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Kitchen Countertops | Materials, Durability, Costs and More

Recently I did an impromptu review of different countertop materials on our Instagram and WOW there were many thoughts and questions. I love that you all care about things like countertop materials as much as I do! You are my people!!


Since the story didn't save, I thought it would be useful to document some knowledge and opinions about countertops here on the blog so you have a resource to reference when you're looking to update counters in your own home. Please note, while there are hard facts about countertops (get it?... hard? counters?! I'm here all week folks), much of the information here comes from our experience working with many of these materials. You may have a different experience depending on you and your lifestyle. Nevertheless I hope you find the following information helpful and please don't hesitate to let me know what questions you have.


COSTS

There are two major costs when it comes to replacing your countertops: the slab itself and fabrication.


When you're ready to replace your counters, you go to this amazing slice of heaven called a stone yard where you walk down aisles and aisles of huge breathtaking stone slabs, trying to keep yourself from drooling and spending your life savings on new counters for your entire house. When you go to said heavenly place, make sure you have the measurements and layout of your counter space so the yard can help you determine how many slabs you'll need. Once you've found the right slab(s), you'll purchase the slab from the stone yard. If you don't need an entire slab, some yards will sell you a half slab, however more often than not you have to buy the entire thing. If you need a small piece for something like a bathroom vanity, stone yards often have a 'remnants' section, where you can buy leftover portions of slabs for a discounted price. Once purchased, the yard will work with your fabricator to get the slab into their hands.


A countertop fabricator is the person/company you hire to cut and finish the stone to fit your space. They will come out to 'template' out the shape of the counters, then use that template to cut out your countertops. Make sure you have alllll the kitchen accouterments relevant to the countertops available when your fabricator comes over to template. Think: sink, faucet, dish soap dispenser, basically anything that will touch or affect the countertops. They will be cutting out the precise holes for these items so it's crucial you have them ready at time of template. The fabricator is also the person doing the installation of your counters as well, so once all of the pieces are ready they'll install them and omg it is truly one of the most magical days of a remodel.


Fabricators can range wildly depending on their experience and location. If you don't have a fabricator lined up, I would ask the stone yard who they suggest and get at least two quotes. And as always, check those Google reviews.


EDGES AND THICKNESS

An important thing to communicate to your fabricator is what you want the edge of the countertop to look like, i.e. what you see from the side and how thick you want it to be. Most stone slabs are around 1.25"-2" thick. You have three options:


ONE: Have the countertops installed directly on top of the cabinets with no alteration of the thickness. This is the least expensive option and is very standard in homes today.

TWO: Have the edges laminated. Lamination is a process in which the fabricator will glue a slice of the stone to the bottom of the edge to give the stone a thicker appearance. This requires much more work from the fabrictor, so it increases the fabrication price.


THREE: Have the edges mitered. While all three of these options look great (we have option 1 in our home!), if I'm being honest mitered edges are the most impressive. The fabricator will cut and extra slice of stone and connect it to the edge of the top piece via 45 degree angles, then polish the edges to make it look like one solid piece. This makes your counters look 3 inches thick, when in reality it's only the edges that are that thick. This process has stunning results but is the priciest to fabricate.



SURFACE FINISH

When selecting materials for counters, you'll also need to decide on the finish of the work surface itself. Typically you have the following options:


Polished (shiny finish)


Honed (matte finish, my personal fav)


Satin (lightly textured)


Leathered (more heavily textured)



MATERIALS AND COST

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather stones we've worked with or considered for projects. But it will provide you with a good lay of the land!


Granite - If you want the most bullet-proof stone out there, look no further. Granite is a very dense stone that is also acid-resistant, making it ideal for high traffic surfaces. Now no natural stone (or really any countertop for that matter) is completely impervious to wear and tear, but granite is truly about as close as it gets. Granite is also typically more affordable than other natural stones. So what's the downside? In my opinion it's challenging to find granite that is aesthetically fresh. This material was used heavily in the 90s and 2000s; it can definitely give off a 'builder-grade' look in your kitchen. There are always exceptions to the rule though... leathered black or charcoal gray countertops are drop dead gorgeous.


