What materials are available for countertops?

When remodeling a kitchen, your countertop can be an excellent design accent.  There are a variety of options available from which to choose. Below is an overview of what is available, along with the benefits and advantages of each.

Example of granite counter tops with built in sink and complimented by white wooden cabinets

Granite

A beautiful natural stone, granite has long been a first choice of designers. Granite is a long-lasting material that’s easy to clean and offered in a variety of colors and patterns. Its durability is impressive, resisting heat and damage due to chopping and cutting.  Cut to spec, this classic material will create a touch of sophistication that complements both contemporary and traditional style and adds to the home’s resale value.

What to keep in mind: While durable, it’s not indestructible. Granite can break when severely impacted. To prevent stains, this countertop must be sealed annually to avoid cracking from daily use. It also requires professional installation.

Cost is dependent on a number of factors, including thickness, place of origin, cuts, edge treatments, labor and transportation, which can vary from $85 to $210 per square foot with installation.

Ceramic Tile

One of the only fully customizable materials, the ceramic tile used in countertops can be a great way for homeowners to express themselves. There are a variety of styles, colors and patterns available, and tiles can even be cut to create unique designs and accents. Ceramic is also the perfect choice to brighten up a kitchen and reflect the homeowner’s personality. Custom designs can add considerable value to the home. Ceramic tiles are available with a matte or glossy finish, and both styles are heat resistant to accommodate hot pots and pans.

What to keep in mind: Ceramic tiles are prone to chips and cracks, and can be difficult to clean; stains can set in between grout lines and finding replacement tiles can be a burden for some homeowners.

Material costs traditionally range between $12 and $30 per square foot, but imported or unique tiles can be as much as $25 to $75 per tile, with labor at about 20 percent of material cost.

Corian

Developed by DuPont, this solid-surface countertop is available in a variety of unique colors and patterns to suit any design. Corian features a smooth, soft finish that has the appearance of true stone, without all the maintenance. It’s light, easily cleaned, stain resistant and non-porous. And because of its softer properties, it can even prevent the breakage of glass when dropped on its surface. Installation is also much simpler than other materials.

What to keep in mind: Corian is not heat resistant and is prone to scratching and dings; it must also be cleaned properly to prevent residue forming on its surface.

Corian ranges from around $45 to $75 per square foot.

Quartz

If it’s the natural stone look you want without all the maintenance, quartz is the countertop for you. Engineered from 93 percent quartz crystals and mixed with heavy-duty polymers, quartz is a beautiful, non-porous surface.  It features more color and pattern options than granite, and is naturally heat, stain, scratch and bacteria resistant. It will never require the sealing of natural stone and is easy to clean. Plus, quartz can add great value to the home. This uniquely deep and beautiful material is a great addition to any kitchen.  Some brands include Silestone, Zodiaq and CaeserStone.

What to keep in mind: This beautiful material requires professional installation as well as structural reinforcement due to its weight. Seams can be seen where sections of the countertop meet in larger kitchens. Because of its natural benefits, it is also one of the more costly options.

Price can vary between $40 and $100 per square foot, and installation costs can also vary. Most manufacturers will offer some warranty upon installation.

Laminates

If you’re looking for something inexpensive and easy to install without sacrificing style, laminate might be the choice for you. Mimicking the look of more expensive countertops, laminate is available in a wide variety of finishes and edge treatments. And simple installation means do-it-yourselfers can save even more by avoiding installation costs.

What to keep in mind: Laminates are prone to scratching and chips, and water can increase the damage of those imperfections by causing the surface to warp. It is also not resistant to heat; however, if substantial damage occurs, replacement is still fairly inexpensive.

The makeup of the laminate can affect its pricing, but you can expect around $5 to $25 per linear foot for simple laminate and around $45 to $50 per linear foot for more complex laminates.

Wood

Wood is one of the greenest options for homeowners seeking to spruce up their kitchen space. Unlike stone and other manufactured countertops, wood is a renewable material. Homeowners can choose to be more environmentally friendly by selecting reclaimed or recycled wood over fresh cut. A very durable option, wood is bacteria resistant, cleans easily, and any scratches and dings can be sanded out (if they don’t end up just giving the counter more character). Wood countertops have a warm tone that adds a special touch to the kitchen and can be stained to suit the needs of the space.

What to keep mind: This is not a heat resistant material, must be sealed regularly in order to waterproof its surface, and must be oiled to keep the wood from warping.

Each wood is a little different. Maple can be purchased for around $55 to $75 per square foot, while others can range from $50 to $75. Exotic woods are a bit more, with price tags around $140 per square foot. Pre-made and unfinished wood is the most cost-effective, with a 12’ X 25’ section costing around $110.

Example of stainless steel counter top with a built in smooth top stove Stainless Steel

For the chef in all of us, there’s the stainless steel countertop. Almost completely bacteria-free, this surface is perfect for preparing professional quality meals or just a quick snack. Stainless steel is heat resistant, seamless and incredibly easy to clean. It can be produced to meet any size and shape requirements and provides a sleek, modern solution to kitchen countertops.

What to keep in mind: Cleaning is simple, but because stainless steel tends to show fingerprints, it needs to be cleaned more often than other surfaces. It is also prone to scratching and can rust or oxidize over long periods if not properly maintained.

Thickness is the main cost driver for stainless steel, but generally ranges from $60 to $80 per square foot. The complexity of the cut can also be a factor in cost.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed of several minerals, including talc and quartz. Soapstone will become darker as it ages and will eventually acquire a patina due to oxidation. Warm and smooth, this unique stone is most widely available in shades of gray, but can also be found in blues and greens. Its waterproof surface is naturally resistant to both bacteria and stains, and it tolerates heat well. It can also be sanded down if it begins to scratch, much like wood.

What to keep in mind: Due to its weight, it requires professional installation and oftentimes structural reinforcement. In addition, it must be oiled regularly to prevent cracks that can begin to develop over time.

More reasonably priced than other stones, soapstone’s cost really depends on the grade and thickness.  Expect to pay around $50 to $75 per square foot, including installation.

Marble

One of the most elegant options, marble has been used for centuries to add a touch of class to a space. It features a smooth surface and is available in several colors. Because of its high price tag, it can be popular to incorporate as an accent feature to a full kitchen counter. Marble is durable, cleans easily, is resistant to heat and adds significant value to a home.

What to keep in mind: Like most other stones, it requires professional installation in addition to professional sealing to protect its integrity. The surface is porous and, as such, can be prone to stains. It can experience discoloration from acidic products such as vinegar or lemon juice and is also prone to scratching.

Like many other materials, cost is based on thickness and origin. Expect to pay between $65 and $85 per square foot.

Concrete

One of the most recent additions to the lineup, concrete offers a unique appearance for homeowners. Unlike the drab, outdoor concrete you may be used to seeing, concrete countertops can be stained to create virtually any color and enhanced with the addition of glass and other accents to create a fun, one-of-a-kind surface. Each countertop is sealed with industrial sealers for a smooth, non-porous finish that’s resistant to stains.

What to think about: Concrete countertops have the potential for cracking, and the sealants are not heat resistant. Because it’s one of the heavier manufactured materials, it requires a significant amount of labor as well as professional installation. This makes it very expensive.

Price is contingent upon whether the concrete is cast on-site, but homeowners can expect to pay around $100 per square foot, with installation.