With many kitchen countertops available we thought shedding a little light on the topic would be helpful
Here is a comprehensive list of the most common types of kitchen countertops, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the approximate pricing.
Sometimes referred to by the brand name Formica, plastic laminate kitchen countertops are actually made by several different companies. Formica and Wilsonart are the most popular brands. The popularity of laminate countertops in the past was due to its substantially lower cost than solid surface countertops like granite, quartz, and Corian.
However, the price for laminate tops has gone up over time while the cost of many solid surface tops has gone down. Nowadays, laminate tops rarely make financial sense.
There is one exception – If you have a galley type kitchen, straight premade laminate kitchen countertops called blanks are much less expensive than custom tops. They can look very similar to solid surface tops and cost a fraction of the price. L-shaped or U-shaped tops are more sensibly done in an inexpensive granite if you are trying to stay on a budget.
Granite is a natural stone and is very hard to scratch or chip. It does not etch (lose its shine from exposure to acidic liquids like lemon juice) especially with the less expensive colors does not stain easily. Granite should be sealed yearly, an easy process that takes about 20 minutes. Now that most granite comes from third world countries, it can be the least expensive of the solid surface tops.
There is no limit to how much exotic granite patterns can cost. Level 1 colors start at around $43/sq ft in our area. The more expensive colors are higher priced not because they are “better”, they are simply less common, more fragile and harder to fabricate or mine.
Recently marble has become a popular stone to use for kitchen countertops. Be careful and make sure you understand it’s limitations. Marble looks beautiful but is very soft. A dinner plate dragged across a top can scratch it. It also stains easily and so should be sealed often.
The biggest complaint about polished marble tops is that they etch. Etching is when acids like lemon juice, cleaners, or even ketchup remove the shine from the top. If you decide on a marble top, then treat it gently and expect it to have a worn and used look over time. Many feel this is still beautiful, and as long as this natural look is something that appeals to you, there will be no surprises. Marble pricing starts around the price of level 5 granite, approximately $85/sq ft.
Quartzite is a natural stone that can look like a marble but has more of the properties of granite. It is very hard, like granite is difficult to scratch, chip, or stain. However, some quartzite tops can etch (lose their shine) when exposed to acids. Ask a salesperson or better yet test a sample of your quartzite with lemon juice to see if the color you are considering etches easily. Quartzite prices start at around the price of a level 5 or 6 granite.
Serpentine is a striking and veiny natural stone sometimes used for kitchen countertops. While it can be quite beautiful, it will also scratch, chip, stain, and etch easily. It is also not inexpensive, and prices start around the cost of the more expensive stones.
Quartz countertops, also called engineered stone, are man-made kitchen countertops composed of pieces of quartz, glass, and a bonding resin that glues everything together. The resin is a not stone and melts at 440 degrees Fahrenheit. So don’t treat quartz tops like other stone tops, they can be burned. Since quarts tops are artificial, they have some advantages.
Engineered Quartz never need to be sealed, can’t be stained, and are almost as hard as granite. They are also somewhat flexible and don’t need the exacting installation requirements that real stone does because they are less likely to crack. There are many quartz manufacturers such as Zodiaq, Avanza, Silestone, Cambria, Ceasarstone, and Hanstone. All engineered quartz tops use the same patented manufacturing process so the differences from one line to another are purely aesthetic. Quartz pricing starts at about $70/sq ft with the most popular colors costing much more.
“Green Tops” –
Beware of the overpriced “green” and “recycled” tops. The construction of these tops varies with the majority being quartz tops with some recycled glass or paper added to their resin mix. Other type tops include 100% paper tops, Bamboo tops, recycled glass tops, and new ones pop up every day.
Companies making these tops are smaller and less reliable than larger manufacturers and many of the claims to be green are dubious upon close inspection. Most reputable fabricators steer clear of these products even though consumers ask about them constantly because they find the tops through Google searches.
Concrete and resin tops –
These tops will be more expensive than either concrete or quartz but have unusual finishes and unlike concrete are not porous. These tops usually start at at least $100/ sq ft.
Concrete countertops have some beautiful acid washed finishes. They also start at the cost of the more expensive stone tops and the need to be sealed to be sanitary. Usually, bees wax is used as the sealer.
Corian, Wilsonart Gibralter, Formica, Meganite, HiMax, and other brands make 100% acrylic kitchen countertops. The difference in brand is only aesthetic, but the bigger name brands definitely have nicer and more dramatic patterns. Be careful with hot pots. The melting temperature for acrylic is just over the temperature of boiling water so things taken out of the oven or off the stove cannot be placed on the countertop EVER! Pricing for acrylic tops will range between $60 /sq foot and $100 /sq ft depending on the color.
Solid glass countertops can be as dramatic as they are expensive. $200 /sq ft is not an uncommon cost for a glass top. Modern and Contemporary kitchens are usually the style that compliments a glass top.
Solid Wood or Butcher block –
Butcher block and single piece wood tops can be beautiful. They start at around $80 /sq ft. Particularly striking solid slices of old growth timber can cost twice as much as butcher block tops. Wood tops come polyurethaned or sealed with oil. Tung oil is a common sealant. If you plan on cutting or chopping on your top, then use the oil sealant. Wood tops scratch and burn easily.
