It’s important to seriously consider your options for kitchen countertops before making such a large investment in your home. You’ll have to live with these surfaces for a long time so it’s prudent to choose materials that never go out of style. Even though it may seem unlikely that you would ever sell as a new homeowner, life may guide you to that direction later in life. For this reason, choosing materials with mass appeal may save you money and headache in the long run.
This guide will help walk you through the pros, cons and costs of each countertop type.
Granite: Historically the most popular countertop, granite comes in numerous shades of beige, black, coral, green and white. It appears to be on the way out as a trendy countertop. Jeffrey Cannata, past president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association has this advice for homeowners, “if they have three kids and they’re making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the countertops every day, they might not want to go with that white granite.”
- Pros: Granite comes in two attractive finishes. A polished finish provides a shiny look and often darkens the stone’s appearance. Honing the granite produces a soft, matte finish.
- Cons: If sealed incorrectly or the sealant wears off, granite can absorb wine, juice or oil producing a stain that can be impossible to remove. Poorly-sealed granite can also become a home for bacteria.
- Cost: $45-$200 per square foot, including installation.
Marble: This luxurious stone is beautiful but needs a lot of maintenance to stay in pristine condition. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the colors and shades that are the most affordable are also considered the prettiest. The price soars if you go for rare colors from exotic quarries.
- Pros: An elegant look that will remain attractive for your home’s entire life.
- Cons: Not ideal for kitchens that will see a high-use by children. It’s critical that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for sealing, daily care and cleaning.
- Cost: $45-$200 per square foot
Quartz/Engineered Stone: Polymer and resin binders mix with 90 percent ground quartz to form a gleaming, non-porous surface. Cannata calls quartz countertops “bulletproof.”
- Pros: This stain-resistant, durable, sleek surface is manufactured, allowing a much wider range of colors than in natural stone. The very low amount of required maintenance also makes it attractive to buyers.
- Cons: There aren’t many downsides to quartz other than its price.
- Cost: $115-$200 per square foot, which is competitive with high-end materials including granite, marble, and concrete.
Concrete: While it may initially seem like a purely-industrial material, concrete gives homeowners many color choices when selecting a countertop.
- Pros: Concrete countertops come in a few finishes: trowel (smooth), ground (sanded to expose the sand within the material) and pressed (a tool is used to expose veins like those found in marble.) Obviously, they’re very durable.
- Cons: Extreme temperature changes can cause concrete to warp or curl. Soggy sponges or acidic spills can stain the surface. To prevent damage, experts recommend concrete countertops be resealed up to four times per year and waved every two to three months.
- Cost: $65 – $135 for a standard 1.5-inch-thick countertop
Butcher Block: If you’re looking for an old-timey look, butcher block is the way to go. It consists of maple wood glued together.
- Pros: Wood can bring a light, quaint feel to a kitchen. It clean-up easily and scratches can be removed with a sander.
- Cons: Water can easily damage wood, so butcher block must be oiled frequently.
- Cost: $55-$200 per square foot
Metal: Countertops made from metal have a rich history in commercial kitchens but became less popular in homes with the rise of laminate surfaces. They come in stainless steel, copper, zinc and pewter. The metal portion of the surface is generally a thin sheet wrapped or fastened around wood or a similar material.
- Pros: Metal countertops clean easily, are non-porous, and most are heat-proof.
- Cons: If you drop a bottle of wine, for example, it will leave a dent that’s impossible to remove. Metals other than stainless steel will develop a patina and change colors. You’ll have to seal or wax the metal to prevent this.
- Cost: $80-$225 per square foot for stainless steel, $100-$175 per square foot for copper, $150 to $200 per square foot for zinc and $400 a square foot for cast pewter.
Laminate: If you don’t want to break the bank but still want a fresh look for your kitchen consider laminate.
- Pros: Laminate is the most affordable countertop and is sold in a variety of colors and designs.
- Cons: It can burn if a hot pot or pan is laid on it without protection. Laminate is also known to easily scratch but some newer iterations are more scratch resistant.
- Cost: $15-$40 per square foot
Tile: Ceramic tile offers the more creative freedom in countertop design than any other material. They come in a range of prices and colors that will match just about any style.
- Pros: Tile countertops can be relatively affordable depending on your chosen tiles quality, size and color. This material is heat resistant, durable and easy to care for if you keep the grout sealed.
- Cons: Complex tile designs with smaller tiles arranged in elaborate mosaic patterns can get expensive. One tip is use large tiles to cut down on installation costs.
- Cost: $18-$50+ per square foot