How Much Do Porcelain Countertops Cost?
Porcelain is a versatile, durable material that is surprisingly sturdy and beautiful and can add a warm and attractive workspace to the kitchen. Porcelain countertops cost between $1,500 and $3,800, with a national average cost of $2,900.
- The typical cost range to install porcelain countertops is $1,500 to $3,800, with homeowners across the country paying $2,900 on average.
- Some of the main factors in determining porcelain countertops cost include the size and type of countertop, the type of edge, the type of finish, the location where the countertops are being installed, and the cost of labor.
- Porcelain countertops are durable, versatile, sustainable, resistant to scratches and stains, resistant to heat, easy to install and maintain, and easily customizable.
- While some countertop materials make for an easy DIY project, porcelain is more delicate, and so it’s recommended that homeowners leave this project to a professional who has experience working with this material.
Any homeowner who has walked through a kitchen design store will have seen several countertop materials to choose from for their next kitchen or bathroom project. Some of the most popular options for kitchen countertops include granite, quartz, solid surface, wood, and laminate, but a lesser-known option is porcelain. A closer look at this material is worth it, especially for customers who are interested in a durable, easy-to-clean, easy-to-maintain countertop material that comes in a vast range of colors and patterns. Porcelain is stain-resistant and heat-resistant, and it doesn’t need to be sealed—and because it’s available in well-done natural stone look-alike patterns, it offers all of the benefits of a natural stone countertop without the maintenance. According to HomeAdvisor, porcelain countertops cost an average of $2,900, with a typical price range from $1,500 to $3,800, making them relatively affordable as well.
But is porcelain good for countertops? Are porcelain countertops durable? And isn’t it a fragile material? Porcelain teacups may seem that way, but given the number of antique and vintage porcelain cups still in use, it can’t be that fragile! Porcelain is made by bonding natural white kaolin clay with minerals such as feldspar, mica, and other naturally occurring strengtheners, then dried and cured by firing it at extremely high temperatures for a long period of time. The result is a hard material that can be fashioned into tiles or slabs with a thickness that holds up extremely well once it’s mounted to a solid surface (usually plywood or an existing countertop). The material doesn’t burn when a hot pot is placed on it, and if it’s glazed, it becomes nonporous, so stains aren’t an issue. Porcelain is almost impossible to scratch unless someone uses a ceramic knife directly on the surface with some force. It can chip or crack, but once installed, it can take quite a significant impact. So yes, porcelain is excellent for countertops, and no, it’s not that fragile. There are, however, some considerations that will affect how much porcelain countertops cost, and understanding those factors can help homeowners set a reasonable budget for this project.
Factors in Calculating Porcelain Countertops Cost
How are the costs of a porcelain countertop determined? As with all countertops, size is the first consideration, and the finish options and the costs of installation are significant considerations as well.
Everything about the cost of a porcelain countertop hinges on the size of the surface area to be covered. The material cost and labor are based on the square footage, as are the costs of finishing and edging. The average cost per square foot is between $50 and $70, including materials and labor.
Porcelain countertops can be built from one or more large slabs of porcelain bonded to a solid subsurface such as plywood or an old countertop, or they can be crafted from a series of smaller tiles arranged in mastic (a resin used as an adhesive for tile) and grouted into place. The type of countertop will determine the installation type and materials as well as the cost of the porcelain itself.
In terms of decor and style, edge finishing is the one area where porcelain tile is somewhat limited. Because a glazed porcelain is shiny only on the outside, and because the pattern is only on the surface, the edge shapes are limited to those shapes that don’t grind down beyond the finish. All porcelain countertop edges must be created during fabrication, so measurements also need to be very precise. A basic square edge or an eased edge (a square with a slightly rounded top edge) won’t add anything to the cost of the countertop. A beveled edge or a bullnose edge, on the other hand, will add about $10 to $12 per square foot, because those shapes require additional craftsmanship. A built edge, which involves building up the edge to make it look thicker than the typically thin edge of the slab, will add between $15 and $25 per square foot because of the additional workmanship that is necessary to create the look while maintaining a consistent finish.
