Review of Kitchen Countertop Materials, Including Durability, Price, Styles
If new kitchen countertops are in your future, you may be in for a surprise if it's been a while since you investigated the possibilities. You are no longer locked in to formica or butcherblock countertops. New materials are on the market that will make your kitchen an attractive and very functional place to be. Some of the new countertop materials include natural ones like granite, marble, stone, soapstone; and manmade ones like Corian, some tiles like ceramic, laminates, and recycled glass and porcelain. If you want to see these surfaces for yourself, a quick trip to your local Home Depot or Lowe's will give you a preview of what could be in your kitchen in the near future. Of course, before starting to seriously plan for your new kitchen countertops, a review of what you can afford should be in order. We'll offer some basic prices to help you plan, and so you'll have an idea what they will cost before you make your final decision. And we'll review these countertop materials so you'll know what fits with your lifestyle, too.
Here's a brief review of the top countertop materials, including features, durability, and price information.
Granite is now the material of choice for many homeowners who are remodeling their kitchens. It is beautiful and durable, but color choice is limited and does require some regular maintenance. Usually a coat of nonyellowing paste wax applied twice a year is all you need to keep it looking like new. Spills should be taken care of immediately; the countertops should be wiped down daily with a mild soap and water solution; and acidic substances like vinegar, soda, and lemon juice should be kept off the countertop. Installing granite countertops isn't really a do-it-yourself job, it's recommended that a professional do the installation, although you can save some of the cost by doing some preliminary work yourself. Expect to pay anywhere from $70 to $100 per square foot, installed. You can save if you go with granite tiles instead, but you will be dealing with the grouting between the tiles as far as cleaning and maintaining.
Marble is a beautiful surface, but not as durable as granite, and even more expensive. While it's not recommended for all of your kitchen countertops by about.com, if you really want marble in your kitchen, consider it for just one countertop, like on an island or an inset of a baking counter, since marble is a favorite for rolling dough and making pastry. On the downside, it is expensive, porous, and stains easily unless professionally sealed. If you decide on marble, decide to pay extra to protect them.
Often called the "original stone countertop," soapstone was used in early New England kitchens for their countertops. It is highly durable, so acidic products won't damage it, and stains can be rubbed out easily.
- Other Natural Stone Countertops
Kitchens.com described Limestone as "not the best choice for messy or frequent cooks" due to being very porous, so it will stain easily. However, a type of limestone called "Jerusalem stone" because it is quarried from areas around the Holy Land, is a dolomite-limestone, resembles marble but is hardier than marble and traditional limestone. Slate is another material used for countertops. It's durable, hard, fireproof and beautiful too. It's not so porous so not so easily stained, although it's still recommended that you seal it for extra protection.
Prices for natural stone countertops average about $70 to $100 per square foot, installed; top of the line slabs can run as much as $300 per square foot.
More Countertop Materials
- Solid Surface Materials
These include Corian, Swanstone, and Avonite finishes. These are made by mixing a mineral compound with polyester and/or acrylic resins. The countertop is smooth and uniform and you can achieve the look of natural stone with some of these finishes. You have a wide choice of colors and finishes; chips, dents and scratches can be easily repaired; is flexible enough to be formed into most any shape. Some less-than-stellar issues include not being as heat resistant as stone; will scratch easily, so don't use the countertop as a cutting board; could become discolored if a heavy object falls on it. Average prices run from $70-$80 per square foot, installed.
- Laminate Finishes
If you are on a tight budget, these finishes are the cheapest to purchase, coming in at $5 to $20 per square foot. It's the most common type of countertop material due to its low cost, easy upkeep, availability in so many colors and finishes--including those that resemble the look of granite, solid stone, or hardwoods. It's not as durable as the natural stone counters, hot pans cannot be set on the counters, nor can you use this type of countertop as a cutting board.
Another low-cost alternative is wood countertops. The most common type of wood countertop is known as Butcherblock. Made from stacked and glued sheets of hard maple, butcherblock measures anywhere from 1 1/4 to 6 inches thick, and is a natural cutting board. While knife marks will show up, they can generally be removed by sanding and re-oiling. Other types of wood surfaces include cherry, teak, and walnut, although these are used more for decorative purposes. Prices run from $10 to $40 per square foot.
- Stainless Steel
Some homeowners prefer the look of the professional kitche, so their choice for countertops is stainless steel. Costing from $85 to $100 per square foot, stainless steel is usually attached to another surface like plywood to provide strength and to deaden the metallic sound. Can handle hot pots, won't stain, easy to clean, it can show scratches and fingerprints. Easily cleaned with soap and water, don't use anything abrasive on it as it will show the scratches.
- Specialty Surfaces
Not your everyday countertop finish, these are fairly new on the market, some are more expensive, but they are good alternatives if you have the money and want to be different. Lavastone is just what its name implies: made from volcanic rock with a glazed finish, this countertop material is very expensive, running from $210 on up. The color choices are endless and it's nonporous so it wont' stain. Glass is another new material hitting the kitchen scene. These countertops are usually made by combinging an epoxy resin, recycled glass and porcelain to make a beautiful addition to your kitchen. Prices range from $60 to $150 per square foot. Paper-based countertops have been used in commercial kitchens for years, are as durable and heat resistant as stone, and costs from $65-$75 per square foot. Richlite is the primary manufacturer of this type of countertop, and is also the first to offer hemp-based countertops. Finally, you can choose semi-precious surfaces, if you have a budget big enough to sustain it. Costing from $300 to $400 per square foot, you'll find these available in turquoise, jasper, and carnelian, among other surfaces.
What a lot of choices you have! Once we got started, we just couldn't stop! These are the bare basics of the many different finishes available for your kitchen countertops. For more information, see such web sites as Kitchens.com and e-kitchens.com, among others. At e-kitchens.com you'll be able to get a basic price quote on your countertops, and you can even order your choice from here as well. Have fun!