How to Choose the Best Countertops for Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart and soul of a home.  Initially, the idea of renovating this space is exhilarating.  However, once you are faced with seemingly endless choices - cabinets, countertops, lighting, hardware, and appliances - the exhilaration can turn to panic.

Taken element by element, your kitchen renovation can be managed to produce beautiful results.  Let’s start with countertops.

Countertops are available in a vast array of material, colors, finishes and price ranges.  Many of us remember laminate counters from our childhoods. Granite seems to be everywhere these days.  But those are only the beginning of the available options.

Before choosing your new countertop, carefully and honestly assess your household and lifestyle.  You might adore a marble countertop you have seen on a baking show, but unless you are willing to meticulously maintain it, marble may not be a great choice for you.  Read on to learn more about what might work in your new kitchen.

Granite

  • Granite is the most popular countertop choice in new kitchens today.  It’s natural, unique, durable, and impressive. Because granite is a naturally occurring material, each slab is completely unique.  The advantage to this is that your countertop won’t look like anyone else’s; the disadvantage is that a sample piece at a store will not accurately represent what might be installed in your home.  If you choose granite, go to a granite yard or warehouse to choose your specific slab.

  • As with any natural stone material, granite must be sealed to prevent water from seeping into the surface.  Beyond this, however, granite is virtually indestructible. It stands up to knives and hot pots like a pro.

  • Granite comes in dozens of colors.  The price varies greatly depending upon the availability of your color choice.  Expect to pay between $75 - $250 per square foot installed.

Other Natural Stone

  • While granite is the most popular natural stone for countertops, it is not the only one.  Marble, limestone, soapstone, sandstone, and slate are a few slightly lesser known options.  

  • While all natural stone must be sealed periodically, these stones are softer than granite and therefore require more care in regards to heat and knives.

  • Soapstone is sometimes preferred by homeowners who want natural stone but like a less polished appearance.  Soapstone gains a patina over time, and water marks are common unless the stone is consistently oiled.

  • Slate is a sturdy and low maintenance option.  It has a more subdued appearance than granite and is ideal when using lots of color or texture elsewhere in the kitchen.  Just beware of sharp corners: a rounded edge should solve this issue.

  • The cost of these natural stones can vary from $70 - $200 per square foot installed.

** A special note about marble **

  • Marble is beautiful and classic.  It is coveted by many homeowners for its natural veining.  Marble is also an ideal surface for baking: it stays cool allowing for beautifully rolled out pastry dough.

  • Because it is a calcium based stone, marble can stain, chip, and be etched by acids like lemon juice.  This makes it among the most high maintenance choices for countertops.

  • Should you choose marble, have it factory sealed as this greatly increases its stain resistance.

Quartz

  • Also known as engineered stone or engineered quartz, quartz countertops are made of approximately 90% crushed quartz and 10% polymers.  This combination creates a virtually indestructible surface making quartz extremely low maintenance.

  • Quartz counters come in a variety of colors and patterns, but they don’t have the same level of natural veining as natural stone.

  • Quartz counters have very few downsides, but one might be that they cost about the same as granite.  Many consumers struggle with paying the same price for an engineered product as they do for natural stone.

  • Quartz counters cost around $150-$250 per square foot installed

Solid Surface

  • Solid surface counters, often referred to by the name brand Corian, are manufactured of 100% acrylic, 100% polyester, or a combination of both.

  • They come in virtually endless colors and patterns and are manufactured for your specific kitchen, so they are seamless.

  • Solid surface counters do not have the same natural pores that stone does, so there is no concern regarding the harboring of bacteria if not properly sealed.

  • They are not as resistant to scratches or heat as natural stone, though the cost for solid surface is often comparable to natural stone.

  • Solid surface counters cost around $50 - $120 per square foot installed.

Concrete

  • While not widely used, concrete counters are increasing in popularity.  A few decades ago, concrete counters were poured on the job site making for a mess and a major inconvenience for homeowners.  Now, they are poured off site and installed after the fact.

  • Many people love concrete’s industrial style.  It can be inlaid with glass, rocks, or shell for unending design options.

  • Though it seems that concrete would be extremely durable, it is susceptible to warping from excess heat, discoloration from water, and etching from acidic spills.

  • Concrete countertop pricing starts around $80 - $100 per square foot installed

Butcher Block

  • Butcher block is perhaps the oldest countertop surface around.  It has been used in some form for centuries in kitchens around the world.

  • It can be made of teak, maple, walnut, cherry, oak, or even bamboo

  • Consumers love butcher block’s warm, natural beauty.  While certainly susceptible to knicks and scratches, many believe these imperfections only add to the wood’s character.  These knicks and scratches can always been sanded out if preferred.

  • All natural wood expands and contracts with moisture and humidity, so butcher block must be oiled regularly to maintain its beauty and luster.

  • While it was once believed that the surface of wood was difficult to keep clean, it has been recently found that wood is actually more sanitary than plastic for food preparation.

  • Butcher block is rarely used in the whole kitchen, but it is very popular for use on islands or other smaller prep areas.

  • Butcher block runs around $40 - $60 per square foot installed making it an affordable option.

Stainless Steel

  • While most commonly seen in commercial kitchens, stainless steel has been showing up in private home kitchens over the past decade.  It’s sleek style appeals to those who enjoy a modern sensibility in their homes.

  • Stainless steel is extremely durable and easily cleaned as it resists heat and bacteria.

  • The downsides of stainless are that it shows fingerprints and can be very noisy with metal pots and pans.

  • Stainless steel counters will cost around $50 - $150 per square foot installed.

Laminate

  • Laminate countertops have come a long way since the 1980’s.  Sold under the brand name Formica, laminate countertops were the standard in most middle class homes for decades.

  • While laminate gained a reputation for being prone to peeling and cracking, with proper care, laminate can stand up in the kitchen.  It is, however, susceptible to scratches from sharp objects and burns from high heat.

  • Laminate now comes in a tremendous variety of styles and patterns that are designed to look like much more expensive counters.  Rounded edges easily disguise the telltale laminate seam around the perimeter of the kitchen.

  • Homeowners should be aware that laminate countertops do limit kitchen sink options.  Because laminate is particle board at its core, it cannot support an under-mount sink.

  • Best of all, laminate is an excellent choice for those on a tight budget.  Expect to pay between $15 - $25 per square foot installed.

Choosing a new countertop for your kitchen remodel or new home build is bound to be daunting, but with a little knowledge, you can make a great choice for you and your family.  Natural stone, engineered quartz, butcher block, and even concrete are among the options, so you are certain to find a surface that is the right fit for you. Relax and enjoy the kitchen remodeling process with Welcome Home Repairs.  Remember: a beautiful new kitchen is in your future.

Contact our team of kitchen and bathroom renovation experts to build your dream home today.