Pick the Perfect Countertop

Choosing countertops doesn't have to be arduous. Pick the perfect material, height, and finish -- and keep it in tip-top shape -- with these 9 simple countertop tips.

Choose the Right Height

The standard height for a kitchen countertop is 36 inches. A comfort-height countertop is 1 to 3 inches higher or lower, depending on your personal preference.

Consider Surface Types

Granite is one of the most popular countertop materials because it comes in a wide range of colors, styles, and price points. Compare samples from at least three different suppliers to make sure you get the best quality you can afford.

Marble, pictured above, is a beautiful but porous stone. Wipe up spills quickly to avoid stains.

Quartz-surfacing offers the look of natural stone without the maintenance. Crushed stone and resin mix to create this hardworking countertop material.

Laminate is the most affordable countertop material and can be installed by the homeowner. It is both heat- and scratch-sensitive, but comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including faux stone and wood.

Stainless-steel counters are nearly indestructible. Pick a brushed finish over polished to show less wear.

See more of our top 10 countertop materials.

Gain an Edge

Rounded edges are safer for children and more comfortable for high-traffic areas.

Square edges create a contemporary look. To help soften the sharpness, consider barely-there bevels, called kerfs.

Mitered edges create the look of a thick slab of luxury stone without the hefty price tag.

Go Natural

Wood countertops add warmth to your kitchen and come in three grain options: face grain, flat grain, and end grain. Face grain has the most movement, while end grain has a checkered pattern and is most durable.

Butcher block is a popular choice for work spaces and islands as it is able to withstand the wear and tear of slicing and dicing.

Take a Test Drive

Before you commit to a specific countertop material, bring samples home to see how they look with your lighting, wall color, and decor.

Create Comfortable Seating

The kitchen is a much-loved entertaining hub. Give guests a pleasant place to sit at the counter with these overhang guidelines:

- For a 30-inch-high countertop, provide an 18-inch overhang.

- For a 36-inch-high countertop, provide a 15-inch overhang.

- For a 42-inch-high countertop, provide a 12-inch overhang.

Room to Grow

For your primary work area, plan for at least 36 inches of continuous countertop. This allows for a little elbow room when prepping meals.

Your main sink should have at least 24 inches of counter on one side and 18 inches on the other.

To create a splash zone, extend your countertop a minimum of 9 inches behind a cooking surface on an island or peninsula.

In smaller spaces, limit the number of materials. Consider a simple backsplash or floor material if your countertop has a busy pattern.

Incorporate Special Features

Certain kitchen countertop materials can be manipulated to provide built-in luxuries, such as this useful trivet carved into a concrete counter. Other features to consider include a built-in cutting board and custom inset dish drain.

The slick surface of marble countertops makes them ideal for baking. Try a lower countertop for rolling out dough or small divots for holding eggs in place.

Seal the Deal

Seal the surface of natural-stone counters with an appropriate sealer to prevent water and oils from penetrating.

See more smart ways to clean countertops.

Countertops are a big ticket item in a kitchen. Use these tips to help you select the option that's right for your kitchen.


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