Counter Intelligence: Choosing the Right Countertop
All kitchen countertops are not created equal. Here are the pros and cons of today's more popular choices.
Countertops pull double duty as a visual design element and a hardworking surface. Cost depends on materials, with prices ranging from $2–$250 per square foot or more. Today’s popular countertop options support a strong natural theme with stone, wood, and renewable materials. Look for surfaces that can stand up to the demands you’ll dish out, and mix them to personalize your space. For instance, put quartz or granite on the main countertops, then use a butcher block on the island to chop fruits and veggies. Here are materials to consider:
The Naturals. Durability and good looks keep granite and quartz in high demand, but other natural materials are also gaining ground. In luxe kitchens, timeless marble is coming on strong, though it’s not as durable as granite, and the more historic-looking soapstone has also become more popular. Semi-precious gem slabs, such as agate, amethyst, and rose quartz, are also gaining attention for their dazzling good looks. Limestone and sandstone are alternatives for those who want a more natural, soothing palette. As for prices, granite and soapstone begin around $40 per square foot, and low-maintenance quartz begins around $120.
Sustainable Choices. Going green is always in vogue and manufacturers now offer countertops fashioned from renewable and recyclable materials like ground glass, metal bits, bamboo, stainless steel, and concrete. Repurposed architectural salvage offers one-of-a-kind countertops. And on the budget-friendly end are laminates made with recycled-wood particle board and non-VOC adhesives.
Woods. Take a look at hardwoods like maple, mahogany, and cherry, as well as current popular choices like madrone. Not only do these time-honored materials add a warm, cozy feel to any style kitchen, but they can be refinished numerous times and will age beautifully. Cost ranges from $30–$100 per square foot.
Laminates. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly countertop or a retro look, simple laminates keep costs in line (prices begin around $5 per square foot). The material is fairly durable but not heat-resistant. Installation is relatively quick, helping to keep costs down.
Tile. Durable and affordable, tile comes in various colors, sizes, and textures and can be made of porcelain, ceramic, or stone. Prices vary, with the least expensive choices beginning at $2 per square foot. Seal any grout used between the tiles to ward off bacteria buildup.
Solid Surfaces. Made of durable, man-made acrylic, solid surface countertops are designed to withstand years of wear and can include an integrated sink with seamless installation. Solid surfaces resist stains, moisture, sunlight, and heat and can be repaired with light buffing.