Your Ultimate Kitchen Countertop Selection Guide: Part One

The Markham - 456 by Century Communities Washington in Shoreline, WA

The Markham - 456 by Century Communities Washington in Shoreline, WA. This kitchen features granite countertops.

Countertops represent one of the largest visual aspects of any new kitchen, and with so many different materials and styles offered today, many new homeowners find it more challenging than expected to design this important focal point. An ideal countertop material should offer both durability and a pleasing aesthetic that matches the overall design theme of the room. Today, we review five of 10 of the most popular countertop materials offered today to help you quickly narrow down your choices.  

Laminate

We begin with one of the most time-tested and cost-effective materials available. Laminate, which first came to prominence in the 1950s and ’60s, is created by layering plastic and bonding it to particle board. Laminate is ideal for homeowners on a budget. Its lower price point also makes it perfect for owners that enjoy remodeling every few years. Many laminate patterns are designed to visually mimic other materials such as stone and wood, and this material can be a great choice for homeowners desiring bright countertop colors or or a “retro” theme. Since laminate is composed of plastic materials, it is not an ideal material for resisting heat damage or cuts and gouges from sharp utensils so show extra care when dealing with hot pots and pans or sharp knives.  

Estimated Price Range: $15-$50 per square foot

Tile

Available in ceramic, glass and porcelain, tile is another dependable and cost-effective countertop material to consider. Thanks to its ability to be cut in endless sizes and shapes, tile is generally considered one of the most versatile materials to work with and is an ideal choice for someone interested in designing a countertop with unique custom designs. Tile is also frequently used when installing backsplashes that can be matched with the countertops underneath. Ceramic is the most common tile sold due to its affordable price point and large variety of colors, shapes and sizes, but many people choose porcelain or glass for a different appearance.  

While tile itself is a durable material — both heat and stain-resistant — that should last for many years, homeowners will need to ensure that the grout between each tile is properly sealed to avoid staining and to avoid possible sanitary issues. Periodic sealing of the grout may need to occur every few years so routine maintenance is required. Tile is also not the best choice if you desire a completely flat surface. 

 In the event a tile is chipped or damaged, it can be challenging to replace, and homeowners should keep replacement tiles if possible. While the material itself is very cost-effective, installation costs can be quite high depending on the amount of custom design work required.  

Estimated Price Range: $25-$100 per square foot (depending on custom install requirements)

Granite

A longtime favorite of many homebuilders, granite offers a high-end appearance to any new kitchen. Derived from a natural resource, each granite slab is visually unique, which allows homeowners to create distinctive looks within their new kitchen but may not be the best choice for those seeking a completely uniform appearance. Granite is a very hard, durable material and resists cuts and scratches well, but in turn, it could dull knives over time if used as a cutting surface. It is also heat resistant, so you don’t have to worry about hot pots and pans around it.  

Granite will resist stains but it must be properly sealed as it is a somewhat porous material, and additional periodic sealing may be required to ensure it remains stain-resistant throughout the years. Additional support structures are sometimes required underneath the countertop due to granite’s natural density and weight. Honed granite offers a softer matte finish for those seeking less of the glossy appearance that natural sealed granite provides. A timeless kitchen countertop classic, granite is a solid contender for those seeking a durable material that offers a unique, non-uniform appearance and will do its part to help your new home retain its resale value.  

Estimated Price Range: $90-$230 per square foot

Quartz

Sometimes referred to as engineered stone and comparable to granite in many ways, quartz is quickly becoming a popular substitute for homeowners seeking a rich, natural stone appearance but preferring a material that is more stain-resistant and requires less long-term maintenance. Quartz is an excellent choice for homeowners wanting a consistent and uniform appearance compared to the natural variations found in granite. 

Quartz countertops are manufactured by crushing quartz and combining it with a binding agent such as resin. This process provides homeowners with many visual options to choose from and helps ensure the look and pattern selected in the showroom will be what appears on your countertop once installed. While quartz is not as heat-resistant as granite, many homeowners prefer quartz due to its nonporous nature and reduced maintenance requirements. 

 

The price point for quartz is typically in the same range as granite since it is a manufactured product and price ranges are closely controlled by the companies that produce it. A solid competitor to granite, quartz is an excellent option to consider if you’d like a natural stone appearance while having greater control over the colors and patterns of your countertops.

Estimated Price Range: $95-$220 per square foot

Marble

Formerly a classic choice in many kitchens, marble has taken a backseat to both granite and quartz due to its being a less durable and more porous material. Marble countertops can offer homeowners a truly stunning appearance with unique patterns and colors thanks to the natural mining process that ensures no two slabs are exactly the same. Unfortunately, that beauty comes with a price, as marble is more porous and less resistant to stains, heat and physical damage than granite and quartz. In fact, many builders refuse to provide a warranty for a marble countertop when installed in a high-traffic kitchen environment due to its natural limitations. Homeowners choosing to install marble countertops will need to pay close attention to any items that may stain it and keep all surfaces clean at all times. A full sealing process will be required during installation and annual sealing treatments are recommended thereafter. For those who are willing to meet the somewhat challenging upkeep requirements, and may be designing a minimally used kitchen, marble can offer a very appealing upscale look.   

Estimated Price Range: $125-$245 per square foot

Coming soon, view the final five selections for kitchen countertops on NewHomeSource.

B. Ford spent more than a decade in the specialty appliance retail industry, and now devotes his time to freelance print and video content creation. 

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