Porcelain comes in two finishes. Most people think of the polished finish when they think of porcelain: the shiny, impervious surface of clean tiles sparkling in the light. This finish is the result of a glaze that is fired into the porcelain and then polished to a shine. It’s available in both tile and slab form and costs an average of $8 to $11 per square foot. Unpolished porcelain has a matte finish and is equally durable and resistant to heat, though it is very slightly more prone to staining, as it isn’t as nonporous as a polished finish. It is, however, more resistant to chipping, and if it does chip, the chip is less obvious, as the material is the same finish throughout. Unpolished porcelain costs an average of $9 to $12 per square foot.
For a long time, the only location where porcelain was generally used as a countertop material (whether slab or tile) was in the bathroom. The ease of installation and cleaning made porcelain an obvious choice. Porcelain slabs were about ¾ inch thick, which meant they were exceptionally heavy and difficult to transport; smaller, bathroom-size counters were easier to deal with, and tiles were often being used in bathrooms, making coordination easy. Now, slabs are much thinner and lighter (if more fragile) to transport, and they are available in lengths of up to 10 feet, so instead of porcelain bathroom countertops, porcelain kitchen countertops and islands are prime locations for installation. Porcelain is also a great option for outdoor kitchen installation. Costs are based on the size and type first, but each installation location has different challenges, so costs may vary based on the ease of access to the location and the surface onto which the porcelain being installed.
In general, labor costs for installing countertops range from $10 to $20 per square foot. But more traditional countertop materials such as solid surface and stone are thicker, sturdier materials that are easier to work with. Porcelain slabs are extremely durable once they’re installed, but prior to and during installation, they are thin and somewhat brittle, so they require special handling and installation techniques that may cost a little more. It’s critically important for a homeowner to find a contractor who is experienced in working with porcelain slabs; this may require the customer to choose a contractor who isn’t the lowest estimate. Porcelain tile countertop requires mastic and grout and careful hand work, which also may be a bit more expensive.
Additional Costs and Considerations
There are several other elements that will affect the cost of a porcelain countertop installation. While these are not primary costs and may apply to every installation, they can have a significant effect on the total budget, so it’s important for a homeowner to consider them when planning a porcelain countertop project.
Prefabricated vs. Custom Porcelain Countertops
The vast majority of porcelain countertops are custom jobs. Because the edges need to be manufactured into the countertop, and the cuts need to be so precise, most slab counters are cut to measure. Porcelain tiles are by nature custom as well. There are, however, some prefab porcelain pieces, but the installation often becomes more complex and ends up saving very little.
Porcelain vs. Other Countertop Materials
Porcelain countertops’ price per square foot is one of the lowest among the various types of countertop materials. While the cost can lean toward the top of the range for custom finish work, in general it’s one of the most economical choices a customer can make, especially because there are few to no maintenance costs after installation. The cost of countertops for other materials are typically much higher. The following table shows the cost per square foot for a variety of common countertop materials.
|Countertop Material||Cost per Square Foot|
|Acrylic||$13 to $30|
|Concrete||$50 to $100|
|Granite (whole slab)||$15 to $140|
|Laminate||$8 to $27|
|Porcelain||$3 to $28|
|Quartz||$15 to $100|
|Wood (butcher block)||$10 to $35|
If a homeowner is replacing an existing countertop with a porcelain counter of exactly the same dimensions, it’s possible that a permit will be unnecessary. If, however, plumbing is moving or electrical is being installed, a permit is likely a must. Experienced contractors in the area will know the different towns’ and cities’ regulations regarding permits, but to prevent frustration later, it’s also a good idea for the homeowner to check with the local municipality independently and make sure all permits have been appropriately pulled. If needed, permits may cost between $50 and $500.
