Kitchen Countertops

counter

The cabinets may be the face of the kitchen but the countertops are where all the action happens. A countertop will have to cope with hot pots and pans, knives, dirt and therefore needs to be durable.

So it is usually best to make your choice based on the performance of the material and ease of maintenance, as well as the sink mounting option.

Notes on edge styles and backsplash options are given at the end of this page (click here).

The countertop choices are listed below very roughly by price (least to most expensive). If you are replacing countertops measure the tops at the wall edge (not the front edge) and make a rough drawing when you go to the kitchen store to get a quote. Also measure the depth and indicate how the ends need to be finished, meaning whether there is a wall, an appliance or a walkway. Draw your plan from above, as if you were on the ceiling looking down.

Laminate

Laminate is a very popular choice for kitchen countertops as it is cheap and it comes in a variety of colors. It isn’t that hard wearing and can get scratched or burned, and gets dirty very easily. However, it comes in lots of different colors and textures and you should always find what you want. If you do choose laminate you can protect your surfaces with trivets and chopping boards.

Price:

$10.00-$40.00 per linear foot (a linear foot is 12″ wide piece by a standard 25 1/2″ depth) based on edge style selection.

Edge styles:

A practical option with laminate is the no-drip waterfall edge. The counter surface rises up before the edge, preventing spills from dripping onto the floor.

  • Tri-Cove: rolled at the back splash, at the deck and at the front edge. The wraps are 180 degrees and are also wrapped underneath the front edge.
  • Single cove: coved at the deck but flat on the top of the back splash and at the front edge.
  • Various styles of wood edges and beveled edges where you may use an accent color (installation is additional).

Advantages:

Inexpensive, largest color and pattern selection and edge choices. Durable if not abused. (Laminates used now, even though they are still high pressure, are not as durable as they once were because the EPA banned certain chemicals used in the manufacturing).

Disadvantages:

Not advisable to use as a cutting surface or to place hot pans upon. If it gets damaged it cannot be repaired, only replaced. Seams are noticeable especially on light colors because the backing sheet on the laminate is a dark brown color.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming only (drop in sink).

Cleaning:

Soap and water, non-abrasive cleanser and Counter Top Magic to renew sheen.

Hints and Tips:

Be careful of beveled and flat edges as they can chip. Try to avoid high-gloss laminates for the kitchen, as they will show fingerprints and scratches. If you choose a pattern it will help hide any surface scratches.

Tile

Tiles are an easy way to give colour to your kitchen and are not extremely expensive. Costs mainly depend on whether the tiles are handmade or factory produced. Tiles themselves are highly durable, but the grout in between can sometimes cause problems. Try to obtain epoxy grout or similar that keeps the surface clean and intact.

Price:

From $3.00 per square foot, with decorative accent tiles and border tiles running as high as $25.00 each. You have to pay extra for installation.

Edge Styles:

At its simplest, a tile edge can be straight, with two flat tile edges meeting at the corner, but that leaves a sharp front edge that’s prone to chipping. It’s better to use special edge tiles that wrap around the corner for a smoother look. The availability of these special edge tiles varies by manufacturer.

Advantages:

Heat and scratch resistant and long lasting. Unlimited color, size, texture and pattern selection with complete design freedom. Can lay in rows or diagonally. Can use tile or wood for the front edge.

Disadvantages:

It can be hard to clean the grouting and it can stain or discolor. Very hard on breakables.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming or tile in sinks which are installed flush with the tile.

Cleaning:

You can use any household cleaner for the tiles but you are better off choosing on that is safe to use on the grout. Ask your tile store or installer to recommend the best cleaner.

Hints and Tips:

The larger the tiles you use, the less grout you will have to clean. Use with a wood front edge to soften the look.

Wood and Butcher Block

Wood will always give a great look and add character to your kitchen. On the countertop, however, it is highly susceptible to scratching and cutting. Hot pans will burn it or leave marks, and it can be unhygienic if meat or poultry is prepared on it. However, it is one of the only surfaces that will not damage your knives.

