropped onto them
How Much do Granite Countertops Cost?
The price of granite countertops vary greatly depending on thickness, type and finish selected. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere between $50-$200 per square foot to have granite counters installed.
What are Marble Countertops?
Marble countertops are natural stone counters made of marble. Similar to granite, marble is mined in mountains and cut off into chunks. Chunks are then sliced into countertop-sized pieces on site before shipping.
What’s the Difference Between Honed vs. Polished Marble Counters?
Honed marble countertops have a matte finish that won’t show scratches as easily. On the downside, honed marble countertops are more porous, and thus more susceptible to staining. Polished marble countertops are polished to a shiny finish. While they won’t stain as easy, they show scratches more than their honed counterparts.
Pros & Cons to Marble Countertops
Marble Countertops Pros:
- Classic, timeless look
- Some finishes, particularly Carrera marble, are considered a more affordable option as they are the cheapest of stone materials
- Aging and etching can provide a worn-in look that appeals to some
- Heat resistant, but still requires a trivet when placing a hot dish on them to prevent staining
- Easy to clean – here’s a great article on how to clean marble countertops
Marble Countertops Cons:
- Requires maintenance with frequent resealing every 3-6 months
- Even with proper re-sealing, these porous countertops can still stain easily
- Marble countertops are a more soft stone, and show etching easily
What’s the Cost of Marble Countertops?
Believe it or not, marble countertops are one of the most affordable options at $40-$100 per square foot.
What are Tile Countertops?
Just like they sound, tile countertops are counters that are created by piecing tiles together on a piece of plywood topped with backer board.
Pros & Cons of Tile Countertops
Tile Countertops Pros:
- If you are feeling handy, tile countertops are a DIY project you can tackle! Here’s how to DIY tile countertops.
- You can use whatever kind of ceramic or natural stone tiles you to create a custom look and pattern
- Easy to clean and care for
- Can be an extremely affordable countertop option
Tile Countertops Cons:
- Due to the grout between tiles, the surface is not perfect level
- Grout can be difficult to clean
- Depending on the type of tile you select, they can get chipped, cracked or stained
- Difficult to replace individual tiles if they break
- Grout needs to be sealed yearly to prevent staining
How Much Does it Cost to Install Tile Countertops?
If you are willing to tackle this project on your own as a DIY project, costs can be kept as low as $2 per square foot depending on the type of tile you select. If you would rather use a professional and a higher-end tile, costs can rise up to $150 per square foot.
Butcher Block Wood Countertops
What are Butcher Block Countertops Made out of?
Butcher block counters are made from wood rails that are laid parallel to each other and glued. In general, butcher block counters are made from hardwoods like oak, maple, walnut or cherry. They can be stained or left in their natural state and treated with oil.
Pros & Cons of Butcher Block Countertops
Butcher Block Countertop Pros:
- With a few tools and some elbow grease, you can make diy wood counters
- Butcher block counters are affordable
- You can cut produce directly on your counters (be aware that this can leave dents and scratches, so if this bothers you stick with a cutting board!)
- Counters are soft on dishes like china—less chance of them breaking when setting down
Butcher Block Countertop Cons:
- Requires maintenance and/or sealing yearly or as needed to keep it food safe. At a minimum, wood counters need to be oiled every six months to keep the counters protected
- Wood conditioner is needed to keep wood from cracking – this article shows you exactly how to care for butcher block countertops
- Counters can scratch and dent easily
- Butcher block is not heat resistant
- Excessive wetness can lead to countertops discolored or even rotted
How Much do Butcher Block Counters Cost?
Butcher block counters don’t have as much as a variance as some other counters. In general, you can expect to pay between $40-$60 installed per square foot. Custom made wood counters, however, can cost closer to $75-$100 per foot.
How are Concrete Counters Made?
Concrete countertops have risen in popularity due to their ability to be customized and beautiful finishes. They can be created in a variety of ways. A professional will come out and create molds for your counters—either off site or there in place on top of your cabinets. The counters are made of special concrete mix—it’s different than what you see on the sidewalk! Additives can be added if you choose—items like concrete pigment, seashells or even a built-in wooden cutting board are popular choices. The concrete will need to be stabilized and reinforced with mesh, steel or fiberglass as well.
How to DIY Concrete Countertops
We did DIY concrete countertops from start to finish in our last home. They were inexpensive—for our entire kitchen, we spent about $400. It also was a ton of work, but worth it in the end. Here’s my post on how to DIY concrete counters.
If building a cast and pouring your own concrete countertops sounds intimidating, you can also try to put concrete on top of your current countertops.