Old Countertop Removal
Depending on the countertops that are currently in place, old countertop removal may or may not be a factor. Porcelain slab is thin enough to install on top of most existing countertops without a problem. However, if the layout of the kitchen is changing or the existing counter is in poor condition, the counter will need to be removed at a cost of about $50 to $300. The installer will then add a layer of plywood on top of the cabinets for additional support and install the porcelain counter on top.
Kitchen countertops require cutouts for the sink, faucet, and potentially an inset cooktop. Some prefabricated counters come with the cutouts already complete; for homeowners choosing that type of countertop, it’s essential to make sure that the cutouts will work with the placement of the existing plumbing. Other installations will require custom cutouts, and all custom countertops will need custom cutouts. Porcelain is somewhat brittle prior to installation, which makes these cutouts a delicate operation. Therefore, they cost between $100 and $200 each depending on the complexity of the cutout and proximity to the edge of the material (creating this proximity is riskier and requires more skill, hence the cost).
Sink and Cooktop Installation
Sinks and undermount cooktops need to be installed with a bit more care, as the thinner depth of a porcelain slab as opposed to the depth of other countertop materials can require adjustments to the height of the countertop or the installation method for the sink or cooktop. In addition, these installations might require electrical or plumbing work, which can cost an average of $50 to $100 per hour.
Types of Porcelain Countertops
Many people aren’t aware that countertops can be made from porcelain. Thinking back, though, to a time when tiled countertops were all the rage might jog the memory—those porcelain-tiled countertops went out of style years ago because of the difficulty of cleaning the wide grout lines. Modern porcelain offers two different methods of installation, both more kitchen-friendly than older styles.
|Porcelain Countertop Type||Average Cost per Square Foot|
|Slab||$8 to $12|
|Tile||$3 to $20|
Modern porcelain slabs are a huge improvement over the heavy, hard-to-work with ¾-inch slabs they used to be. Averaging between ¼ and ½ inch thick, porcelain slabs can be fabricated in lengths of more than 10 feet. They can be matte or polished porcelain countertops, solid or patterned, square-edged or beveled, and while the travel between the fabrication site and the home, and the journey from the truck to installation, can be a little challenging, they are incredibly durable once they’re installed. Porcelain slabs’ prices average between $8 and $12 per square foot.
Today’s tile countertops are designed to be installed with few seams and with grout lines that are nearly invisible. Available in small mosaic styles in tiles from 12 to 24 inches, there is a nearly endless combination of porcelain countertop colors, patterns, and styles for homeowners to choose from. Some porcelain tiles are crafted by artisans for a truly custom look. Customers comparing porcelain vs. ceramic tile will discover that the two are closely related, but porcelain tends to be more durable and thus a better fit for a countertop material. The average cost of materials for a porcelain tile countertop ranges from $3 to $20 per square foot.
Benefits of Choosing Porcelain Countertops
Europeans have used porcelain slab countertops for years, but they’re a relatively recent addition to the countertop options in the United States. Porcelain countertops are growing quickly in popularity for a number of good reasons, including their strength, attractive appearance, and low maintenance.
Most people are shocked to learn that porcelain is 30 percent stronger than granite. It doesn’t seem like it could be true, especially for anyone who has ever shattered a porcelain cup or plate on a granite countertop, but porcelain’s composition makes slabs very uniform, exceptionally hard, and very strong. The bonding of kaolin clay with minerals that are fired together under extreme heat produces a material that is difficult to damage.
For homeowners hoping to match the backsplash to the countertop, it’s easy to install a thin porcelain slab along the backsplash with minimal seams. This is possible with other materials, as well, but what if the customer wants to cover the sides of an island with a matching material? That would be a difficult job with most countertop materials, but the thin porcelain sheets can easily be cut to fit islands, cabinet ends, or even wall panels. The thin, light nature of the material makes it easy to shape and mount to nearly any surface where the customer wants a coordinated look.
Porcelain is made from natural clay, not from polymers and plastics, and it’s not harvested from quarries using heavy machinery, so it’s comparably environmentally friendly to begin with. All porcelain can be recycled into other products when it comes time to change the kitchen’s look, so customers doing a remodel can feel comfortable knowing they aren’t sending a big chunk of nonbiodegradable material to a landfill.
