Know Your Options for Kitchen Countertops
Countertops can be a major sticking point when choosing finishes for your kitchen renovation.
As the most-used surface in your home, your new kitchen countertops will need to be just as functional as they are beautiful. And with so many competing considerations -- think aesthetics, cost, and space requirements, to name a few -- it's important to know all the facts when weighing your options.
In this article we'll review everything you need to know to make sure you choose the right countertops for your kitchen renovation.
Overview of common countertop materials
Selecting the right countertop material is probably the most important consideration for homeowners planning a renovation.
What looks good? What will suit my needs for the type of cooking I plan to do? And, above all, what can I afford?
Let's take a closer look at seven of the most popular types of countertops -- granite, quartz, concrete, butcher block, quartzite, laminate, and tile -- and weigh their pros on cons on these dimensions:
Granite countertops are so popular because they have very few downsides.
In terms of function, they're extremely hard and, therefore, durable. And unlike marble, they're heat, scratch, and stain-resistant too. So granite can take a lot of abuse during dinner preparations: don't worry about spilling red wine on them or leaving a hot pan out to cool on their surface.
As granite is a natural stone, no two slabs are the same. Each has its own character. Therefore, people who love granite countertops tend to appreciate them for their unique colors and patterns. And their overall look is considered to be more traditional than modern or trendy.
Granite countertops also deliver on value. They typically price out at around $40 per square foot, which is a fraction of the cost that many other countertop materials will run you. Additionally, large slabs are often readily available.
So for an affordable and highly functional kitchen countertop material with a traditional look and plenty of availability, add granite to the top of your list.
You'll notice that marble is mysteriously absent from this list of materials. And that's because quartz countertops can capture the marble look while avoiding many of the stone's shortcomings.
The most notable of these shortcomings is its susceptibility to nasty stains. Whereas marble is a porous, stain-prone material, quartz is nonporous. So much so, in fact, that it doesn't even need to be sealed: quartz countertops won't stain at all, no matter how much pasta sauce you spill on them.
Similar to marble, quartz has that modern, contemporary look currently plastered across the pages of design magazines. But it still comes with its own functional trade-offs. Quartz is not a heat-resistant material and will scorch if hot pans (over 300 degrees Fahrenheit) are placed on its surface.
Unlike granite and the similar-sounding quartzite, quartz is man-made. It's typically 93% crushed quartz stone and 7% epoxies and fillers. Therefore, its pricing depends on labor costs and the intricacy of your desired patterning.
Another trending theme for kitchen renovations is the industrial look. And no countertop material better captures this aesthetic than concrete.
A natural grey concrete countertop can give your kitchen a cool warehouse vibe. But it can also be customized to complement almost any other theme -- concrete is one of the few materials for which design options are virtually unlimited.
Some other things to note about concrete beyond its look: concrete countertops are durable, and they only get harder over their lifetime. It does, however, take about a month for their surfaces to fully cure.
The cost of concrete countertops varies significantly depending on whether or not they're a DIY project. But, in general, it should run you around $100 per square foot for their labor and installation. So this isn't by any means the most cost-effective material you'll encounter.
Another important point to note here is that concrete is porous and, therefore, it can both stain and scratch. That's why it's incredibly important to have it sealed. But bear in mind that even sealed concrete isn't entirely heat, scratch, and stain-resistant.
Want to hop on that trending farmhouse kitchen bandwagon? Then butcher block, or fused wood slats, is a great option for your countertops.
It'll give your kitchen a warm, natural, country look. And the material itself is easy to clean and maintain. This is especially important for those who love to cook and want to maximize their usable space. Celebrity chef, Rachael Ray, swears by it, having been quoted saying that butcher block is her "absolute favorite thing."
Butcher block also tends to be a great bang for your buck in comparison to many of the other materials listed here: according to fixr.com, the cost of butcher block could start as low as $30 per square foot.
However, there are a few cons to this rustic countertop option. Most notably is vulnerability to water - wipe up spills and splashes quickly to avoid serious issues like swelling and mold. Regularly seal your butcher block countertops with a water-resistant coating, and provide touchups with mineral oil, to prevent water from seeping into the hardwood.
Natural quartzite is a real stone, and it's incredibly strong and durable -- more durable than granite, in fact. The downside is that it can stain. So sealing your quartzite countertop twice per year over the course of its lifetime is recommended.
In terms of design, quartzite can have the same sleek, modern look, similar to that of marble, that quartz has. It has a natural shimmer and its organically occurring patterns are beautiful, each one being unique.
According to remodelingexpense.com, the cost of quartzite typically ranges between $40 and $60 per square foot.
Many people don't even consider laminate, the most cost-effective kitchen countertop material, without actually understanding what it is.
Contrary to popular belief, laminate isn't plastic! It's made up of treated paper materials compressed together to form a hard surface. This HPF core is then topped with a decorative layer that provides the look of wood, stone, or another pattern/solid color, and finished with a clear wear layer.
Because of this, laminate countertops are highly durable and can support a diversity of design types. Their material mimics the look of other materials, and to an untrained eye, a quality laminate countertop can easily pass as marble, wood, or granite.
Again, people mainly opt for laminate due to its low cost and ease of install for the DIYer. But don't discount its aesthetic value either!
While you may associate kitchen countertop tiles with the trends of decades past, large-format tiles are still very much in style. With increased demand, they're also widely available.
Large-format tiles are durable and a more affordable solution than using natural stones. Plus, because they're large-format there are fewer seams and visible grout lines than with other tile styles.
So you've selected your material. Now, how do you estimate the square footage requirements for your countertops?
Let's assume you're renovating an existing kitchen with L-shaped countertops and an island at its center. You'll need to understand four calculations to get the square footage needs for your new kitchen:
- Know that while bottom cabinets are typically 24” deep, the countertops atop them are roughly 25.5" deep from backsplash/wall to front-edge.
- Then measure the length from the corner to the end of your current countertop.
- Then take the same calculation in the other direction, discounting the portion of the corner you included in your first calculation.
- And, finally, measure the length and depth of the island -- the standard dimensions for a kitchen island are 36” deep by 60”.
Now that you have the dimensions for each section of countertop, simply multiply the length by depth for each of them. Then add the total of each to get your total square inches and divide that number by 1 square foot, or 144 inches, to get your total square footage.
Multiply your total square footage by the average cost for the countertop material of your liking.
And there you have it. Using simple calculations, you'll be able to get a rough idea of the cost for your kitchen countertop renovation based on the materials you've chosen.
Of course, if all that math is already numbing your brain, we have included a handy Countertops Calculator tool below, or you can always get a professional to take measurements and provide a detailed estimate instead.But don't just take our word for it. See what hundreds of our satisfied customers have to say about their experience with us.