When you walk into someone’s kitchen what’s the first thing you notice? It’s probably not their cabinets, flooring, or even the quality of their appliances, but the countertops that jump out at you. In fact, the right countertops can make – or break – the aesthetic of a kitchen, and there are subtle differences in look, durability, installation, upkeep, and yes, price, for each of the many options you have available when planning your countertop.
In this blog, we’ll cover the pros, cons, and cost of the seven most common countertop materials, and look for part two where we cover nontraditional, modern, and luxury countertop materials.
Each slab of granite is uniquely “mottled,” adding a natural personality of colors and patterns to your kitchen counters.
Granite is incredibly durable, resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches. It also won’t stain from liquids or items spilled on it as long as its sealed periodically, and you can cut with the sharpest knife right on granite without harming it.
Like we mentioned, granite can stain if it’s not regularly sealed, and the edges can nick or crack over time or if not installed correctly. Since it’s so heavy, DIY granite countertops might not be a good idea, and it should only sit on heavyweight supportive cabinets. Since each piece is unique, it also can be impossible to find a perfectly matching replacement slab down the road.
Cost: $50 to $100 per square foot installed
If you’re wondering what solid surfacing is, you’re not alone, as most people know it by one of its brand names, Corian, though all solid surfacing is made from acrylic and polyester composites.
Solid surfacing may look like solid stone but it’s nonporous, which means you’ll never need to seal it and no special cleaning or maintenance is required. Since it’s an engineered material, you can choose from almost endless color and pattern options, and installation is seamless with no grout lines or cracks.
Hot items like cooking pots or pans can burn solid surfacing, and sharp knives will damage it. The good news is that those imperfections can be sanded out for simple repairs.
Cost: $35 to $100 per square foot, installed
Also called engineered quartz or engineered stone, modern quartz is one of the hottest new countertop materials, a mix of quartz chips, mineral and resin that’s tinted in aesthetically stunning color variations.
While it may look like a natural stone, quartz is engineered, which means it’s available in many different colors and patterns, but still is incredibly durable, as hot pots, serrated knives, abrasive pads, and most stains won’t affect quartz.
Cons: Since it’s manufactured, quartz tends to look uniform (unlike granite or natural stone), and can get pretty pricey, though it’s worth it.
Cost: $40 to $100 per square foot, installed
Marble is one of the most high-end countertops you can find, and traditionally used in many luxury homes, though it does come at a premium.
Marble looks and feels glamorous, almost glowing with luminescence in the right light with unique veining. It’s generally durable and resistant to heat, and bakers and pastry chefs love the fact that it always stays cool.
Marble is prone to nicks and scratches, though some see that as patina that adds character. Still, those imperfections can be polished out. Marble also needs to be resealed regularly, as it’s relatively porous so susceptible to stains. .
Cost: $40 to $100 per square foot, installed
This was the most popular economical countertop material from the 1960s through the 1990s, and still today, many people opt for tile countertops.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in many colors, surfaces, and styles, from small and shiny rounded modern glass-like tiles to large and flat natural Italian stone tiles. Tiles are one of the most inexpensive countertops options, and easy to add as a “modular” design, allowing homeowners to mix and match. Most tiles are also durable, resistant to scratching, staining and heat. If they are damaged, it’s easy to replace one tile.
Cons: Tiles are usually labor intensive to install, and some people don’t care to have a grid of grout lines on their kitchen counter, which can hold dirt, stains, bacteria, and other substances, as well as presenting an uneven cutting surface.
Cost: $10 to $80 per square foot, installed
Laminate has been a kitchen counter stalwart for many decades, and sometimes is perceived as cheap, though today’s laminate countertops are equally modern, diverse, and practical.
Sometimes called Formica after the brand name, laminate counters are made of paper blended with resins and fused to particleboard, and therefore one of your least expensive countertop options. These days, they also come in a wide spectrum of colors, faux patterns, and styles, and can be laser measured and cut to fit any counter surface seamlessly. Laminate materials are far more stain and heat resistant than their predecessors. It’s also lightweight, and because of the combination of these options (and especially the low cost), laminate is a favorite in rental properties.
Laminate countertops are still easily damaged by sharp knives or cuts, and abrasives like steel wool can also do damage. Laminate is also difficult to repair without replacing a whole section (and leaving a seam) or the whole counter top. Over time, layers can peel if left wet, and you also can’t use laminate with undermount sinks.
Cost: $10 to $40 per square foot, installed
While not nearly common as granite, soapstone offers similar natural beauty and some characteristics in common but with a softer surface.
It resists heat well, and also repels stains, chemicals and bacteria, making it a durable countertop surface for high-use kitchens (they often use soapstone in chemical laboratories.) Soapstone also ages well, growing richer in color and texture.
Soapstone does ding, scratch and nick fairly easily, but those can be sanded out with super fine paper and then recoated with mineral oil for simple repairs. While it does resist some stains, it has been known to absorb others, so spills should be cleaned quickly, and it should be finished with oil periodically.
Cost: $70 to $100 per square foot, installed