Heat, Stain, and Scratch Resistance
In order for manufacturers to create porcelain countertops, the material must be fired at extremely high temperatures, which means that a pot accidentally set down on the countertop is unlikely to leave a burn mark. Glazed porcelain is nearly impossible to stain, as the glaze is also fired into place and results in a nonporous surface: There’s nowhere for that tomato sauce to seep in and leave a stain. It’s also very difficult to scratch, as the fired surface is extremely hard. The only real scratch danger for porcelain is a sharp ceramic knife, because the abrasiveness of the blade can tear through the glazed porcelain.
Easy Installation and Maintenance
While they don’t have to be, porcelain slab countertops can be installed directly over existing countertops that are in good condition. The thin dimension of the slab, usually between ¼ and ½ inch, is lighter-weight than natural stone and is easier to maneuver for installation. The material can then be attached to the existing countertop without significantly altering the height of the work surface, saving time and expense. Porcelain is also available in large slab sizes, so an oversize island or large-format porcelain countertops can be covered with few to no seams. Fewer grout lines equal easier cleanup.
Unglazed, fired porcelain countertops result in a beautiful and uniformly colored matte finish (which is great in the case of a crack or chip because they blend in more easily). Glazing a porcelain slab opens up a nearly endless set of options and colors: solids, patterns, faux-marble, faux-granite, and other stone replicas. Glaze also adds shine and reduces the porosity of the slab, protecting the porcelain from stains. Customers can also choose porcelain tiles to create a pattern or mosaic style of countertop, though that option requires grout, which can require much more maintenance.
Porcelain Countertops Installation: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
There are some countertop materials that can be an easy DIY project: a prefabricated laminate countertop piece from a home improvement store that exactly fits the dimensions of the kitchen, or perhaps a butcher block that can be easily attached to the cabinets using the hardware that is already in place. Countertops are one of those projects that are important to get exactly right, because gaps in the backsplash or sink cutouts can harbor bacteria, moisture, and mold, none of which are ideal in a food preparation space. In addition, sink and plumbing cutouts that aren’t perfectly placed and sealed can lead to hidden leaks that cause water damage. The measurements need to be precise, and the installer needs to understand that some components shift and move and therefore accommodate those shifts in the measurements. If the material a DIY homeowner is working with is easy to manage and the homeowner is skilled, porcelain countertop installation can be a DIY project.
Porcelain slabs are not easy to manage. They are extremely sturdy and stable once they’re in place, but transporting, moving, cutting, and attaching them—in other words, doing anything with them before they’re installed—are precarious, as the wrong bump or bit could shatter the slab. A porcelain slab is between ¼ and ½ inch thick, so they’re unwieldy to carry and easy to break. This is genuinely a situation where hiring one of the best countertop installers will likely save the homeowner money: The countertop is more likely to be installed without damage (or if there is damage, it’s on the contractor), and it’s more likely to fit beautifully and last longer as a result.
How to Save Money on Porcelain Countertops Cost
In general, you’re already saving money by choosing to go with porcelain: While it’s not the least expensive option, customers can get the high-end look and feel of natural stone without springing for the real thing, and they’ll save on maintenance and repair costs, too. When working on a major home project, though, homeowners are always advised to look for an opportunity to save when possible, and there are some options to make the cost of a porcelain countertop lower, including the following.
- Compare estimates from several contractors. An experienced installer may not be the least expensive, but especially with porcelain, it’s important to choose someone who knows what they’re doing. The cost will pay off in reduced material and future labor expenses.
- Consider other projects that can be accomplished at the same time. Many contractors will offer a reduced installation cost to customers who choose to combine several projects into one job. It’s a great time to replace or reface cabinetry and pick out new appliances to give the kitchen a quick face-lift, so ask the contractor if multiple projects as part of a total kitchen remodel cost will earn a discount.
