Deciding which counter top fits your budget, style, maintenance commitment and durability isn’t always easy. Here’s look at a recent “Consumer Reports” review.
- Quartz ($40 to $100 per square foot) The durability winner is quartz, the man-nature combo counter top. Crushed quartz stone is mixed with resin to produce counter tops that range from solid colors to the look of real granite, but they’ll beat natural stone in toughness.
Pros Quartz is almost indestructible under normal kitchen prep conditions. It laughs at knife cuts, and, unless you take a sledgehammer to it, it won’t chip or crack. It’s stain- and bacteria-resistant, and it doesn’t require sealing.
Cons You pay a lot for quartz, and it’s not as heat-resistant as less-pricey materials like granite and crushed glass. Seams can be noticeable, especially if you use lighter colors, and it can discolor over time in direct sunlight. Also, quartz can look ultra-contemporary and cold, so it may not be the best choice for a traditional-style kitchen.
- Granite ($40 to $100 per square foot) Granite is still considered one of the top must-have home features, according to a survey of prospective home buyers from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Its natural beauty often is eye-popping, and granite easily fits in any style kitchen.
Pros Granite is tough. It resists cracks and chips, and you can place a hot pot on it without catastrophe. If you apply sealer annually, granite stands up to stains.
Cons It’s tough but not indestructible. An accidental clunk with a wine bottle can put a chip in the edge, which you’ll have to polish down. If you don’t seal religiously, oil can seep into the stone and you’ll have to apply a poultice to get it out. Design-wise, granite can be unpredictable. Natural variations in stone can result in counter tops that don’t look exactly like the sample. Also, it can be hard to hide seams in granite counter tops, so be strategic about where you put them.
- Crushed (Recycled) Glass ($60 to $120 per square foot) This relative newcomer to the counter top market is as stunning as it is durable. Glass is recycled from beer bottles, traffic lights, and windshields, making it an eco-friendly counter top choice. There are two basic styles to choose from: When set in acrylic, the glass looks like it’s floating in a lake; when set in cement, the glass creates a shimmery mosaic.Pros Crushed glass counters don’t chip, scratch, stain, or burn. They’re nonporous, so they don’t need sealing, like granite. Crushed glass doesn’t fade over time, like quartz.
Cons If you place something heavy on the corner of a crushed glass counter top, it may crack. Acidic foods, like citrus juices, can eat away at the acrylic if you don’t wipe them away quickly. Price can be a “con.” Where you can pick up a low-end granite for $40 per square foot, crushed glass starts at $60.
- Laminate ($10 to $40 per square foot) Laminates are a paper-plastic product that tops several layers of Kraft paper with a resin impregnated with near infinite colors and patterns.
Pros The price is right for this chameleon-like product that can mimic everything from wood to granite. It doesn’t need any special sealers or cleaners, and it’s stain resistant.
Cons Laminates crack, scratch, and scorch more easily than the counter top materials it resembles. It’s also a bear to repair. More important, many buyers avoid laminate in droves. A study from the National Association of Home Builders says that 40% of prospective home buyers would be unlikely to buy a house with laminate counters.
- Tile ($5 to $30 per square foot) Tile counter tops can look crafty or contemporary, making them a beautiful and versatile counter top material.Pros Tile is tough and easy to clean. It resists cuts, stains, and heat. And if a tile cracks, it’s easily replaced. Tile also comes in an infinite number of colors and styles. You can mix and match to achieve a unique look that makes your counter one of a kind.
Cons Tile easily cracks if skillets and pots are accidentally dropped on it. It’s an uneven surface that can make glasses, plates, and cutting boards wobbly and unstable. Unlike stone surfaces, you can’t roll out dough on a tile countertop. And grout lines are common catchers of dust and grime; if you don’t keep up on annual sealing, they’re a great medium for bacteria growth.
- Solid-Surfacing ($35 to $100 per square foot) You probably know it as Corian, but that’s just one manufacturer of this solid-surface counter top that’s made from acrylic, polyester resins, and even marble dust.Pros Solid-surfacing comes in many patterns and colors. It’s nonporous and doesn’t require special sealers or cleaners. Scratches are easily sanded out. It can be molded to include a seamless back splash or integrated sink bowl.
Cons It’s pricey, and it doesn’t have the charm of granite or quartz. It scratches and burns easily. Plus, it’s made of non-renewable resources, it’s energy-intensive to manufacture, and it’s difficult to recycle — not a great “green” choice.