Selecting Countertops

Nothing dresses up a kitchen like a new surface

I am sure you have noticed there is a plethora of choices when you are trying to select a new countertop. Whether you are seeking a new surface for your kitchen or your bathroom, it is good to obtain information on what is available and how each material will perform for your family. These are some of the most often asked countertop questions, and the answers to help guide you through the process.

How much does the price of a countertop vary?

Most of us get started with a budget, and try to figure out what we can do within that budget. For example, we have all seen the slabs of granite on the side of some big box store plastered with a square foot price: “Today only $29.99 per SF.” Although that may sound great, it really doesn’t give us enough information. Does the $29.99 cover all of the necessary costs like the field measure (the professional coming out to your house to take accurate measurements) and the faucet cut outs? Typically, no. It is usually a sales tactic to get you into the store to shop, and not an accurate estimate of what your final cost will be.

Obtain a quote for the specific countertop you are interested in, not necessarily what you think will be in your budget. Sometimes you will find that a high definition laminate top may only provide a $300 savings over the granite material you really liked to begin with. So make a few selections and get a few quotes.

Countertop Material Cost Overview

Why does granite have varying price levels, and is one type better than another?

The square foot price doesn’t have anything to do with the integrity of the stone. On the Mohs Scale of hardness (a comparison scale testing the scratchability of minerals), all granite rates a seven. Granite pricing is solely based on where the stone comes from in the world, how hard it is to harvest, how rare the stone is, and how much of it we have on the market at any given moment.

What countertop materials are heat resistant?  

Countertops made from materials such as natural or engineered stones tend to be heat resistant, “resistant” being the key word. Even granite and engineered stone cannot endure abuse by heat repeatedly. Expansion and contraction will eventually cause damage, and it will be visible. Best advice for any material is to use a trivet.

Can you cut directly on any type of countertop surface?  

Some manufacturers boast that you can use a knife directly on the surface without scratching. However, there are good reasons to always use a cutting board. Knife marks will be visible on laminate, wood, soapstone, marble, travertine and solid-surface countertops. Others, like granite, engineered stone, and quartzite may not be scratched, but will dull your knives. Whatever surface you decide on for your countertops, your next move should be the purchase of an attractive cutting board.

What type of countertop doesn’t have any seams?

A solid surface countertop is your answer if a seamless look is important to you. Solid surface tops have come a long way in the past 10 years. There are now several manufacturers, like Dupont Corian, who have developed some beautiful products with the look and appeal of striated stone. Along with the seamless look of a solid surface, you can also get an integral sink and backsplash. This stain-resistant material makes cleanup a breeze, and requires no maintenance. Plus, if you were ever to damage your solid surface countertop, it can be repaired; it is the only renewable surface available.

Are there other options besides stone that provide heat, scratch and stain resistance?

Engineered stones (a man-made stone facsimile fabricated from adhesive and crushed stone) come in many patterns and solid colors. Because this product is man-made in sections, it has a consistency and repetitiveness to the slabs instead of an overall fluid pattern. The engineered stones are not heat-, scratch-, or stain-proof, rather, they are only resistant to these hazards. With engineered stones, you can achieve the look of granite without the maintenance.

What is the least expensive countertop?

The postform laminate, a premade laminate with the curved edge (half-inch bullnose) and integral back splash, is the least expensive. You can find these at most of the big box stores in limited sizes and colors. The next option, slightly more expensive, is custom laminate. These custom tops are made of a higher-quality product and high-definition digital graphics are used to create the look of stone. Custom laminate tops also have several different edge treatments (i.e. ogee) as well as under-mount sinks. Laminate may not be heat, scratch or stain resistant, but it is inexpensive.

Is it true that marble and soapstone are soft?  

Yes, according to the Mohs scale. Marble is rated at a three to four, and soapstone is a one. Both of these stones are heat-resistant, but neither is scratch-resistant, and both will stain if not treated periodically with a stone-penetrating sealer. If you use heavy lotions, oils or perfumes, this is not the countertop for you.

Searching for just the “right” countertop can be daunting. The best thing to do is educate yourself on the products you find interesting. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors, and listen to their experiences. Obtain quotes for the materials you like and make comparisons based on the total installed price. Lastly, ask a professional. If you ask a salesperson, they will sell you what is most profitable for their store. Locate a professional who will help you find what material best suits your budget and lifestyle.

About Bethanny Fox 2 Articles
Bethanny Fox is a kitchen and bath designer and showroom manager for Golden Rule Builders. For more information on cabinets or building needs, she may be contacted at (540) 788-3539 or visit their website at

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