Which of today's best-selling countertop materials should you choose for your new home? Here's a short buyer's guide.
Countertops have a lot to do with how enjoyable your kitchen is for daily use and how easy it is to maintain. And of course, they play a big part in the first impression the space makes on your visitors. It's worth taking the time to choose the countertop materials that work best for you.
Homeowners today have more choices than ever, but let's consider the four most popular materials: laminate, solid surfacing, granite and quartz. Each has strengths and weaknesses.
Laminate comes in several quality gradiants. Although most people may think of the inexpensive grades common in rental units and entry-level homes, there are high-quality, pre-formed laminate countertops available with three times the durability and no edge seams. Homeowners can choose from a variety of colors and patterns, including some that mimic the look of stone. On the downside, even the higher quality products can scratch and burn under some circumstances - damage that's difficult or impossible to repair.
Solid surfacing has lost market share in today's kitchens but remains a top choice for bathroom vanities. Made from a blend of acrylic and polyester, solid surfacing can cost three times more than basic laminate, but it looks more stylish, doesn't have any surface or edge seams and is available in a wide range of colors and patterns.
Although solid surfacing isn't immune to scratches and burns, a skilled installer can often repair the damage. The material is also nonporous, so it's less likely to stain than laminate.
Some people like the fact that solid surfacing doesn't feel as hard or cold as granite, although others find it looks too artificial for their taste.
Granite has been hugely popular in custom homes for years. That's no surprise, given this natural material's beautiful flowing patterns and mottling as well as each slab's unique look. Most homeowners enjoy the task of visiting the granite supplier and choosing that one special piece of slab for their new home.
Costs for granite are slightly more than for solid surfacing.
Granite stands up well to heat and isn't easily scratched, but its hardness means that ceramic dishes or cups can easily chip or break when dropped or bumped against the surface. Raw granite can be stained by hot grease, so it needs to be sealed during fabrication and resealed at intervals recommended by the fabricator. Its heavy weight means it may not be the best choice for cabinets with particleboard frames.
Granite slabs are 9 to 10 feet long and 5 feet wide, so if you want something bigger you will have a seam.
Quartz has recently passed granite in popularity among custom homeowners, even though it costs 10 to 20 percent more. Made from a blend of crushed stone and resin, this material is harder than granite and impervious to stains, including those from cooking oil, wine and coffee. Quartz has a rich, attractive finish and a regular surface pattern. It comes in 8' x 4' sheets, so anything bigger will require seams.
These descriptions are just a basic introduction to some of today's popular countertop materials. Other options are marble, wood, stainless steel, concrete and even soapstone. Your professional builder can help you sort through the pros, cons and pricing of whatever materials you are considering, so that you choose the right ones for your new home.