Countertops: What are my Options?
When thinking about redoing your kitchen or bathroom cabinets you will also have to consider your countertops. Popular materials change over time and it can be confusing to find the right countertops for you. The best place to start is to evaluate your needs and your budget. Do you need a countertop that will be low maintenance? Or is the aesthetic more important to you? Do you want to make a big investment in the countertop or do you need to nicely finish your project without breaking the bank? I’ll go through some of the most popular types of countertops and the benefits and potential downsides of each.
Laminate countertops are a low budget way to finish a project while still achieving a decent look. Over time the quality of laminate has improved, and it is now available in nice patterns that mimic stone. They are easy to clean and keep sanitized but are not as sturdy as some options since the laminate is a thin layer glued to particle board. The most attractive quality of laminate is the low cost, but if you are already investing money into good cabinets it’s probably best to invest into a nice countertop as well. It will cost a little more but will add to your enjoyment of the room and the resale value of the house.
Tile countertops are another less expensive option that can look beautiful in kitchens. The problem with tile countertops is keeping them sanitary. The tile itself can be fairly nonporous and easily wiped down but the grout will likely cause issues. If you use a sanded grout it creates a porous surface that will quickly trap food, germs, and all sorts of nastiness. If you want a tile countertop your best bet is a nonsanded grout, or better yet, a grout made to be antimicrobial. Keep in mind that just as grout in tile floors gets dirty and discolored so can the grout on your tile countertops. They require fairly regular cleaning to keep clean.
Solid surface countertops are a step up from laminate and tile. The original line of solid surface countertops is Corian but there are several other brands these days. The manufacturers blend resin, coloring, and naturally occurring minerals to create these countertops. They are very dense, easy to clean, and as they are indeed a solid surface with the same composition through the entire counter they are easy to fix if something scratches the top. Solid surface counters are less expensive than most granite, marble, or quartz, but are at a slightly higher price point than tile or laminate. They come in a variety of patterns and colors and can be a beautiful cost effective option.
Here is a link to Corian’s website where you can see the different styles of solid surface that they offer.
Granite countertops are beautiful, no doubt about it. They are natural stone, mined from the earth, and typically sealed in order to minimize how porous the surface is. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, each piece unique. However because each piece is unique you have to go out to a granite yard and select a slab yourself. You cannot use many commercially available cleaning products on granite countertops. Most professionals recommend simply wiping them down with warm water and maybe a small amount of dish soap. There are granite specific cleaning products available and some even contain small amounts of sealant in the cleaner which may reduce how frequently you have to reseal the granite. Granite and Quartz are close in price. You can find granite cheaper than quartz, but more expensive types of granite are available as well. Granite is a beautiful option but it is more expensive and requires more maintenance than some other surfaces.
Quartz countertops are a wonderful option. Manufacturers engineer them in a similar way to solid surface counters, but they use at least 90% natural quartz combined with coloring, resin, and maybe even glass for added detail. The best brand, Cambria, is the only American company in the quartz business that manufactures in the United States. They produce over 140 different designs and recently added the option of a matte finish on any of their designs. Quartz comes in a wide range of colors and styles. Since it is an engineered product there is no need to look at a slab, as they make each piece look as similar as possible to the original sample piece. Quartz is lower maintenance than Granite. It does not require resealing or special cleaners but you should not clean it with bleach or abrasive products. Cambria recommends just wiping it down with a soft cloth, some warm water, and maybe a little mild soap. Quartz costs more than most other options except for granite, but it is easy to select a beautiful color and pattern that perfectly complements your kitchen or bath and is low maintenance once installed.
Here is a link to Cambria’s website where they have photographs of all of the options they provide.
There are other types of countertops beyond what I have mentioned. Some of the more recent types gaining popularity are glass countertops and concrete countertops. If you are looking for something trendy and different these might be for you! Wood counters have been around for a while and are beautiful, but they require fairly frequent maintenance and cleaning. The options I discussed are simply the more common and popular options on the market. I hope this guide helps you find the right countertop for you! Happy renovating!