Price:

approx.$50-$100 per linear foot. Custom sizes and specialty woods (e.g. from Spekva) cost much more (sometimes as much as stone).

Edge Styles:

You can get any kind of edge you want with wood, which can be milled into unlimited shapes. But it’s important to note that a very intricate edge detail could be difficult to keep clean if food gets trapped in the cracks.

Advantages:

Ideal for cutting on and will withstand heat for a short period of time. Very attractive.

Disadvantages:

Deep cuts will show but can be sanded out. Butcher block should not be used near water sources.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming.

Cleaning:

Use soap and water then dry well. Use mineral oil to renew surface. Do not use cleansers, as wood is porous and will absorb the chemicals.

Hints and Tips:

Use on a center island as a chopping block and use a different material for around the sink area.

Stainless Steel

Steel is highly durable and can be shaped in many ways to fit your kitchen. The backsplash and the sink can be made out of the same piece of steel, ensuring that there are no awkward corners or gaps for food to get lost in, which will improve hygiene. It is not the cheap, however, and does have a ‘clinical’ look which might not suit all tastes.

Price:

$30.00 per linear foot plus installation, 16 gauge or better.

Edge Styles:

In addition to a variety of other edges, metal countertops can have a raised “V” edge to keep spills on the counter.

Advantages:

High tech look, durable, heat proof and corrosion-proof. Can be fabricated with integral sinks, draining boards and backsplashes. For an extra price, all the joints can be polished for a seamless effect.

Disadvantages:

Can scratch and dent. Shows fingerprints and is high-maintenance.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming or integral stainless steel.

Cleaning:

Can use household detergents or specialist cleaners.

Hints and Tips:

Use in combination with a warmer looking material in large kitchens to prevent a commercial, cold look.

Corian, Avonite and Other Solid Surfaces

Solid surfaces in worktop language means that a worktop is not built up in layers, such as laminate or Formica, but that it consists of a solid plastic all the way through. One of the best well-known brand names is Corian. It has been on the market for more than 30 years

They are also are hardwearing. They resist scratches, scorching and heat from hot pans. If you do damage your surface, there are repair kits available to fix it.

Solid surfaces are about three times as expensive as laminate, and twice as expensive as wood, but are still cheaper than stainless steel and stone. They come in many colors and styles, and suppliers give good guarantees.

There are many brands of solid surface on the market but keep in mind that they all have the same physical characteristics. Corian is the most famous and also the one most of the others copy in their colors. Avonite has unique color choices.

Price:

$120.00-$200.00 per linear foot installed (by a certified installer only).

Edge Styles:

Solid surface counters are easily shaped, so edges can be ordered in almost any style, from detailed ogees to simple bevels.

Advantages:

Large variety of colors and edge styles. The deck and inlay can be different colors and you can actually create your own design on the deck (such as a geometric design or a flower, for example), however, this adds to the cost.

Backsplashes can be any height and coved to deck for a very clean look. Seams are virtually invisible. The material is renewable and repairable. Most brands offer a full, transferable, 10-year warranty.

Avonite offers unique colors in solid surface. They use a clear polyester base for some colors which gives the look of granite.

Disadvantages:

Cost is high when all available options are used.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming, under mount or integral.

Cleaning:

Mild soap, cleanser and Scotch-Brite pad will remove stains easily.

Hints and Tips:

Corian in either Glacier White or a solid color with a standard edge, set on backsplash and a self-rimming bowl brings the price down considerably, and you can still take advantage of the benefits of the surface itself.

Swanstone

Price:

$55.00-$75.00 per linear foot plus installation. Swanstone is a 1/4″ thick material made up of fiberglass and acrylic then compression-molded and veneered over particle board. It is available in a variety of colors and has a satin finish.

Advantages:

Easy to clean, has a renewable surface, and scratches may be sanded out and repaired. It is less expensive than thicker solid surfaces and is available in a variety of colors. Thermo-shock, crack and stain-resistant.

