Explore the pros and cons of countertop options.
This versatile material is probably the most widely used countertop material.
Pros:Laminates: versatile, inexpensive and low-maintenance -- definitely something to consider.
- Low-maintenance; easy soap-and-water cleanup
- Resists grease and stains
- Available in many colors, patterns, and textures as well as prefabricated lengths with built-in backsplash
- Susceptible to damage from sharp knives and hot pans
- Dark lines (the laminate's underlayer) may show at edges (non-solid-color types)
- Damaged areas difficult to repair
- To keep laminate countertops looking new longer, reserve them for less-used areas of your kitchen where they'll get less wear and tear.
- Locate any seams at corners. The stresses at unbroken corners can lead to cracking.
- Plan to spend $15 to $60 per running foot, installed.
A beautiful choice, particularly for country-style kitchens.
- Grout can stain or collect food particles
- Tiles can crack or chip
- Can dull knife blades
- Abrasion more noticeable on high-gloss finishes
- Patterned tiles cost more than solid-color types. To cut costs, use solid-color tiles and patterned tiles in combination.
- Epoxy and acrylic grouts are more resistant to stains. For other grouts, most stains will come out with scouring powder and household bleach.
- Plan to spend about $8 per square foot, installed, for solid-color tiles. Patterned tiles start at about $2 apiece.
Pros:Solid-surface: durable and can be custom-formed.
- Durable and forgiving of scratches and blemishes (which can be sanded out because the color is solid throughout)
- Self-supporting -- needs no underlayment
- Nonporous -- resists mildew and stains
- Can be ordered custom-formed to hide seams; custom designs possible with contrasting inlays
- Available in many different patterns and finishes (some of which resemble granite, glass, or other stones)
- No match for sharp knives
- Can discolor if hot pots and pans are left in place
- Best installed by a professional contractor
- Plan to spend about $125 to $200 per running foot, installed
True butcher block uses end grain for the work surface, but most wood counters resemble the example shown here.
- Requires periodic treatment with mineral oil (if left unsealed)
- Demands thorough, prompt cleaning after food preparation and exposure to moisture (if left unsealed)
- Protective surface sealers not always food-safe
- Humidity-sensitive, so not recommended over dishwashers and near sinks
- Scorches and dents easily
- Plan to spend about $50 per running foot, installed
A high-end choice for serious cooks.
- Expensive, heavy, and often difficult to cut
- Requires frequent resealing (marble)
- Brittle, so thick slabs often required
- Expensive to repair
- Demands regular waxing and polishing to maintain sheen (granite and marble)
- Save on materials costs by searching out salvaged pieces.
- Cut costs by using stone sparingly in combination with other countertop materials, such as just for the baking center.
- Plan to spend $120 to $200 per running foot, installed.
Perfect for a high-tech look.
- Shows nicks and scratches easily -- avoid scouring powders
- Needs a solid, firm underlayment or will dent
- Like tile, stainless steel makes sense around cooktops and ranges as a landing area for hot pots and pans.