Quartzite - Hands down, quartzite is my absolute favorite countertop material. It's a natural stone that's nearly as durable as granite, requires little maintenance and has gorgeous natural veining similar to marble. We have Taj Mahal quartzite in our kitchen and are as in love with it as we were the day it was installed. This natural stone has a long list of pros, however there are a couple of cons. Quartzite is supposedly susceptible to scratches (although this hasn't been a problem for us) but the real downside is cost. Quartzite is p r i c e y per square foot and it's more expensive to fabricate because the stone is so dense. If you're in a transitional home (ie only staying for a few years) quartzite may not be worth the price tag. But if you're in a longer term home or you have super high traffic in your kitchen, I say the juice is worth the squeeze.


Marble - Although it's not my number one pick (quartzite forevaaa) marble definitely takes the win for most beautiful natural stone in my book. Truly nothing compares to the look of real marble. The gorgeous veining and coloration... absolutely swoon-worthy! I hate to break your hearts though friends, but beauty is just about all marble has going for it. Marble is a very soft, porous stone, making it incredibly susceptible to acid stains (think coffee, lemons, red wine) and scratches. We had marble in our first home and while I didn't mind it, the counters drove Brendan insane because he was so worried about staining them. And even though we were careful we still ended up with stains. For context, if coffee drips were left on the counter for an hour the marble would stain. So yes... very sensitive. Now apparently there is a UV treatment you can get that seals the marble and helps immensely with stain resistance, so if you have your heart set on marble there may be hope. Just know that you will be spending a LOT of time cleaning your (very beautiful) countertops.



Quartz - This man-made stone is an extremely popular option today. Stylistically it's a big step up from granite, however it's not as pricey or as sensitive as marble.Quartz is engineered to look like natural stone but it's actually a man-made combination of real stone (usually 10-15%) and cement binders/other crushed materials. This material has a ton of pros: it's a greener option (no mining, usually made of recycled materials), it's non porous, resistant to stains, and aesthetically pleasing. There are also a few cons: it's not heat resistant (ie you can't put a hot pan on it), it's a little pricier to fabricate and, in my opinion, it just doesn't look as beautiful as real stone. Now before anyone comes at me with their pitchforks, I will say in the last year I've seen some extremely real-stone-looking quartz. My mind is definitely changing when it comes to the look of quartz as the technology is gets better and better. Overall quartz is durable and and excellent choice for kitchens and bathrooms.


Butcher Block - These wood counters are an excellent material choice if you're on a budget. Butcher block can be purchased at the big box stores, it's very affordable, and it's definitely a DIY-able installation, saving you tons of money on fabrication. The wood tones also provide a ton of warmth in a kitchen, making it feel inviting and home-y. The downside of butcher block really is the maintenance. Wood absorbs water and can rot over time, therefore it's important you keep your butcher block counters as dry as possible. The wood is sealed with a food-safe wax and must be resealed at least once a year to keep the wood looking good. Overall if you're willing to put in the work for maintenance, butcher block is a great option on a budget.


Concrete - Personally I haven't ever used concrete, but the look is tres sexy, oui?! Concrete is scratch resistant and has a beautiful look to it. Unfortunately they are also expensive to install, require annual resealing and, due to weight, can require floor reinforcement. Overall I love the look but practically I would lean away from concrete counters.


Soapstone - Another gorgeous natural stone. Soapstone counters are similar to marble in that they're incredibly beautiful but do have some maintenance involved (not nearly as much as marble though!). This natural stone is heat resistant and stain resistant, and the natural veining is breathtaking. On the downside, soapstone does scratch very easily and can 'dry out', so it must be waxed every 6-8 weeks. Waxing is an easy 15 minute process though - well worth it for beautiful countertops.


So there you have it my friends! All my knowledge of countertop materials. I hope you found this helpful and please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, I'm here for ya. Thanks for following along!

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