I was helping my daughter having her kitchen remodeled recently. She was having problems trying to decide on a new countertop material. 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.
Most people are familiar with laminate countertops. (Formica is one brand name.) They’re a thin surface of high-pressure laminate applied to a thicker base of plywood or particleboard. Pluses: The standby, available in literally hundreds of patterns and colors, laminates are the least expensive (next to tile) and durable, requiring less upkeep than tile. Minuses: Easy to scorch with hot cookware, the use of layers in their construction makes it tricky to repair chips, show scratches, especially lighter colors, so not usable as a cutting surface. Less durable than natural stone or solid surface; use with under-mount sinks is not recommended. Cost: $25 to $50 foot
Solid surfacing, (brand names Corian, Fountainhead, Avonite, and Surrell) a newer countertop material, is durable and mimics the appearance of natural stone materials like marble or granite. Pluses: Gives seamless surfaces, easy to care for. High impact resistance, easily repaired, nonporous and seamless, so won’t trap dirt, collect bacteria or stain; easily. Minuses: May melt from hot pot; looks non-natural in some color schemes, licensed contractor required for installation and repair work. Cost: $60 to $110 per foot.
Natural woods. Used in butcher-block style arrangement. Maple, oak, and other hardwoods make durable and elegant countertops. Pluses: Good surface for cutting foods; scratches easily repaired by sanding; easy match with wood cabinets and floors. Minuses: Requires a finish to preserve appearance, may scorch with hot cookware, allows bacterial growth, so needs regular cleaning. Not practical for the entire countertop – good for small sections. Cost: $50 to $75 per foot
Granite. Popular for their elegant and rich look, natural stone countertops will last longer than most kitchens. Pluses: Adds to value of home, hard durable surface, very heat resistant. Minuses: very expensive, requires care since it is porous and must be sealed periodically, grease will stain. Cost: 60 to $200 per foot for granite $60 to $130 per foot for marble (stains easily and not recommended for food prep countertop)
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: This is the countertop material my daughter was replacing. While the counters were in pretty bad shape, refurbishing was an option. Tile has a comforting, classic look and is inexpensive. Pluses: Easy to clean up after a mess. More heat resistant than laminates solid surfaces, inexpensive, unless you are thinking about a custom or hand-painted tiles. Minuses: Can chip and crack easily; needs regular maintenance to keep bacteria out of grout. Scrubbing grout. Cost: $10 to $25 per foot.
So, what countertop material did she choose in the end? For its reasonable cost and reparability, Corian got the nod for the new kitchen. We found a color that was very close to a granite look and we also liked the ten-year warranty.