The Complete Guide to Countertop Materials

Rachel Strong

Rachel Strong

November 7, 2018

The countertop world can be a bit overwhelming at first, there are quite a few options for what you can install on top of your cabinets to create the space of your dreams. We have compiled a list of the most popular materials used in the remodeling and construction industry alone with their pros, cons, costs and the steps that each material takes to install. This information can be quite overwhelming to start so we tried to break things down to be as easy to understand as possible.

The process to do any countertops takes a few steps. Since every kitchen is different, there is no way to have them "pre made", each one is unique. Materials most often used, are granite, quartz, quartzite and marble and they all come in HUGE slabs. I'm talking the size of your living room slabs of rock (typically 45-60 sq ft) Since this is the case, it takes some effort to move and cut them. So how do we do it then?! Step one involves someone coming to your house to "template" or measure your countertops, see how straight your drywall is and decide where to put seams in the slab based on its size. Like trying to cut out pieces of a puzzle. Then the fabricator has to get the material delivered to them, cut your material based off of their template, cut out holes for your sink, possibly a range or stovetop and also cut edges into the rock so it is not sharp. After, they polish everything and load it up to be delivered to your kitchen. This process usually takes anywhere from 2-3 weeks depending on the work load of the company.

1. Granite

Granite is a naturally occurring granular, crystalline, igneous rock consisting mainly of quartz, mica, and feldspar and often used as a building stone.

Pros - It has lots of color options, has a "high end" connotation in the industry. Is easy to clean once sealed.

Cons - It needs to be sealed, its hard to see crumbs or other small spills because of the complex shapes and colors. It can chip and scratch.

Cost - $$$ around $70- $125 a sq ft depending on what grade you choose. (There's usually 6/7 grades)

2. Marble

Marble is a naturally occuring hard crystalline metamorphic form of limestone, typically white with streaks of color, that is capable of taking a polish.

Pros- Its beautiful.

Cons- It scratches, chips and stains super easily. It is fragile and needs to be sealed and for the most part isn't worth the hassle.

Cost - $$$$ around $90-$175 a sq ft. also depending on which you choose.

3. Quartzite

Quartzite a naturally occuring, extremely compact and granular rock consisting essentially of quartz. It often occurs as silicified sandstone.

Pros- Its a natural stone, it comes in a variety of shades and patterns, its has a decent price point.

Cons- It needs to be sealed, it could scratch or chip.

Cost - $$ $50-$90 a square foot.

4. Quartz

Quartz a man made product that uses a conglomerate of quartz bound with resins and pressed into sheets.

Pros- It comes in lots of colors and styles. Its durable, heat resistant and stain resistant.

Cons- Its not "the real thing"

Cost - $$$ similar to granite, anywhere around $60-$100 a square foot.

5. Laminate

Laminate is an overlay (a flat surface) with a layer of plastic or some other protective material. It can be used over a multitude of things, and comes in many colors and varieties.

Pros- Loads and loads of colors and options. Low cost, quick install times. Has come a long way with modern innovation.

Cons- Can be considered a "cheap" material, edging can peel. Doesn't have the hard "stone" feeling.

Cost -$ Super affordable. anywhere from $20-$40 a sq ft.

Use this handy guide to help you decide what type of countertop would work best for you and your home.

The next options are much more DIY although, they still require prep work, templating and installation, and when installed by a professional could look better and last longer.

6. Wood

Usually butcher block, which consists of strips of wood glued together and then sealed, sanded and finished.

Pros- Its pretty, it can give you a "farmhouse" look. You can sand and refinish them.

Cons- It must be sealed, it will scratch easily and could discolor over time.

Cost - $$ Usually $20-$60 per sq ft.

Process- Template made and dimensions sent to carpenter or specialty wood shop, butcher block made and cut, sanded, polished and stained to customers preference. Countertops installed.
Also an IKEA prefab option, not sure on quality.

7. Concrete

Concrete a composite material composed of fine and coarse aggregate bonded together with a fluid cement that hardens over time.

Pros- It gives you a really "industrial" look. It could be DIY-ed

Cons- You have to seal it. it can be really tricky to do by yourself without prior experience. Concrete can crack over time with exposure to water and heat.

Cost - $$ affordable, depending on if you do it or have it done anywhere from $20-$40 per sq ft.

Process- Build form over cabinets from plywood, Add edging, mix concrete, set in forms. Let dry. Seal and then finally, install.

8. Tile

Tile- Could be various types of tile, usually laid in square patterns.

Pros- Endless design options, heat resistant.

Cons- Could chip or break, grout can stain, must be cleaned and resealed.

Cost- $$ Depending on tile choice and installation. $20-$60 sq ft.

Process- Lay plywood over cabinets, install tile underlayment, install schluter or other edging. Install mortar and lay tile. Lay grout, Seal.

9. Acrylic Resin

Pros- Stain resistant, durable, easy to install, and can choose lots of colors and options.

Cons- Can scratch, might dull overtime. Could look "cheap" depending on installation.

Cost- $ 40-$60 per sq ft

Process - Build form over cabinets from plywood, Add edging, mix acrylic, set in forms. Let dry. Seal and then finally, install.

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