Kitchen countertops are a key piece in your renovation or new home design. As a horizontal surface, they draw focal attention and tie together the entire décor of the room.
It’s not just their appearance that is important. The kitchen countertops you choose must fit your lifestyle, how you plan to use them and other factors. For example:
- If you love to cook, you’ll want a surface that can handle food preparation
- If you’ve got kids, some countertops will make more sense than others
- If you plan to sell your home in the next few years, some countertops will be more attractive to buyers
- The amount of cleaning, maintenance and repair you’re willing to do might be a factor in selecting the right kitchen countertops for your home
- The cost of kitchen countertops is a consideration for many homeowners
This kitchen countertops buying guide will address these issues and more, giving you answers to your questions about the right countertops for your home.
Most Popular Kitchen Countertops
Let’s start with an overview of the top-selling kitchen countertop types. We’ve produced countertop guides for most of them, and you can follow the links to learn more details including countertop prices for most.
Granite Kitchen Countertops: This is a premium building material, and granite countertops really take a kitchen from ordinary to extraordinary. Granite countertop advantages include their beauty, durability when properly maintained and the fact that they are attractive to buyers, should you sell your home. Granite countertop disadvantages include the higher cost and their need to be resealed regularly in order to prevent stains. The good news is that the same products used by professionals are available for DIY cleaning, stain removal, polishing, sealing and chip repair.
Marble Kitchen Countertops: Like granite, marble countertops offer elegant good looks unsurpassed by other materials. Quarried from around the world, marble for countertops is available in a rich range of hues and styles, so you’ll find a distinctive choice to uniquely fit your design. The pros of marble countertops include their beauty and durability when properly maintained. The disadvantages of marble countertops include the higher maintenance requirements that come with them as well as their premium cost. For more information, see our guides on caring for marble countertops and their pros and cons.
Quartz Kitchen Countertops: Quartz countertops are a fantastic alternative to granite and marble when you want appearance similar to natural stone that doesn’t require the same level of care. Because quartz countertops are engineered, they are produced in a wider range of colors and patterns than are available in natural stone. The cost of quartz countertops, sometimes called engineered stone countertops, is a drawback for some. Among the advantages of quartz countertops are how easily they can be cleaned and their excellent durability.
Tile Kitchen Countertops: The beauty of tile countertops is that they are available in so many styles, tile sizes, colors and patterns that your kitchen can be truly unique. Contemporary and urban looks are just as easy to achieve as classic and traditional. Some homeowners choose several tile types to incorporate into a design. Artisan installers can also create gorgeous mosaic tile backsplashes. Tile countertop cons include the need to properly seal the tile grout to keep it from staining. Tile installation can also be expensive, especially when elaborate designs are used.
Solid Surface Kitchen Countertops: Created from synthetic acrylic, solid surface kitchen countertops are available in a stellar spectrum of colors and patterns. Other advantages of solid surface countertops include their outstanding durability and the ease with which sinks can be integrated into the design. A key disadvantage of solid surface material is that it is not as resistant to heat as tile, concrete or marble.
Porcelain Kitchen Countertops: In Europe, porcelain countertops are in high demand. Their popularity has now crossed “the pond,” and they’re showing up in upscale kitchens and bathrooms everywhere. Porcelain countertop advantages include the large number of colors available, finish choices, easy cleanup, heat resistance, durability and strength. On the downside, porcelain countertops can chip and crack if very heavy objects are dropped on them.
Laminate Kitchen Countertops: There are many reasons why laminate countertops are among the most popular types. They are affordable, offered in hundreds (thousands?) of color and pattern options and are easy to clean. Laminate countertops disadvantages include the fact they can be cut by sharp knives and that they don’t have quite the same “wow” factor as granite, marble or quartz countertops.
Stainless Steel Kitchen Countertops: Gourmet cooks are among those who love the practicality of stainless steel countertops. Coupled with their bright good looks, they remain quite popular. The pros and cons of stainless steel countertops include their low maintenance and durability as advantages and their higher-than-average countertop cost as one of the drawbacks.
Concrete Kitchen Countertops: What was once a trend appears here to stay! Concrete countertops certainly don’t look like chunks of sidewalk atop your cabinets. The appearance is very elegant. Fabricating, tinting and acid staining are used to give them a wide range of unique and beautiful looks. Key pros of concrete countertops include their strength, durability and stylish appearance. Weaknesses include a cost similar to natural stone and the fact they can be stained if not properly sealed.
