I was helping my daughter having her kitchen remodeled recently. She was having problems trying to decide on new countertop materials. Walking through the counters area in Home Depot gave her a few ideas, but she was still undecided when the time came to choose a month later. I decided to write out a quick comparison of all the materials and costs for her and when I was done I thought other people might find it useful as well, so here goes.
Plastic Laminate –
Most people are familiar with plastic laminate countertops. (Formica is one of the brand names) They’re a thin surface of high-pressure laminate applied to a thicker base of plywood or particleboard. Plastic laminate countertops became common for kitchen and bath countertops in the 50’s and 60’s. Since then, with the introduction of newer and more durable materials, the demand for the plastic laminate countertops have been in steady decline.
Pluses: They are available in literally hundreds of patterns and colors. Laminate countertops are the least expensive type of countertops.
Minuses: Easy to scorch with hot cookware; the use of layers in their construction makes it tricky to repair chips,; laminate layer may peel off after a while. It is less durable than natural stone, solid surface, or quartz; It cannot be used with the under-mount sinks. Cost: $25 to $50 foot
Solid Surface –
Solid surface, (commonly known as Corian) came to the market in the 70’s, and became more common in the 80’s, as an alternative countertop upgrade to plastic laminate. Solid surface countertop is a synthetic material made of acrylic resin and minerals. It is durable, seamless look, and improved appearance to plastic laminate countertops.
Pluses: Gives seamless surfaces look; relatively easy to care for. High impact resistance, easy to repair, and nonporous.
Minuses: May melt or burn from hot pot; looks non-natural in some color schemes, it does scratch. Cost: $60 to $110 per foot.
Natural woods –
Used in butcher-block style arrangement. Maple, oak, and other hardwoods make durable and warm looking countertops. Suitable for small areas.
Pluses: Good surface for cutting foods; scratches are easily repaired by sanding; easy match with wood cabinets and floors.
Minuses: Requires a finish to preserve the appearance, may scorch with hot cookware, allows bacterial growth. Not practical surface for the entire kitchen countertop – good for small sections. Cost: $100 to $200 per square foot.
Popular for their elegant and rich look, granite countertops will last longer than most kitchens. Although granite countertops were used in luxury homes as early as 1920’s, it has only become affordable and common since 1990’s. Since then, with the decline of granite prices, due to advances in quarry operation and the industry automation, granite has become one of the most popular and affordable countertop surface in the industry.
Pluses: Adds to the value of the home, hard durable surface, heat, scratch, and acid resistant.
Minuses: Lighter granite colors are more porous and require periodic sealing. However, the advancement in sealer technology, some quality sealers last up to 15 years. Colors with granite are relatively limited and since granite is igneous stone, it does not have the smooth veining that exists in Marble.
Cost: 45 to $150 per square square foot for granite.
Quartz countertops have become the most popular choice of countertops, exceeding the demand for granite countertops in the Washington DC market. Quartz countertops are manmade, consisting of 90 ground natural quartz, mixed with resin and color pigments. The finished product is durable, heat, scratch, and acid resistant, and comes literally in thousands of different colors, patterns, and finishes, some of which don’t even exist in natural stone.
In the last couple of years, popularity of quartz countertops has accelerated due to the manufactures’ ability to produce realistic white marble-look quartz countertops.
Pluses: Durable, nonporous, scratch, heat, and acid resistant. Low maintenance, and never needs to be sealed. It is available in thousands of colors, patterns, and finishes.
Minuses: Prolonged placement of hot pots directly on the surface, could burn the resin in the stone. They are generally more expensive than commodity color granite.