Disadvantages:

Has visible seams. If darker colors are selected it will show scratches much more than the lighter colors because of the white base color used in the material. Strict size restrictions with material.

Sink Options:

A double bowl or single bowl Swanstone under-mount (with step-down effect), or a self-rimming sink in any material.

Cleaning:

Swanstone recommends using a Scotch-Brite Pad with Ajax cleaner for regular cleaning. Scratches or stains may be sanded out with very fine sandpaper. Rinse well after cleaning to remove residue.

Hints and Tips:

Do not use dark colors on kitchen tops, only use on sinks because the material scratches white.

Granite

Granite is the most common type of stone used for a countertop. It is also the most expensive material you can use, however, it is becoming more affordable as granite prices drop. It is highly durable, it doesn’t scratch or burn, and it keeps its color. It’s a natural material that will give great character to your kitchen.

Price:
$120.00-$200.00 per linear foot installed (usually sold installed).

Edge Styles:

As with other stones, can be cut into almost any type of edge.

Advantages:

Offers many colors of natural stone in 3/4″ or 1 1/2″ thickness. Nearly impossible to scratch. Very heat resistant and extremely durable. Four or five edge styles are available. You even get to select your own slabs.

Disadvantages:

Expensive. Needs to be resealed to prevent staining.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming or under mount (stainless steel is exceptionally attractive with granite).

Cleaning:

Use soap & water or a mild cleaner like 409 or Windex for regular clean up. Special products made for stain removal.

Hints and Tips:

Use on center islands or baking areas. Combine with solid surfaces if your kitchen is very large.

You can use different worktop areas for different kitchen functions. For example, use stainless steel around the sink, and granite for the pastry preparation area. This way you make the most of the qualities of the different materials and it also breaks the monotony of your worktop area.

Other natural stones available include Marble, Travertine, Limestone and Jerusalem stone. All of these need to be sealed and are not as durable as Granite.

Quartz Surfaces: Cambria, Zodiaq and Silestone

Quartz is a very tough, natural material and it looks good too. It is also expensive (can be more so than granite).

Cambria is made in the USA which cuts down on lead times. It is available in 34 colors which are all the same price.

Zodiaq has the same 10-year warranty as Corian and comes in 26 colors.

Silestone is made by the Spanish company Consentino. Scratch and scorch resistance that is better than plastic or solid surfaces, and resistance to stains that is better than sealed granite or marble. Virtually unlimited edge designs. Available in 46 colors.

Price:

$120.00-$250.00 per linear foot installed (must be installed by a certified installer). Quartz surfaces cost approximately 10% more than granite and 20% more than solid surfaces.

Edge Styles:

Stone and engineered stone can be cut into almost any type of edge, although softer stones allow fewer choices.

Advantages:

Quartz has a high hardness rating. It is scratch, stain and heat resistant. Made from 93% quartz and has a high gloss surface so can look just as good as granite. It can be fabricated in 3/4″ or 1 1/2″ thickness. Does not need to be resealed every few years (unlike granite). Unlike Granite, it is approved by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) for sanitary food prep.

Disadvantages:

Expensive. Set on backsplashes only.

Sink Options:

Self-rimming or under mount.

Cleaning:
Soap & water or mild cleaner.

Hints and Tips:

If the pricing is within your budget, buy it.

Concrete

Price:

$55.00-$100.00 per sq. foot.

Edge Styles:

From a simple square edge to the more complex ogee, there is more choice here than you might expect.

Advantages:

Resistant to scratching and heat. Available in a variety of colors and textures. Can be formed into different shapes.

Disadvantages:

Can crumble or crack or be vulnerable to burns and stains. Needs a lacquer sealer to help prevent stains and water damage (talk to your designer about this).

Sink Options:

Integral, under mount or self-rimming.

Cleaning:

Damp cloth and water based cleaners such as 409 and Fantastic.

Soapstone

Price:

Approximately $120 per sq. foot.

