Selecting the right countertops is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in a kitchen remodel. Acting as a focal point and communicating your style, they’re often one of the most expensive portions of an update and will ultimately set the tone of your kitchen. Whether you’re going for luxurious and opulent or timeless and practical, there’s a kitchen countertop material that’s perfect for you. However, you’ll have to consider a few things in your search for the kitchen countertop material that suits you best. We lay it out here:
Many people use their kitchen for much more than cooking and require sturdy structures. Others who barely use it at all may not need or want the same type of durability. Are you an avid home cook who uses the countertop as a workspace for chopping, kneading, and cooling? Or do you use your kitchen less regularly and just want something that looks nice and holds up well enough? An engineered stone, like quartz, can uphold the wear and tear of consistent use, while soapstone, for example, looks great but is soft and requires more TLC. To determine the level of durability you’d want from your countertops, examine your lifestyle and review:
- How often you use your kitchen
- What your countertops are used for—cooking, homework, art projects, etc.
- Your expectations for sustainability
Staining and heat tolerance
Nothing ruins the look of a clean kitchen more than a stained countertop. Markings left over from wine, pasta sauce, coffee, food coloring, burns, and more stick out like a sore thumb against an all-white surface. And warping can also be caused by hot pots and pans. On the low end, laminate is especially vulnerable to staining, and on the high end, travertine can be damaged by heat. Additionally, some kitchen countertops require special cleaning liquids and products. Ask yourself if you have the bandwidth for cleaning and maintenance and go from there.
Cost, of course, is always a factor when renovating your home. Your budget will help you determine the types of countertops you can afford, but you might also want to think about the resale value of the material. A nice, quality kitchen with granite countertops can add about 7% more value to a home and is a big selling point for potential buyers. When determining your budget for countertops, consider if resale value is important to you now or will be in the future.
A cohesive look is the aim of any kitchen remodeling project. Before getting to the countertop-choosing stage, you should already have a look in mind for your kitchen. The color and design of the kitchen counters, appliances, and furniture should match or complement the color and design of your countertops. Whether your look is modern, traditional, or elegant, pick kitchen countertops that fit the same viewpoint. With a solid and monochromatic look, concrete might be a good choice for a modern kitchen, while the variations in marble may lend itself better to an elegant design. To add to the cohesiveness, consider grout lines and slab options. Some countertops can be cut to your exact specifications, but others may need to be attached, creating grout lines on your countertops that may—or may not—affect your approval of the end result.
They say that when you feel good, you look good. The same goes for countertops. Consider the feel of the material: bumpy, smooth, textured, soft, and the overall feel of the room: inviting, warm, clean, cool. Soft materials like wood feel comfortable and cozy, and hard surfaces like stainless steel and concrete promote a stylish and confident vibe. While each may work in your space, the trick is finding balance so that the feel of your countertops, and ultimately your kitchen, is compatible with your way of life.
So Many Countertop Choices
There are dozens of kitchen countertop options that are sure to meet your needs. Here’s a snapshot of what’s good—and maybe not so good—about five of the top-selling countertops:
Granite. Granite has been the material of choice for years. Why? Because it adds to the resale value of your home, has timeless appeal, and requires little maintenance. However, granite can be pricy, and a slab can cost upwards of $1,000 per square foot for the high-end, specialty-grade stuff.
Quartz. For those who like the look of granite but not the price tag, quartz has recently risen in popularity. And for good reason: quartz is durable, long-lasting, and one of the hardest materials in the world. It’s also priced well. But, because it’s an engineered stone, it doesn’t have the uniqueness of a natural stone.
Concrete. Concrete is praised for its versatility and fits just as nicely in a modern kitchen as in a rustic one. Plus, it can be colored, stained, textured, patterned, or embedded with stones, glass, or other items. It’s also affordable but requires proper sealing and resealing and can crack over time.
Wood. Wood countertops, like butcher block, are often a beautiful addition to kitchens. They can be made from several types of wood, like oak or walnut, and (once sealed) are sanitary for food preparation, like chopping meat and withstanding hot pots and pans. Still, they’re susceptible to water damage and staining.
Laminate. Today’s laminate is nothing like your grandma’s Formica. The material is making a resurgence because it’s inexpensive, comes in a variety of options, and is easy to install and maintain. What some don’t like about it, though, is that it doesn’t last long, can burn, and doesn’t hold up well.
Should You Install Kitchen Countertops Yourself?
If you’re thinking: Why pay someone when I can install kitchen countertops myself? Think again! It’s easy to find instructional videos on how to do it all, but kitchen renovation projects don’t always go as planned. Read our article, “When to DIY vs. When to Hire a Pro,” to learn if it’s safe to take on the task alone or if you should hire a pro.