Stainless Steel Countertops –
Custom stainless-steel countertops are most often used in restaurant settings. While they can be used in residential applications, finding an installer that will fabricate custom residential stainless-steel tops can be a challenge. Tops start at over $100 per square foot. Outdoor kitchens frequently have stainless steel tops although most are pre-made tops incorporated into the design.
Tile Countertops –
Ceramic, Porcelain, or granite tile countertops have lost popularity because the costs to build and install the tile no longer makes these tops less expensive than lower-level solid surface tops. If you are making a tile top yourself the materials will be inexpensive but be prepared for a lot of work. If you are hiring an installer, then you may be spending the same or more for what most people consider a less desirable top.
Soapstone may seem familiar to you since it is typically used for high school or college chemistry class countertops. Soapstone can’t be damaged by anything hot found in a kitchen. It also is not porous and so can’t be stained. Soapstone colors range from dark black to grey/black with white or green veining. Soapstone turns grey over time. However, it’s original finish will return when treated with mineral oil. Soapstone is also soft and scratches and nicks easily, but scratches are minimized when it is refreshed with oil. Soapstone top prices start at level 5 or 6 prices and go up from there.
There are positives and negatives about any type of kitchen countertop. So don’t be afraid to ask your designer or stone supplier questions to make sure you are getting the right top for you.
Countertops and Supplier Discount Programs
Hoping your countertop selection makes you as happy as our cabinets will ….and of course…
2 Replies to “Kitchen Countertops. Properties and Pricing.”
This is my first time hearing about serpentine and acrylic countertop. I remember the first time I heard about quartzite was through the Caesarstone website. I heard it was such a debate between the two because they almost have the same materials. Plus, we were going through kitchen renovations so additional information about kitchens won’t hurt. But in the end, we got quartz because of the ‘no need for sealing’ thing and it’s easier to clean.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Actually engineered quartz and quartzite have nothing in common other than a similar sounding name. Quartzite is a natural stone with many of the properties of granite but lighter in color. Engineered quartz like Caesarstone is quarried quartz pebbles and glass all glued together with 7% being the resin that bonds everything together. Yes you don’t have to seal it because it is sealed by the glue that holds it together, but you can burn it, and it can more easily scratch, and can also fade due to sunlight because it isn’t real stone. There are advantages and disadvantages to all these different type tops.
This is great info; however, it’s the only place I can find anything about laminates and am curious about your opinion of laminate cabinets. I travel to Europe quite a bit and they have top quality laminate cabinets, as well as some that seem to be made of pcv or not sure. By quite stylish and modern, especially as I prefer the euro slab style and in white. Do you have any thoughts on this or any companies you can recommend? I’m not sure if these are strong enough to hold a quarts countertop either. Lost my first home in 34 years after 8 months buying it, because a woman in one of the condos caught the building on fire smoking in bed. So, now I’m having to replace my kitchen (and entire condo) when never wanted to in teh first place. So thank you for your info.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Modern frameless cabinets are available in laminate, foils, Acrylic, Parapan, metal, and many other finishes. In general in the US this is a more expensive and less durable way to make cabinetry. However there is no problem having cabinets supporting any countertops as long as the kitchen is design properly.
Laminates are very durable finish wise. It is the hinges and the tracks being attached to particle board or plywood instead of solid wood that makes frameless cabinetry more easily irreparably damaged.
Your blogs are so informative, thank you!
Do you have any perspective on the quality of quartz countertops by the Q brand by MSI?
And what about matte/honed quartz vs. polished for stains and durability? Does a honed finish stain more on a light color?
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
All Quartz countertops should be of similar quality just different colors. MSI is one of the least expensive lines. I don’t love the less expensive MSI colors and the more expensive MSI colors will be close in price to other Quartz lines like Silestone and Cambria. So if you are selecting a more expensive MSI color you might like other similar priced colors from other lines more. Quartz should not permanently stain whether it is honed or polished since it is not porous and doesn’t need sealing. Matte and Honed finishes do show water marks and temporary stains instantly due to the finish. After you clean up and the top dries stains should disappear, but even fingerprints show up instantly.
The two surfaces don’t go together very well, especially if you are getting traditional cabinetry. Quartz and Stainless steel would look better together but only in transitional or contemporary styled kitchens. So door style should be either a shaker or other simple recessed panel door style or a slab contemporary style door.
Of course many kitchen designers like eclectic styling combining contemporary and traditional looks. This is what combining granite and stainless steel tops would fall under. I’m not a fan of eclectic. Trendy movements like that tend to look ridiculous a short time after they fall out of favor.
What are your thoughts on doing a granite island and stainless steel perimeter?
Would are your thoughts on doing a granite island and stainless steel perimeter?
Great information. Can marble be used in a cabin that will be unheated during the winter and get to below zero for extended periods?
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Any type stone will not be a problem temperature wise. Even Man made stone. Marble will have all the issues that come with it still i.e. it scratches, stains, and etches very easily. So make sure that is something you are OK with.
Hi Paul, Thank you for the narrative. There are at least 3 spelling, grammar errors. You info is worthy of the corrections.
pmcalary[ Post Author ]
Yes we are all not immune to miss types as your comment shows. Any direction as to where the errors are would be helpful.