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Kitchen Countertops

An Overview of the Top-Selling Materials

Kitchen countertops, which must be durable enough to chop and cut on, but attractive enough to fit in with your home's overall decor, epitomize the need to balance kitchen function and form. Fortunately for the modern homeowner, there are more kitchen countertop options to choose from than ever before. From elegant stone slab to sleek stainless steel to natural wood block, there's a countertop out there to meet any taste and budget.

Kitchen Countertop Materials

Some of the most popular countertop types, as well as their selling points, are described below.
  • Granite: Granite kitchen countertops are among the most desirable home improvement products. Not only are granite counters beautiful, but they're also extremely strong and durable. A high price tag, however, makes granite an unrealistic choice for some, and regular maintenance (periodic sealing is required to make the surface nonporous) is a turnoff to others.
  • Solid Surface: Perhaps better known by trade names that include Corian and Avonite, these countertops were designed to be highly customizable (realistic stone patterns and hundreds of custom colors are available) as well as virtually indestructible. Made primarily from plastics, solid surface counters are nonporous, which means they resist water, stains and the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. Scratches can be sanded out, making repairs a snap.
  • Ceramic Tile: Tiles made from ceramic are an inexpensive, yet highly customizable, countertop option. Choose from a nearly inexhaustible range of styles and colors, and mix and match tiles for a custom countertop. The one downside to ceramic tile counters is the grout. While the tiles themselves are nonporous and easy to clean, the grout must be regularly maintained to keep moisture, food, and mildew out. Porcelain is a higher quality, and more expensive, form of ceramic.
  • Laminate: Inexpensive, low-maintenance, and available in a huge number of colors and patterns, laminate kitchen countertops, popular since the 1950s, are an American classic.
  • Manufactured Quartz: Sold under the trade names Zodiaq, Viatera, Cambria Quartz, and Silestone, manufactured quartz is similar in appearance to granite and other natural stone products, but similar in performance to solid surface. These counters are around 90% stone, but have plastic resins added for stability.
  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel, already prevalent in modern kitchen appliances and fixtures, also looks great as a countertop. Smooth, sleek, and seamless steel counters are low maintenance, easy to keep clean, and an attractive alternative to stone, laminates, and solid surface.
  • Solid Wood: It's possible to buy wood counters that are more decorative as well as those that can be cut and chopped on directly. In either case, natural wood counters, available in a variety of species and grain patterns, provide a warm, country aesthetic, and can be the ultimate kitchen addition for foodies. Most homeowners install wood island counters.
  • Soapstone: As a natural stone product, soapstone lends a touch of elegance to kitchens. Choose from a traditional polished finish or a rougher, more natural feel. Soapstone is great for irregular countertop shapes, as it's easy to cut. Naturally nonporous, the material can be left untreated. You can also regularly oil soapstone for a darker, shinier appearance, or oil it and let it age for a charcoal-gray appearance.
  • Marble: This high end product has a unique veined pattern that ensures no two marble countertops are exactly alike. As with granite, marble needs regular applications of sealant for stain and water protection.

Kitchen Countertop Costs

Please note that the sample countertop prices given below are for a typical 2 foot by 8 footcountertop section. Depending on your actual countertop space, prices may vary.
  • Granite countertops cost $75 to $150 per square foot installed ($1,200-$2,400).
  • Solid surface counters average $50 to $100 per square foot installed ($1,280-$1,600).
  • Ceramic tile prices vary widely, with low-end choices costing $35 to $50 per square foot installed, and higher-end materials, including porcelain, that run as high as $150 per square foot installed. Tile size also influences price (larger tiles decrease labor costs). In total, expect to pay anywhere from $560 to $2,400.
  • Laminate countertops made from melamine and Kraft paper cost as little as $20 to $25 per square foot installed ($320-$400), but using higher-quality materials pushes the price up to $30 to $35 per square foot installed ($480-$560). More durable laminate options cost $50 to $80 per square foot installed ($800-$1,280).
  • Manufactured quartz countertops are priced at $100 to $200 per square foot installed ($1,600-$3,200).
  • Stainless steel countertops average $80 to $100 per square foot installed ($1,280-$1,600).
  • Wood countertops might cost as little as $40 per square foot installed and as much as $150 per square foot installed ($640-$2,400).
  • Soapstone countertops typically cost $60 to $80 per square foot installed ($960-$1,280), but high end products run as high as $100 to $120 per square foot installed ($1,600-$1,920).
  • All natural marble countertops cost $120 to $200 per square foot installed ($1,920-$3,200). A cheaper option, cultured marble, costs $70 to $90 per square foot installed ($1,120-$1,440).

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