Finding the perfect kitchen countertop for the most used room in a home can be a challenge. Countertops must be durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean, and improve a kitchen’s overall appearance. Although it may seem impossible at times to find the right countertop, a little research and visiting a few kitchen showrooms will identify the right type and style.
Natural Stone: Counter Tops that Bring Nature into the Kitchen
Natural stone is often the countertop of choice for many kitchen installations. It is very expensive; however, provides a look that is warm and elegant. There are several types of natural stone materials that are used in kitchens.
Granite – this stone has a crystalline structure, containing tiny pits or spaces between the various mineral crystals. It also contains natural fissures that appear to be cracks, but they are not structural defects and do not impair the material’s function or durability.
Marble – this stone has been around for years and is quite expensive. Because of its expense, marble is typically used in specific areas of a kitchen such as a baking preparation area.
Soapstone – this stone is non-porous dark-gray material. This means it does not stain easily and not affected by chemicals or acids. This stone requires regular treatment with mineral oil to avoid stains.
Pyrolave – this stone is constructed from natural lava rock from the volcanic flows from Volvic in France. Pyrolave creates the ultimate luxurious worktop surface, requiring no special maintenance. This stone is impervious to stains and scratches.
Like all kitchen countertop materials, natural stone has its pros and cons that include:
Pros – natural stone is smooth, extremely hard, durable, and resistant to scratches. It is also bacteria, heat, and water resistant. Natural stone is excellent for baking preparation.
Cons – natural stone is expensive, can discolor, and chipped or broken if abused. It is impossible to hide seams and must be resealed every two to three years with normal use. An important con is that showroom color may not match installed color.
Solid Surface Counters: Engineered Stone and Man-Made Materials
Solid surfaces are typically man-made from acrylic or plastic material which is colored by resins. This countertop material has a uniform appearance, along with consistent patterns and colors. Final counter installations match showroom examples.
Corian – this counter materials can be refinished and minor cuts or scratches can be removed. There are three types of Corian finishes: matte/satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss.
Compac Marmol and Quartz – these counter materials inhibit the growth of bacteria. They both have exceptional hardness and resistance to impact. They are ideal for heavily trafficked and well used kitchen.
Quartz – this is engineered stone that is a non-porous material, made from a mixture of 93 percent quartz and 7 percent resin binders and pigments. It has the strength of granite; however, it is more flexible and easier to handle. This material is easy to maintain compared to natural stone and does not require regular sealing. Quartz counters have seams, although not pronounced.
Like all kitchen countertop materials, solid surface materials have their own pros and cons that include:
Pros – solid surface countertops are smooth, durable, no visible seams, heat resistant, water resistant, and scratches can be sanded out.
Cons – must be professionally installed, along with being expensive and having limited color options.
Tile Countertops: Custom and Personalized
Tile countertops are heat resistant and attractive. They come in several shapes, sizes, and colors that can be manufactured or handcrafted for an artisanal look.
Porcelain – these tiles are extremely dense because they are made from clays with low water absorption. They are known for durability that can even rival granite’s durability.
Ceramic – this tile is made from pressed clay. It includes mosaics and ranges from half-inch to three-inch pieces. It’s the softest tile and easily chipped.
Stone – these tiles, typically 12 inches square, that are typically made from granite or marble.
Concrete – these tiles offer a newer, highly durable surface that can be colored to match any kitchen décor. Concrete tiles are typically 24 inches and come in standard countertop depths. Concrete tiles come as basic tiles and are about half the price of a concrete countertop.
Like all kitchen countertop material, tile has its own pros and cons that include:
Pros – durable, heat resistant, good to do-it-yourself, and available in many colors.
Cons – countertop is uneven, grout lines are hard to clean, and easily chipped or cracked.
Countertop designs are wide and varied. This extensive variety ensures that when remodeling a kitchen, there are countertops for everyone. Regardless of the material, and design selected; it is important to compliment the kitchen’s cabinet style and kitchen floors. When considering interior home remodeling, upgrading kitchen counters can increase a home’s value.
One of the biggest factors that may stop a homeowner from undergoing a kitchen renovation is the cost. Cabinets, appliances, granite countertops, tile and installation; of all these items can add up to more money than a homeowner truly feels comfortable investing. While a large portion of the kitchen renovation should be left to professionals there are several do-it-yourself components that can help lower the kitchen renovation cost.
Be Completely Prepared
One of the fastest ways for a kitchen renovation to begin growing outside of the budget is the items that the homeowner was unaware existed and their costs. Small things like a kitchen backsplash, a larger kitchen sink, or even the moving of a kitchen sink to another area of the kitchen, can turn into more money than the homeowner bargained for. To be completely prepared before approaching a kitchen designer or a contractor check off the following list.
Look at photographs of kitchens, note items that are desired and keep a running list. This list should include faucet styles and finishes, countertop materials, whether or not to include a backsplash or a kitchen island
Take all the measurements of the kitchen, including counters, floor space and wall space. Measure from at least three heights on every wall to get an accurate plan, and find the center line for the plumbing in the sink
Visit the NKBA website and learn how to create a working triangle in the kitchen
Map out a working triangle around the current position of the kitchen sink
Become the General Contractor
While it will mean a little more effort and time, the savings can add up if the homeowner takes control of the project from day one. Being the general contractor of the job does not mean needing to design and install each component of the kitchen, but it does require some extra work.
Plan out the kitchen triangle and get estimates on the design from cabinet makers
Purchase all materials required. Visit plumbing tile showrooms and ask to see odd lots, returns and seconds to purchase materials for less
Hire the tile installer, electrician and plumber directly and coordinate their arrivals
Visit a granite quarry to find the lowest cost granite countertops
Oversee each step of the kitchen renovation from the ordering of the cabinets to the final install; coordinate the efforts of the various installers
When the cabinets, counters and floors have all been installed and the plumbing and appliances hooked up, why not do the finish work and save the final installation? The following tasks can be done over a few weekends time, and their final completion will not hinder the use of the kitchen.