Countertop Materials

Gina Pogol | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011

1. Formica countertops and dining tables were everywhere in the 1950s, in bold and bright new colors. Formica's popularity continued into the '60s and '70s. If either your interior design or your architecture is fashioned from these decades, you may want to try laminates for your kitchen counter tops. Laminates are inexpensive and easy to maintain. The downside to laminates is that the seams show; they also scratch and chip and are difficult to repair. Typical laminate countertop installations cost $7 to $30 per square foot.

2. Wood and butcher block counters are unsurpassed for adding warmth to kitchens. Wood comes in a wide variety of finishes and colors; it's easy to clean; and if it gets dinged up, you can just sand and reseal it. Unfortunately, wood stains over time, and it can absorb food spills; you need to be mindful of food-born illnesses and disinfect carefully after use. Wood counters cost between $30 and $105 per square foot installed.

3. Ceramic tile counters are the most versatile. You can create countless looks, using an almost unlimited selection of colors, patterns and textures. Ceramic tiles are durable; rarely get damaged by chemicals or hot pans; and are easy to keep clean. They do chip, however, and their grout can get dirty. Ceramic tile countertops can be installed by homeowners who want to save money. They cost between $1 and $255 per square foot.

Countertop materials: the front runners

1. Engineered stone is the trendiest countertop material. A recent survey of builders and homeowners found it to be the most requested countertop today. Engineered stone is composed of quartz particles molded together. Unlike natural stone, engineered stone is easy to care for, as well as resistant to acid and staining. Its nonporous surface resists scratches. Engineered stone counters are not cheap: They cost about $30 to $125 per square foot.

2. Concrete is another fashionable option. Concrete creates unusual shapes, because it is poured into molds during kitchen installation. Concrete counters lend themselves to creativity and special effects. Concrete is also exceptionally strong, impervious to heat, and resists scratching. Its drawbacks are that it's porous, can crack; it must also be sealed and waxed to avoid staining. At $75 to $200 per square foot, it also carries a hefty price tag.

3. Granite has been popular for so long that it could easily be considered a classic. Granite counters are beautiful and durable--almost too durable, as anyone who has chipped glassware on granite can attest. Granite comes in dozens of natural colors and no two are alike. Granite does require regular sealing to protect it from stains, and it's not cheap--slabs cost $50 to $150 a square foot. Granite tiles, however, confer much of granite's beauty at a substantially lower price--about $4 to $20 a square foot.

For many, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in their home. To get help with yours, complete the form on this page.