Pros & Cons of Concrete Countertops
Concrete Countertop Pros:
- Concrete countertops are 100% customizable. You can pick the color, style and finish
- Can prevent the look of seams by building longer casts
- When sealed properly, they are heat resistant
- You can DIY these counters! Here’s how to make DIY concrete countertops
- Appearance can improve with age—concrete develops a worn patina with time
Concrete Countertop Cons:
- Countertops are very heavy—additional support might be needed for certain cabinets (for example, we added support to our Ikea cabinets just to be safe)
- Concrete countertops require maintenance. It’s recommended they be re-sealed every quarter, but in my experience, they really need resealing every month. For me, personally, this was a deal breaker and why I chose not to do concrete countertops again (spoiler alert: I’m a low-maintenance kind of chef)
- Stains can easily occur and are difficult to remove. Here’s how to remove stains from concrete counters
- Concrete can crack—but (pro!) the cracks are repairable usually
How Much do Concrete Countertops Cost?
The average cost for professionally poured concrete countertops ranges from $65-$135 per square foot. The average cost of DIY concrete countertops can vary, but ours cost about $400 total.
Stainless Steel Countertops
What is a stainless steel countertop?
Stainless steel countertops are made out of a mix of elements that include iron, carbon, and aluminum along with many other elements. Manufacturers custom design each countertop to fit the size and style that the consumer wants. Stainless steel countertops are often used in kitchens since they are easy to clean and anti-bacterial.
Pros & Cons to Stainless Steel Countertops
Stainless Steel Countertop Pros:
- Easy to clean—just mix warm water and dishwasher detergent in your sink and scrub it on your counters for a clean countertop
- Different finish options—choose between different levels of glossy and matte
- Low maintenance—counters do not need to be resealed as other tops do
- Resistant to heat, stains
- Completely non-porous and anti-bacterial
Stainless Steel Countertops Cons:
- Easily Scratched and dented—while stainless steel counters are durable for the long haul, denting and scratching will occur
- Fingerprints and other smudges are easily seen and show up frequently
- Expensive—stainless steel, especially when custom made, can be one of the most expensive countertop options
- Noisy—since you are working with steel, every thing that comes into contact with it will be significantly louder than other types of countertops
How much is a stainless steel countertop?
Stainless steel countertops range from $67/ foot to $96/foot installed and these numbers can vary depending on the grade of stainless steel and the customizations of your kitchen layout.
What is a Soapstone Countertop?
Soapstone is a natural product similar to granite but is generally considered more durable for a kitchen environment. It comes from a metamorphic rock and is composed mostly of the mineral talc.
Pros & Cons to Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone Countertop Pros:
- Very durable—with proper care, these countertops are made to last as long as you own the home
- Heat and stain resistant—one of the benefits of a soapstone countertop is that it is naturally impervious to heat and stains that could damage it.
- Uniqueness—not everyone has a soapstone countertop and they do have a unique look and feel to it that can make your kitchen stand out
- You can choose to have your sink integrated into your countertops and made out of the same material for a seamless look
Soapstone Countertop Cons:
- Expensive—soapstone isn’t as common as granite and other materials and is one of the most expensive countertop options. A slab of soapstone will cost you 25-30% more than a granite or quartz option
- Easily scratched and dented—soapstone countertops are lighter than other countertop options making it more susceptible to scratches
- Lack of variety—soapstone doesn’t have as many color and style varieties as other stones like granite and quartz
- Maintenance—while they don’t need to be sealed, many people choose to add mineral oil to the countertop to add to its longevity and to make cleaning easier.
How much do Soapstone Countertops cost?
Soapstone countertops are one of the more expensive countertop options. It can cost you anywhere from $70/foot – $120/foot installed.
What are Laminate Countertops Made From?
Laminate countertops are made of plastic, particleboard and kraft paper compressed together to give the appearance of a more natural countertop. They come in a wide variety of colors and styles.
Pros & Cons to Laminate Countertops
Laminate Countertop Pros:
- Laminate countertops are by far the most affordable countertop option
- Unlimited styles – You can find any color or style of laminate countertop to fit your home decor
- Easy to clean – Soap and hot water will do the trick but if you use a household cleaner be sure to rinse it off so it doesn’t damage the surface. For difficult stains, you can use a mixture of baking soda and your choice of surface cleaner with a microfiber cloth
Laminate Countertop Cons:
- Easily damaged – A sharp knife or other utensils can scratch the surface. Laminate countertops can also be burned if a hot pan is sat on it.
- Resale value – Laminate countertops do not add to the real estate value of your home in the same way that a stone countertop or other natural countertop would add.
How much do Laminate Countertops Cost?
Laminate countertops generally will cost you around $10/foot to $20/foot for materials plus installation, making them one of the most affordable countertops available.
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