For years, granite has been king of countertops. Homeowners pass huge slabs of gorgeous stone in hardware stores, enticed to spend big bucks on their remodel. Buyers shopping for a new home marvel at stone countertops in a freshly-updated kitchen. Granite is lustrous, durable and each piece is unique. It’s also a pricey update. So, what do you do if you want to make a statement in your kitchen without breaking the bank?
Good news! Granite isn’t the only option, and some materials are even more interesting, contemporary, unique, and in some cases, more affordable.
First, a little about granite. It’s highly sought after for its natural variation in colors and patterns: no two pieces are alike. It’s resistant to heat, and with daily cleaning (soap/water) and annual resealing, it’ll stay clean and shiny and beautiful for years. That said, here are other options to consider…
- Quartz. My personal favorite. Comparable to the cost of granite, but very different, and everyone has a big opinion about which is better. Quartz is natural stone combined with 5% polymer resins, so it’s harder than granite. It’s even more durable and easier to keep clean (hurray for less bacteria)! You also don’t need to reseal quartz, ever. Unlike granite, it can be damaged by high heat, so watch those pots and pans.
- Wood. It’s not just for cutting boards! Wood counters create a warm and rustic feel, and you can choose from various options like cherry, mahogany, madrone and bamboo. Extremely sanitary and highly heat-resistant, a properly sealed wood countertop is an attractive alternative that’s likely less expensive than granite.
- Stainless Steel. Because it’s cool to match your appliances. This look is clean, industrial, contemporary and very “chef’s kitchen”. Bacteria buildup is inhibited, so this may be the most hygienic option. It’s also easy to coordinate any colors or patterns with steel counters, but you may spend a bit more to achieve this look.
- Marble. Timeless and luxurious. It offers variation in patterns like granite, but it’s porous, and can lose its shine and quality over the years. Though it requires more maintenance and may cost even more than granite, proper sealing and cleaning help ensure a fabulous counter for the ages.
- Concrete. Striking and modern. Did you know you can choose any stain and texture? You can go shiny or matte. The sleek look steals the show in just about any kitchen. Newer designs are lighter with integrated polymers, preventing cracks and stains. They require sealant and can develop nonstructural hairline cracks over time, but some love the additional character. Prepare to spend more for this option.
- Tile. Retro makes a comeback. Subway tile is a huge trend in backsplash design, and it’s crept onto the countertop once again. Ceramic tile was popular in the late 70s and early 80s, though today’s designs are a little sleeker and more subtle. White is a very common choice, or you can create patterns with different colors for a bold statement. You’ll spend a lot less on a tile countertop, but cracking may occur, and cleaning the grout is a challenge.
- Laminate. Not long ago, laminate was a bad word in design. But modern designs mimic natural wood and stone, and cost much less. The sky’s the limit for design options, and they’re easy to clean. But laminate is prone to damage from both heat and scratches.
Weigh your options, and find your one countertop to rule them all. Whether you're doing home improvements to enjoy your place for years to come, or you want to increase the value of your property before it hits the market, a fresh and beautiful countertop is a valuable investment.