September 13, 2010

Tip (Counter) Top Shape

In the last two posts, I shared with you the faucet and sink we are buying for our remodeled kitchen. Now I want to show you the third item we half-purchased this week (the other half will be paid upon installation). And that item would be our kitchen countertop.

As some of you know, we've been using a plywood-type temporary countertop over the past few months while we waited for the resources to become available for us to purchase the real counters we wanted for the kitchen.

And just like the sink and faucet, there were a ton of options to choose from when it came to purchasing countertops for the kitchen. Material and Color are probably the 2 things most people think about most when purchasing this item. Color is pretty easy as you can choose just about any color you want depending on your taste and decorating style. But which material to choose is a little trickier as form, function, and budget have to come into play. There are pros and cons to most options. So, you have to go with what works best for you and your budget.

Here are just a few of the common options available:

Laminate is the most widely used countertop material in home improvement.

Pros: It is inexpensive and low-maintenance. It resists grease and stains, and it comes in a vast array of colors, and patterns. It also can come prefabricated with its own seamless backsplash.

Laminate does have its drawbacks. Since it is, basically, made in layers (hence the name "laminate") the dark under layer (usually pressed wood) may be visible. The top is also susceptible to damage from sharp knives and hot pans, and once damaged, it cannot be easily repaired.

Cost: $15 to $60 per running foot.

Ceramic Tile
Beautiful and durable, ceramic tile is the experienced do-it-yourselfer's dream come true. This is where you can celebrate your creative side. You can make that counter anything you want. How about a mural? Or how about using your children’s drawings as patterns? Or simply go with your favorite colors broken up and mixed? It can be as simple or as complex as the artist in you desires.

Pros: Ceramic tile is heat, scratch, and stain resistant. Damaged tiles are easily replaced.

Cons: Grout can stain or collect food particles, therefore giving way to bacterial infestation. Tiles can chip or crack, and if used for cutting it can dull your knives. Scrubbing with abrasives can ruin a high-gloss finish.

Cost: $4 to $8 per tile.

Solid Surface

A solid surface countertop is a step up from plastic laminate. It comes in a larger variety of colors and patterns which are uniform throughout the piece. It can resemble glass, granite, and any other stone.

Pros: Since the color goes through the entire counter, scratches and blemishes can easily be buffed out. It is strong and self-supporting, so it needs no underlayment. It is non-porous. It resists both mildew and stains. It can be ordered custom-formed to hide seams, and it can be designed to suit your taste.

Cons: It can be cut easily by sharp knives. Hot pans will leave a permanent discoloration.

Cost: It's expensive at about $125 to $200 per running foot, professionally installed.


Nothing beats stone for sheer beauty and durability. This high-end choice is for the serious cook. Marble and granite are the most popular choices.

Pros: Granite is impervious (when properly sealed) to cuts, scrapes, burns and stains. Marble must be frequently sealed with mineral oil (which is not particularly food friendly, since it is made from petroleum). Its beauty is undeniable, and both surfaces are perfect for the serious gourmet cook. Pie crusts, pastries, and homemade chocolate love these surfaces.

Cons: Both stones are expensive, heavy, and often difficult to cut. They are brittle, so they must come in thick slabs. Marble requires frequent resealing. Both are expensive to repair. Both require regular waxing and polishing to maintain sheen.

Costs: Expect to pay up to $200 a running foot, installed.

Butcher Block

True butcher block uses end-grain hard-wood for counters; however many counters come in a lesser grade.

Pros: The warm natural appearance of hardwood is an attractive choice for the homeowner. It is ideal for cutting and chopping. It's relatively simple to install, and it is easy to repair. Surface scratches are easily sanded out.

Cons: It must be sealed or frequently treated with mineral oil. It must be cleaned immediately after food preparation and moisture exposure. Protective surface sealers are not always food safe. It is humidity sensitive, so it is not recommended for high humidity areas. It scorches and dents easily. If it becomes contaminated with meat juices or dirty vegetables, it must be disinfected, then resealed.

Cost: About $50 a running foot.

So, what did we pick? We went with a Quartz countertop in the color "Grey Expo".

What is quartz exactly?
Quartz is an engineered (man-made) stone countertop made from mostly quartz -- 93 percent quartz to be exact - combined with coloring pigment and a binding agent. Quartz makes an ideal countertop in many ways. It is one of the most durable manufactured countertops on the market. It can have the look of granite or marble, but without the high maintenance. The cost can vary depending on what type of quartz (color) you want.

Silestone Quartz is the brand that we're purchasing (and it's commonly sold at Home Depot, Lowe's, and most countertop retailers). Quartz tops that have a "granite" look with a lot of color variation are most expensive. Thankfully, I wanted a very uniform-color look and the option that caught my eye was actually in the least expensive line offered.

The color "Grey Expo" looks like a gray stone (go figure). It has some tiny little specs of color in it, but for the most part is 1 color. The grey color coordinates with the silver metal finishes I'm using in the kitchen. Quartz is very practical, yet still looks and feels like high end stone. We feel it will add that "high end" look without breaking the bank (like marble would have - which was my dream choice). And we should see at least a 100% return on the investment when we go to sell the house someday. Next to the cabinets, this is the most expensive item in the kitchen.

Professionals will come to the house this week to measure the space and put in the exact order.
3-ish weeks from there, the contertop should arrive.

Can't wait to show you pictures once this is installed! Pin It

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