Questions to Ask About Porcelain Countertops Installation
Many homeowners haven’t had a porcelain countertop installed, so while some questions apply to any installation, there are additional issues related specifically to porcelain fabrication that merit further consideration. Because porcelain has recently become more popular, it’s important that the homeowner make sure they select an installer with experience who is willing to acknowledge that there are additional concerns when sliding a porcelain counter into place.
- Are you licensed and insured to do this installation? Are all of the employees who might work in my home?
- How much experience do you have installing porcelain countertops?
- What other types of countertop do you install?
- Is porcelain a good choice for my particular installation?
- What styles of edge are available on the porcelain slab?
- Do you offer warranties on your installations? Repair services?
- Who handles the cutouts for the sink and faucets?
- Who will handle the installation of the sink and plumbing?
- How long will the project take?
- Does the countertop need to be sealed? How should I care for my new counter?
There are a host of options when it comes to choosing countertops, and so there are many factors for homeowners to consider when making a decision. Knowing the answers to some common questions can make approaching the whole project a little easier; homeowners will want to review the following before they get started.
Q. What are the disadvantages of porcelain countertops?
While the list of porcelain countertops pros and cons leans heavily toward the pros, there are some important cons to remember. First, it’s important to remember that porcelain is fabricated: It isn’t natural stone, and so the design is on the surface, not throughout. This limits the edge-finishing options, because the installer can’t simply rout or shave a shape into the edge of the material. It can also be a problem if the porcelain chips—while the color should remain consistent, any pattern or design won’t run through the chip. Second, while most knives won’t damage porcelain, ceramic knives can scratch or damage the surface, so while it’s best to use a cutting board in any case, it’s imperative to avoid cutting directly on a porcelain surface with ceramic knives. Finally, porcelain isn’t yet a mainstream selection for countertops, so homeowners may have some difficulty finding a fabricator to produce the countertop locally.
Q. Is porcelain better than quartz?
“Better than” depends on the needs of the user. Quartz countertops are natural stone and are uniform throughout the slab, so they can be honed, shaped, and smoothed if they chip. Quartz countertops cost about $15 more per square foot than porcelain, and quartz is prone to staining and discoloration when exposed to liquids, acids, or heat. Porcelain counters are less expensive and far less likely to stain or discolor. Unless the look of natural stone is particularly important, porcelain counters may be the better choice.
Q. How long does it take to install a porcelain countertop?
Generally speaking, installation takes between 1 and 3 days: The old countertop must be removed so careful measurements can be taken, and then the counter needs to be customized with the appropriate shaping and cutouts before the porcelain can be installed. Some jobs may take longer than others if it’s discovered that the counters on which the new materials will be placed need shoring up or rebuilding, but a simple replacement without extensive detailing could be completed in a day.
Q. Is porcelain cheaper than granite?
It is, provided that a qualified installer is readily available. Porcelain is a relatively new addition to countertop options in the United States, so while the materials and installation are generally less expensive than with granite ($25 to $65 per square foot compared to the cost of granite countertops at $40 to $100 per square foot), finding a good installer for porcelain could be difficult, and transportation expenses may add to the overall cost.
Q. Do porcelain countertops chip easily?
Unlike a fine porcelain teacup, porcelain countertops are made from a thick, sturdy slab of porcelain, so while they certainly can chip, it takes quite an impact for that to happen. In fact, natural stone can chip far more easily than porcelain. Unfortunately, when porcelain countertops do chip, it’s quite difficult to repair them invisibly, so if the countertop is damaged, the choice will be between living with a visible chip or replacing a section of the countertop.
Q. How thick is a porcelain slab?
The word “slab” calls to mind a chunk of material that is hefty and thick, and compared to some other products made from porcelain, a countertop slab might be perceived that way. In contrast to other countertop fabrication materials, however, porcelain slabs are downright delicate until they are installed, ranging from about ¼ to ½ inch.
Sources: HomeAdvisor, Fixr, CounterTop guides