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Countertops

Explore the pros and cons of countertop options.

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This versatile material is probably the most widely used countertop material.

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Pros:

Laminates: versatile, inexpensive and low-maintenance -- definitely something to consider.
  • Inexpensive
  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Other considerations:

  • 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.

Pros:

Ceramic tile: easily fixed, heat resistant, colorful and more.
  • Resists heat, scratches, and stains
  • Damaged tiles easy and affordable to repair
  • Available in many colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes

Cons:

  • Grout can stain or collect food particles
  • Tiles can crack or chip
  • Can dull knife blades
  • Abrasion more noticeable on high-gloss finishes

Other considerations:

  • 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)

Cons:

  • No match for sharp knives
  • Can discolor if hot pots and pans are left in place
  • Best installed by a professional contractor

Another consideration:

  • 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.

Pros:

Butcher block: warm appearance, and easy to install.
  • Warm, natural appearance of hardwoods such as red or white oak, hard-rock maple, and beech
  • Ideal for cutting and chopping
  • Relatively simple to install and repair
  • Surface scratches easy to sand out

Cons:

  • 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

Another consideration:

  • Plan to spend about $50 per running foot, installed

A high-end choice for serious cooks.

Pros:

Stone: it's elegant and easy to clean.
  • Elegant and durable
  • Well-suited to baking centers for rolling out dough
  • Easy to clean if sealed
  • Impervious to stains (when sealed), heat, water, and knife cuts (granite)

Cons:

  • 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)

Other considerations:

  • 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.

Pros:

Stainless steel gives your kitchen a high-tech appearance.
  • Tough -- impervious to stains and high temperatures
  • Contemporary high-tech appearance

Cons:

  • Shows nicks and scratches easily -- avoid scouring powders
  • Needs a solid, firm underlayment or will dent

Other considerations:

  • Like tile, stainless steel makes sense around cooktops and ranges as a landing area for hot pots and pans.
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