Q: I'd like to replace our '70s laminate countertops with something that's both beautiful and budget-friendly. What do you recommend?
A: New countertops can make a huge difference in a space. Laminate surfacing has come a long way in 40 years from what is currently in your kitchen. Look for stylish alternatives, such as Formica's 180fx collection, if you love granite but cringe at the cost. Advanced printing technology captures true-to-scale details and veining of granite and transfers them to the laminate. While it is more expensive than a standard color, you can capture the look of granite for just $300 more.
If you're looking to upgrade to solid-surfacing, Peter Salerno, a Wyckoff, New Jersey-based designer, says it's certainly doable. "A basic solid-surfacing countertop with a standard edge tends starts at $30 per square foot," he says. "It's a great option for those seeking a surface that's repairable, durable, and covered by a warranty." Before you commit to a countertop material, do your homework: What materials are neighbors using in their kitchen upgrades? If a majority are biting the bullet and installing granite, consider doing the same -- it'll be worth it if and when you put your house on the market. "If a small kitchen has roughly 20 square feet of counter space and a straight- or bullnose-edge granite countertop costs about $35 per square foot uninstalled, you can probably get a granite countertop for $3,000-$4,000," Salerno says. Still too expensive? Consider granite tiles instead for a DIY-friendly project with a lower price point.