Edge Styles:

Again, stone and engineered stone can be cut into almost any type of edge, although softer stones allow fewer choices.

Advantages:

Virtually invisible seams, scratches are easily removed with sand paper. Material is easy to form. It is available naturally with a blue, green or gray cast, but turns to a rich charcoal gray as it ages and is oiled with mineral oil. It is resistant to chemicals, water and heat.

Disadvantages:
Very limited color choice.

Sink Options:

Under mount or self-rimming, apron sinks in Soapstone.

Cleaning:

Any common household cleaner.


Edge Styles

The countertop edge style should complement the style of the kitchen. Rounded edges, bullnose and waterfall provide the most comfort and are less likely to cause bumps and bruises than a squared-off edge.

Listed below are some of the more common terms you will hear when describing countertop edge styles.

Setback.
Setback
Spanish.
Spanish
Eased.
Eased
Classic.
Classic
No Buildup.
No Buildup
Double Classic.
Double Classic
Double Eased.
Double Eased
Half Bullnose.
Half Bullnose
Bevel.
Bevel
Full Bullnose.
Full Bullnose
Double Bevel.
Double Bevel
Triple Bead.
Triple Bead
Doved.
Coved
Even Receding
Even Receding
Full Bullnose Inlaid.
Full Bullnose Inlaid
Half Bullnose Inlaid.
Half Bullnose Inlaid
Recessed Inlaid with Tile.
Recessed Inlaid with Tile
Double Bevel Inlaid.
Double Bevel Inlaid
Inlaid.
Inlaid with Corian® or other material

Postformed Countertops

Postformed countertops are prefabricated laminate tops that typically consist of one to three bends in the laminate, depending on the style you choose.

The top of the backsplash is curved, the backsplash is coved without a seam, and the front edge is curved. The tops are ordered in sections and corners are bolted together. There will be a 45 degree angle seam in the corners and a 90 degree straight seam for runs over 12 foot. Tops with multiple colors or varied designs help to conceal the seams.

This type of top was originally designed to provide a economical and quickly installed countertop for simple kitchens. Due to the popular rolled edge these tops have become very common even in more upscale homes.

Here are two examples of postformed countertops in profile:

Being somewhat square, postform tops do have some limits on design, wall straightness and corners. They are best used for straight runs. Corners need to mitered.

When a countertop front edge is postformed, it means that the laminate is continuously wrapped from the deck down around the front of the countertop.

This gives you the “softest” of all the edges. A rounded edge is comfortable to lean on, as well as being less prone to nicks, water damage, and delamination. This advantage sometimes makes having the mitered seam worthwhile.

The edge can vary from the most common: a quarter round, or 90-degree edge, to a more complicated edge that rolls all the way down and under.

The price for these tops average around $13 to $24 per linear ft.

Self Edged Laminate

Named because the countertop fabricator must install the edge himself. These countertops are available in lots of colors. They are custom fabricated to each individual situation. Radius corners and curves are all possible, thereby giving unique shaped kitchens an economical surface.

Decorative Edge Laminate

These are the same as the self edged countertops, but with a decorative edge, either wood or a beveled piece, or sometimes even solid surface material. Again this is a way to spruce up your countertop without adding a great deal of money to the cost of your kitchen.

Decorative Deck Laminate

The same as self edged countertops with except with plastic laminates on the deck. Some of these combinations would include color through laminates, and those with special finishes, such as Touchstone® or Crystal®. It doesn’t cost very much more for these upgrade laminates, you just have to know they are out there, and be willing to wait an extra week or two for your countertop.

Backsplash Styles

There are two main types of backsplash, straight and coved.

The coved backsplash eliminates corners. Note that the joint is curved and formed into one piece. It can be used on kitchen countertops and vanity tops. Cleaning is somewhat easier with a coved backsplash.

The straight backsplash features inconspicuous sealing between the countertop and backsplash. This eliminates the dirt-trapping line that you would find at the joint of an ordinary laminate, tile or stone countertop.

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