I'm working on new plans for a house and need to know the differences between kitchen countertops. I'm not interested in stainless steel or laminates. Can anyone tell me the pros and cons of each product and approximate cost? I've looked at granite, marble, quartz, concrete and corian. These are the ones I'm particularly interested in. I also want low maintenance.
I hope this is not too late to help you since it's been five months since you posted your question. Of the products you mentioned the quartz,solid surface (CORIAN, and granite are probably lowest in maintenance and easiest to care for and live with. Quartz surfaces are 93% quartz crystals bonded with resin and are non-porous, so stains don't penetrate into it. It's very hard (only diamond, sapphire, and topaz are harder) and is very scratch resistant. Normally undermount stainless steel sinks are used with it, so that is sealed with silicone. Solid surface is comprised of alumina-trihydrate from bauxite ore which is bonded with acrylic or polyester resins to make it nonporous, workable with carbide tipped woodworking tools, and repairable if it's damaged by heat or impact. Solid surface is seamless if a solid surface sink is used and the backsplash is coved (integral to the countertop). Solid surface is susceptible to heat damage so care needs to be taken not to set hot dishes from the oven on it. Also raise electric skillets, woks, or crockery cookers to allow air to circulate under them. Also run cold water in the sink when draining boiling water from a pan. Dark colors show scratches much more than light colors and tend to be higher maintenance than lighter colors. Granite is mined from the earth, cut into slabs, polished, and shipped to fabricators who manufacture countertops on massive machinery using diamond cutters and copious amounts of water. The quality of granite varies greatly, so be careful where you buy it. It's porous so it needs to be sealed with a special penetrating sealer. This needs to be renewed periodically to prevent staining. Granite can be very beautiful and no manmade product can duplicate its unique patterns. No two slabs are exactly alike and samples may not accurately depict the color you'll get, so be sure to pick your slabs from the fabricator's stock. Marble is very soft and porous so I'd avoid it entirely. Concrete is variable and depends entirely on the fabricator's skill in casting and polishing the surface. I've seen some that look like a sidewalk and I don't see what's attractive about that. In terms of cost, granite will likely be highest followed by quartz, then solid surface. There can be overlap depending on how many bells and whistles you want, and color plays a part in the cost of the finished product.