While these are the most popular types of countertops, there are several other gorgeous options you might want to consider. Each one has its enthusiastic supporters among homeowners. Click any of them to learn more.
- Recycled Glass Countertops
- Butcherblock Countertops
- Reclaimed Wood Countertops
- Resin Countertops
- Lava Countertops
- Green Countertop Materials
Factors to Consider in Choosing Kitchen Countertops
You want your new kitchen countertops to fit your lifestyle as well as to look fabulous. Here are issues to consider.
- The Kitchen Style you Desire: What look are you trying to achieve? There are so many to choose from. The most common are traditional, country, French country, contemporary, mission, modern, rustic, transitional and Victorian. However, you might want to choose the path less taken and strive for something like art deco, Asian, English cottage, federal, neoclassical, Mediterranean, Tudor or Tuscan. Since countertops are such a visual point, they’ll play a large role in helping you produce the look you want. To find the right material in the right style for your design, check out home shows, kitchen and bath stores, friends’ kitchens, magazines and online kitchen galleries.
- How you Use Countertops: Is food preparation a passion of yours? Then, you’ll want countertops that can be used in the process. Good choices include stainless steel, quartz, solid surface, glass and laminate. If you prefer the microwave or great local restaurants, then you can go with countertops that can stain or scratch easily with heavy use such as marble, granite and wood.
- The Amount of Entertaining you Do: During house parties and gatherings, a crowd tends to congregate in the kitchen. That means you’ll want something tough and durable. Stainless is hard to beat. Other good options include solid surface, porcelain, quartz, concrete, tile and laminate and granite (though encourage the use of coasters under drinks like coffee, wine and juice). Note: Granite, marble and concrete, and the grout on tile, all need to be sealed as directed by the manufacturer or installer to help maintain resistance to stains.
- Kids in the House: Children might not give countertops the same level of care that you do. If you’ve got children at home, consider kid-friendly countertops such as solid surface, stainless steel, resin, butcher block and quartz. Some homeowners go with affordable laminate and wait till the kids are older to install nicer countertops that require a bit more care.
- Countertop Care and Maintenance: If you want carefree countertops, then solid surface, glass, porcelain, stainless, quartz, resin and laminate are your best bets. Those requiring moderate care include tile, butcher block, reclaimed wood, concrete and lava. Granite and marble, especially marble, require the most care which includes daily cleaning, regular polishing, sealing as often as once per year and occasional chip repair. See our countertop material guides for specific information on the practices and products that will keep your countertops looking fantastic in the years ahead.
- How Long you Plan to Live There: The longer you live in your home, the better value high-end countertops become. If you’re moving soon, expensive countertops will attract buyers, but you won’t recoup as much of the purchase cost when selling.
Factors that Determine the Cost of Kitchen Countertops
Countertops price is a concern for most homeowners. Most of our kitchen countertop guides include pricing that we keep up to date, so you can compare countertops head to head in all the important ways.
When you receive countertop price estimates, they should be broken down into material, labor and supplies.
Material versus Labor: For types such as marble, granite, stainless steel, recycled glass and quartz, most of the cost is in the material. As little as 10 to 15 percent is in labor, so DIY installation doesn’t make good sense unless you’re very experienced and like doing home projects.
Tile is the most labor-intensive type of countertop to install, so up to 75 percent of the total cost can be saved by doing it yourself. However, getting the tile exactly straight and preparing and applying the grout take skill that only comes with practice. If precision and patience aren’t your forte, you won’t regret choosing a qualified contractor for the work.
Laminate and wood countertops offer the easiest DIY installation, and if you’re fairly handy, they present a good opportunity to save a few bucks.
For material costs, expect to pay $4 to $6/square foot on the low side for inexpensive tile and as much as $100 to $170/square foot for premium natural stone, concrete, quartz and recycled glass.
For labor costs, expect to pay $4 to $7/square foot for most materials and up to $12 or $15/square foot for tile. If you hire an artisan to do a tile mosaic, your labor costs might be higher still.
Supplies: Every countertop installation requires additional supplies such as fasteners, glue, grout, caulk or sealer. The average price is less than $0.50/square foot.
We suggest getting several written estimates from countertop professionals in your area. It is the best way to find the right combination of low cost and outstanding experience from the installer you select.