One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make when remodeling your kitchen is what material to use for your countertops.
What material you choose—whether you go for a super contemporary look with solid surface materials or french country with marble—will depend largely on your kitchen style, needs, and budget. Here’s a look at some pros and cons of some commonly used countertop materials and estimates of what you might expect to pay (which will, naturally, vary on where you live, market prices, and the materials you choose).
For decades now it seems that granite countertops have been a go-to material for style and high quality. But if you’re itching for granite counters, you may have to plan on busting out your checkbook. The average price of granite countertops is one of the pricier materials you’ll find.
However, there are a number of pros to using it that may warrant the price. Granite is a very hard stone and extremely durable. It’s hard to scratch and heat resistant, so you can move hot pans directly from the stove to the counter.
Granite is also stain resistant. Though it can stain, it is less porous than other materials, making it less likely that a stain will be permanent.
What’s more, you can seal granite to make it even less likely that your coffee mug or bottle of olive oil will leave a ring.
Estimated cost: $40 to $100 per square foot.
Though it may sound like it, quartz countertops are not a natural stone per se. Rather they are a man-made material made from quartz particles that are then held together with resin. Quartz is one of the hardest minerals on earth, so the resulting material is also extremely durable.
Because quartz countertops are engineered they can come in all sorts of designs from bright solid colors to patterns that mimic natural stone.
They also come in different textures from glassy smooth to matte to stone finishes. Quartz countertops are not porous due to the resin that binds them together, so they are also stain-resistant and never need to be sealed.
Estimated cost: $50 to $90 per square foot.
Laminates are one of the cheaper countertop materials, making them a common choice, especially for those on a budget. They are made with layers of plastic that are then glued to a base such as particleboard. They come in a variety of colors, patterns and surface textures.
Laminates do not stand up to heat as well as stone, and they are scratched more easily. They are less durable than other materials like granite or marble so they’ll likely need to be replaced more frequently.
However, they are much lighter than stone countertops, so they are much easier to install for those with a DIY streak in them. Installing laminates yourself can help you keep your overall budget down.
Estimated cost: $27 to $34 per square foot.
Solid surface countertops are made much like quartz counters. However, these use acrylic particles bound with resin instead of stone. As another engineered product, they come in a variety of colors and patterns, including those that mimic stone.
They are non-porous, so they’re stain-resistant, and scratches can easily be sanded off the surface. As an acrylic, they don’t hold up well to heat. They can withstand boiling water, but they might begin to warp at temperatures as low as 250°F.
Estimated cost: $37 to $67 per square foot.
The price of wood countertops can vary widely by type of wood. Exotic woods can cost a pretty penny, but counters made from cheaper species such as birch are only a bit more than other cheaper options such as laminate. Wood countertops are often made of butcher block, which is composed of pieces of wood with their edge grain up that are glued together to form a hard, continuous surface.
As a material, wood is a relatively soft so it may get banged up a bit. However, scratches can be easily sanded out. The surface may also burn when hot pans are placed on it. DIYers can install wood counters themselves, which can help control costs.
Estimated cost: $30 to $60 per square foot.
Tile countertop is another material whose cost will vary widely depending on what the tile is made of.
On the cheaper end, ceramic tiles can cost as little as a couple dollars per square foot, while a marble tile, for example, might cost more like $7 per square foot. Depending on the tile you choose, where it’s from, and how it’s made, the price per square foot can rise considerably.
Tile materials—which can range from ceramic to glass to stone—tend to be durable, and heat- and scratch-resistant. That said, tile may also be brittle, potentially chipping if something heavy is dropped on it.
And tiles are separated by grout, which may be easily stained. Tiles can be easy for DIY installation, however, if you don’t have a lot of experience setting tiles, it can be easy to end up with an uneven surface.
Estimated cost: $2 to $72 per square foot.
Marble has a long history as an art and design material, calling to mind ancient statues, French cafe tables, and hip bars replete with Edison bulbs and brass fixtures. With a price similar to granite, marble is also an accessible material for home countertops.
As a stone, marble is relatively durable. However, it much softer than granite and will likely show some scratches. It’s also more porous, so it stains more easily as well.
It may be subject to damage from acidic foods like lemons, which interact with the stone’s chemical make-up. Marble can be sealed to prevent some of these issues, but the process must be repeated on a regular basis.
It is heat resistant meaning you can put hot pots and pans right on it. And if you’re a baker, you may be drawn to marble for its use as a surface to make pastries on, as it is prone to staying cool in the summer months. Marble is heavy so it is difficult for the weekend warrior to install themselves.
Estimated cost: $25 to $180 per square foot.
Long used as a countertop of choice in commercial kitchens, stainless steel is becoming more popular in the home.
Countertops made from the metal have a lot of advantages—they are easy to clean, and they don’t burn, rust, or stain. They are completely recyclable should you ever change yowur mind and remodel your kitchen.
There are some disadvantages to the materials, including that it can be loud—think clattering pots and pans against metal. And though durable, the material does have a tendency to scratch or dent. The thicker the stainless steel, the less likely it is to be damaged.
Estimated cost: $80 to $225 per square foot.
Costs Beyond the Raw Materials
The cost of new countertop materials isn’t the only expense associated with upgrading your kitchen counters. There’s also the cost to install the countertops, which will typically vary by material.
For example, having stainless steel professionally installed can add about $10 per square foot to the price of the counter, whereas professional installation of quartz countertops can add $50 per square foot to the price of the materials.
Installing materials yourself is a great way to reduce costs, but can be challenging depending on the material.
You’ll also need to consider what types of modifications you’ll need to make to the materials such as cutting a hole for a sink. Cutting a hole in a granite countertop for a sink can add around $100 to the overall cost, for example.
One option to control the costs of kitchen countertops is by mixing materials. For example, if you have your heart set on a granite countertop, consider using granite for a small portion of the kitchen, such as on an island and using another cheaper materials like tile for the larger counter spaces.
Financing Kitchen Improvements
Renovating your home can be a way to boost your home’s value. If you don’t have the cash on hand to make improvements to your house, one option to consider is an unsecured personal loan. These loans can be used to cover costs from small repairs to major remodels and do not use your home equity or other assets as collateral.
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