Countertop Buying Guide

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Island with granite countertop
Countertops in the home act as daily workbenches. A kitchen countertop must handle heat and daily messes; a bathroom countertop must endure splashes of water and chemicals like perfume and soaps; and an outdoor countertop must stand up to exterior elements. Today, choosing a countertop isn’t just about its functionality, affordability and aesthetics, but consumers also want to investigate sustainability too. You’re probably thinking—where should I begin? From start to finish, we’ve got tips to help you choose the perfect countertop surface. 
 
How Should I Prepare?
If this is your first time picking out a new countertop, come equipped. Identify what you’re looking for in a countertop and think about how much use it will get. Bring measurements and samples of coordinating materials—such as paint chips or a cabinet door sample—in order to match colors. Also, remember that the bright lighting in a showroom is different from natural lighting in your kitchen, so ask for a countertop sample to take home and observe how it looks at different times of the day. If you’re picking natural stone for your project, such as granite, marble or quartz, ask to view the whole slab. The patterns in natural stone are unique and may vary depending on the part of the slab used. 
 
Find What Fits You
Before you set your heart on the beauty of a certain type of countertop, ask yourself if it suits your lifestyle. Choose a material based on your taste, but don’t overlook practicality. Your countertop is not immune to everyday life. If you’ve got little ones, choose a smudge- and stain-resistant surface such as quartz. Going green? Opt for an eco-friendly countertop, like an ultra-compact surface, which is made out of highly compressed all-natural elements. 
 
Maybe you’re on a budget—new innovations in laminate surfaces offer a broad range of colors and patterns, but are still affordable. 
 
Once you’ve narrowed down the best material for your situation, there’s another decision to be made: How will the edge look? 
 
The degree of detail on the countertop edge can factor into the overall cost. Intricate edging requires more time and effort to produce, so stick with a less elaborate choice if your budget is tight.
 
 
Popular Kitchen Countertop Material (Comparison Chart)
LAMINATE
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
Low ($20–$50)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Can stain, scratch and chip 
✦ Need replacement or excess material to repair
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Vast array of colors and patterns
✦ Least expensive to install and replace
✦ Can be molded to almost any specification
✦ Seams show at the edge
 
QUARTZ
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
Medium ($35–$65)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Requires little maintenance
✦ No sealant needed
✦ Repairable by a pro
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Durable; resistant to wear and tear, scratches, stains and heat
✦ Looks like natural stone; sold by the slab
 
NATURAL STONE GRANITE
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
Medium to High ($45–$75)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Resealing needed once or twice a year
✦ Need a pro to repair
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Natural look with a variety of colors
✦ Sold by the slab; there may be some waste
✦ Stands up to daily wear and tear
 
ULTRA-COMPACT
(example: Neolith, Dekton)
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
Medium to High ($45–$120)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Sustainable and durable
✦ No sealant needed
✦ Doesn’t stain—even white
✦ Difficult to match tone if repaired
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Eco-friendly; made of all-natural elements
✦ Available in many colors
✦ Look of stone but not as pricey 
 
ECO-FRIENDLY
(example: Vetrazzo)
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
High ($60–$65)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Clean with a damp cloth
✦ Reseal annually to keep it like new
✦ Can be repaired by authorized fabricator
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Good for a new contemporary look; extremely strong and durable
✦ Resistant to cuts, scratches and heat
✦ Made from recycled glass, paper or wood
 
CONCRETE
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
High ($60–$75)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Requires sealant every one or two years to protect
✦ Can develop hairline cracks
✦ Clean with nonabrasive, eco-friendly cleaner
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Porous surface unless sealed or waxed
✦ Made to order, eliminating slab limitations
✦ Can add tint and texture 
✦ Can chip and scratch; sand and seal to repair
 
MARBLE
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
High ($60–$75)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Scratches somewhat easily
✦ Requires annual sealant to protect
✦ Sanding and mineral oil will repair
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Professional, sleek look
✦ Provides a smooth, cool surface for handling things like dough
✦ Heat resistant
✦ Stains hard to wash away
 
WOOD
Cost Range (per sq. ft)
High ($75–$225)
 
Maintenance and repair
✦ Requires careful cleaning
✦ Surface can be sanded and resealed to repair scratches
✦ Use a cutting board to protect
 
Pros and Cons
✦ Traditional, warm appearance
✦ Will absorb stains
✦ Will scratch
✦ Wide array of wood types and colors available
 
Finishing Touch
You’ve picked the material. You’ve picked the edge. Now it’s time for the finish. The three most common finishes are polished, rough and honed. The popular polished countertop has a glossy look, while a rough finish brings out the natural texture of the stone. Adding texture lends a softer look in the kitchen and bathroom. If you’re all about current trends, the honed finish, which creates a matte look, might appeal to you. 
 
Did You Know?
✦ Granite is heavy! Before installing a granite countertop, make sure your cabinets and floors are strong enough to hold its weight.
✦ Kids and marble don’t usually mix—it shows wear and tear easily.
✦ Natural stone is not a limitless resource. Eco-friendly material choices are commonplace today. Concrete is highly customizable—and is a great material to achieve an industrial look. Choose a countertop brand that is made of recycled materials, like a mix of glass and concrete.
✦ Abrasive cleaners break down a countertop’s sealant. Eliminate harsh chemicals from your kitchen-cleaning arsenal with an eco-friendly cleaner, like a baking soda and water mixture.
 
Top Trends!
Neutral colors are timeless and elegant, allowing you to play with other bright, colorful elements in your decor.
Quartz is gradually overcoming granite in popularity due to its high level of durability and easier maintenance.
 
Choosing a Countertop edge
 
Where to Buy Countertops in Atlanta
Cabinet & Stone City | CabinetStoneCity.com
CR Home/Cambria | CRHomeUSA.com
DCD Kitchen & Bath Studio | DCDcabinets.com
Enhance Floors & More | EnhanceFloors.com
Florida Tile | FloridaTile.com
LG Hausys | LGHausys.com
NorthPoint Kitchens | NorthPointKitchens.com
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