The options are endless for counter tops. In this post we’ll go over several of the most common material options, as well as some you may not have heard about.
Granite. In the U.S. granite has been the counter top material of choice for more than a decade. It’s been used so much that it’s starting to loose popularity due to market saturation. Granite is still a great option for kitchens, bars and vanities, and can be incorporated into other applications like shelves, fireplace hearths, etc. It’s very durable and is scratch and heat resistant, though it can be damaged by thermal shock or dropping heavy items on it. Granite is sealed during the fabrication process and will eventually need to be re-sealed, although that process is quite easy. Using mild cleaners intended for natural stone will prevent the sealer from pre-maturely wearing out. Cost for granite can range from $50-70/sq ft for common colors to well over $100/sq ft for more unique materials.
Quartz. The benefits of quartz countertops are superior strength and scratch resistance, lack of porosity so it resists bacterial growth, and more intentional design characteristics since it’s man-made. Quartz is more susceptible to thermal shock damage than granite and shouldn’t have hot pans set directly on it. Quartz countertops are made from 93% quartz stone with added resins and materials to bind everything together. Because they’re man-made, the available colors and patterns are endless. Some quartz can be fabricated like granite, while other proprietary brands like Cambria are custom-made based on your project. Quartz can range from $50-80/sq foot for standard materials to well over $100/sq ft for luxury colors and patterns.
Butcher-block. Butcher block counter tops can add warmth and character. They’re especially popular where food prep will be completed. A common misconception about butcher block is that it harbors bacteria, but according to the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin, wood cutting boards (including butcher block) perform better than plastic regarding harboring bacteria. They do need to be sealed regularly with a food-safe sealer like mineral oil, and eventually they may need to be sanded down to remove excessive cut marks. Butcher block is available in maple, birch, oak, and other species of wood and can cost $40/sq ft and up.
Solid surface. Corian is the most well-known brand of solid-surface, acrylic counter tops. This material is non-porous and can be custom-made for your kitchen design so there are no seams. Integral sinks can be included for a totally seamless installation. It is a soft material, and while it doesn’t chip or crack easily, is can be scratched or stained and doesn’t tolerate heat well at all. There are many color choices available and staining can usually be removed with an abrasive cleaner like Softscrub or Barkeeper’s Friend. Cost ranges from $50-100 a sq ft.
Laminate. The counter top material of choice for decades, laminate counter tops are built with a particle board base and covered in a laminate material that’s durable and easy to clean. Manufacturers like Formica and Wilsonart make dozens of colors and patterns. Laminate will resist some scratching, although it won’t hold up against cutting, heat, or impacts on the counter top edge. Wherever there’s a seam, water can get in and cause the particle board to expand and mold to grow, eventually ruining the counter top. Installation usually costs $40-65/sq ft.
Concrete. One of the more customizable options, concrete counter tops can be fabricated in a factory or poured in place. There are many edge profiles available and nearly limitless design options for color, texture, patterns, and shapes and sinks can be cast as one piece with the counter top. Concrete can be very strong, but it is susceptible to damage from heat, scratching and impact. It’s a great option for unique, handmade counter tops with an industrial feel. Concrete countertops need to be sealed with a food-safe sealer and will need re-sealed regularly, depending on use and cleaning. Costs can range from $75/sq ft to well over $100/sq ft.
Epoxy Resin. Epoxy is a versatile material that can be combined with many other materials to create a unique and artistic result. Some options include live edge wood slabs with epoxy filling, coating objects like pennies or bottle caps, or mixing in broken glass, walnut shells, sea shells, etc. Color options are endless. Resin is easy to clean and non-porous. For maintenance recommendations, check out this link. Costs can start at $65/sq foot.
Soapstone. It’s very durable and impervious to most chemicals. Soapstone is easy to care for and can be left to age gracefully or sealed to preserve its condition. It is comparable to quartz but with its own aesthetic. Expect to spend $80/sq ft or more.
Glass. Both recycled glass and solid thermoformed glass are options, though their look and characteristics are different. Recycled glass tops are made from small pieces of glass mixed into a resin or concrete. Thermoformed glass is solid glass and can incorporate multiple textures and designs. Glass countertops are unique on their own but can also be lighted for added effect. Durability depends on the type of material. Glass tops can cost $80/sq ft or more.
Thin-panel porcelain. Modern advances have been made in the manufacture of thin-panel porcelain tiles sized 5′ x 10′ or even larger. These materials are limitless in design. Each manufacturer trains installers to install their materials, and this qualification process is crucial to a successful result. Porcelain is a highly durable material and will resist scratches and stains. It can be damage by dropping heavy items on it or by heat. Thin panels can themselves cost between $500 and several thousand dollars, with installation running close to $65-100/sq ft, making this one of the most expensive options.
Marble. Carrara and other marbles are beautiful options for counter tops. The veining and color variations are classic and adds a richness to any space. However, marble is also a very soft stone and can stain easily. Light colors are more susceptible to staining than darker colors. Maintaining an adequate sealing schedule is a must for marble. Costs can be $75/sq ft and up.
Selecting the proper counter top material for your kitchen remodel, bathroom or bar is an important decision. Finding a material that looks good, will hold up to use and is within your budget can be a process but with the options available today it’s easily possible. At Simply Beautiful Remodeling we can fully design your space and help select the perfect counter top materials. Let us know if we can help!