A new countertop is key to a kitchen remodel
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Mar. 15, 2012
Remodeling your kitchen involves a long list of potential changes with a seemingly endless variety of choices for each aspect of the job. Choosing the right countertop to meet everyone's taste, fit the home's architecture and style, and work with cabinets and flooring would challenge even a design professional. It must have the right color and texture to pull together the kitchen's aesthetics, and the key element is its functionality for daily use.
Countertop choices include granite, marble, soapstone, quartz, ceramic tile, solid surface plastic polymer, concrete, stainless steel, butcher block and laminates.
Everyone seems to gravitate toward granite, at least at the start. Others become more cost conscious and practical, moving on to another trendy alternative. Still others buckle down to the budget, and install something attractive, yet different and functional.
Brochures use terms like "enduring" and "classic" to create the allure that will justify the complexity and significant cost of choosing and installing a granite countertop. Still, granite can be a great choice because of its functionality - it doesn't chip easily and is the ultimate in heat and stain resistance. It requires little maintenance beyond a sealant once annually, and it has a natural design built into each unique slab. That last aspect, of course, means that you have to choose the color and design of your exact piece before your buy it and have it cut to your specifications. Despite being durable, if you somehow damage it, repair is difficult and could be costly.
Marble might also be considered to be in the "classic" category. But marble is not quite as durable as granite. Silly though it may sound, it is a softer stone, and its surface needs to be sealed twice as frequently. Like granite, though, it is quite heat resistant, yet it can also stain and be burned.
Less expensive natural stone options include soapstone, limestone and slate. These all have the durability characteristics of the more expensive stone alternatives, though perhaps not to the same degree. They are also monochromatic, and therefore not as visually exciting.
"Engineered stone" has the major attributes of natural stone. It is hard, heavy, looks rich and durable, but it generally costs less and requires low maintenance. Unlike granite, marble or the other stones, engineered stone does not require regular application of a sealant. It can, however, burn and can be scratched. "Engineered" means that small pieces of quartz are compressed together in random fashion and bonded with a plastic polymer.
Solid surface countertops are made entirely of a plastic polymer. The surface is hard, durable, and is available in almost any color imaginable. They are not heat resistant like stone, so you cannot set a hot pot directly on the surface.
Laminate countertops fall into the DIY category. These simulate a wide variety of patterns, many looking very much like stone, but they are not as heavy, nor are they as durable as stone countertops. They are not heat resistant, and can be scratched, but they require almost no maintenance beyond cleaning. Their main attraction is cost and the flexibility to do it yourself.
Stone or ceramic tiles are also DIY materials. They bring most of the benefits of the uniform stone countertops, but they are subject to chipping and cracking. The grout between the tiles is also susceptible to staining, creating a maintenance issue.
Butcher block and stainless steel, once the staple of commercial kitchens only, have gained some popularity. Butcher block wood requires regular maintenance. Stainless steel matches well with stainless appliances, but all that metal is truly a personal choice.
Color is always a consideration, but never more than when you set out to sell your house. You can always remove wallpaper, and repaint walls to a neutral color. But you will have to live with the color of your countertop, and compose the color scheme of the room around it. What for you may be a dream granite, marble or quartz countertop may well be a buyer's nightmare.
While the piece of stone or the tile you select for your countertop may just make you swoon, if you hadn't planned to also change the cabinets and flooring to blend with the new kitchen jewel, you might have to rethink the selection.
As with stone countertops, you should inspect any other materials to be installed in your home. Tiles you can bring right into your home, and lay them out to assess color, pattern and texture. You can do the same with laminate material samples, as well.