Two decades ago, choosing a countertop was not at all difficult. You chose from less than twenty variations on color of plastic laminate. It was simple. Today the interest and desire of consumers to have a more practical style of countertop has revolutionized the market. Countertops are no longer merely a work surface, but a key element in the design and luxury of your home.
Around the world, manufacturers now offer numerous different styles, color schemes, and materials to match any desire of the consumer. The kitchen is the focal point of any home. Now you have the means to construct the perfect look.
When limited to only a few choices, making a decision was quite easy. When choosing from possibly hundreds of styles, you may become overwhelmed. You may discover the decision to be quite difficult. In this case, here is a descriptive list of products to aid in your decisions toward a perfect kitchen.
Plastic Laminate: Price if compared at $25 to $50 per linear foot installed.
Plastic lamination was the beginning of modernized kitchen. This particular material is by far the most inexpensive and is available in almost all colors and textures. There are four major manufacturers of plastic laminate- Wilsonart, Formica, Nevamar, and Pionite. Each offers hundreds of styles. For an extra amount of cash, you can have your plastic laminate customized. This means matching your own color, texture, and style. One of the pros of this material is that it is very easy to clean, but the con is that cuts or scratches are difficult to repair. An entire counter surface can be installed from $600 to $1800 in most cases. Tip: If you plan to match your countertop and backsplash, inform your installer when ordering so he has enough material and possibly gives you a discount.
Ceramic and Porcelain Tile: Price is compared at $50 to $80 per linear foot installed. Plain colored tiles compare at $2 to $40 per tile. Hand painted tiles compare at $5 to $75 per tile.
If you are trying to create an artistic or specific look in your kitchen, ceramic and porcelain tile is the key. You can accomplish looks from contemporary to retro when working with these materials. If you are unsure of the design and style wanted, most stores will have showrooms to help you choose. Rustic, timeworn, and stone style surfaces are a current trend. If selecting from one of these looks, it is a good idea to ask the designer or salesperson to see several pieces of tile from the same lot. This will allow you to compare color variations from piece to piece.
Porcelain tiles may be a bit more expensive, but the material will handle wear and tear well without losing its ceramic style. Porcelain is the hardest fired product you can find.
A con to installing porcelain tiles is grout lines. It seems no one invests the proper time and energy intended to keep grout clean. Grout requires routine cleaning and care, but is very easy to clean.
Corian and Solid Surfacing: Price is compared at $75 to $150 a linear foot installed.
Dupont manufactures the most readily available and widely known 100% synthetic countertop material. This is Corian. Other manufacturers such as Wilsonart, Formica, and Avenite also produce a variety of styles. Corian is known as a solid surfacing material. It will be made from a pure acrylic product or a polyester-acrylic mix. Although there are some solid colored materials, most have a real stone texture produced by small flecks. The real stone texture is more expensive. The pro of the solid material is that the surface is scratch resistant. If you do get a scratch it can be sanded out. Deep scratches will require replacement of the damaged piece.
Concrete Slab: Price is compared at $50 to $100 per square foot poured.
Concrete is a very old material that is a new trend. It may be purchased in pre-formed sections or poured and formed on-site. Having the concrete poured and formed on-site is appropriate for unusually shaped counters. Although concrete is an old material it has an unusually high price. Because it is susceptible to cracking and its constructive look, consumers are weary about using the product indoors. On the plus side, concrete can be stained to match any color desired.
Granite: Price is compared at $75 to $200 per linear foot installed.
Granite is a timeless countertop surface. Not only does the product stand the test of time, granite slabs greatly increase the value of your home. Therefore, granite is the most expensive of all countertop types. The type, quality, and availability of the material, as well as the edge finish will all affect the price you are going to pay. A popular edge finish is a 1-1/2 inch bull nose, but find out from your fabricator when pricing the material to find out the style of edge included.
Granite is a very practical material due to the near impossibility of damaging the surface stone.
If the price is just too extreme, but you can't resist the look and style, look into granite tiles. A 12-inch square tile contributes identical resistance to that of solid slab. You can also reduce the size of grout by butt-jointing the tiles. Also, you can achieve the same basic look and style of solid granite by combining dark colored granite with dark colored grout.
Composite Stone: Price is compared at $110 to $250 per linear foot installed.
Now, composite stone material is the granite rival. The stone is a synthetic composite made from 90% quartz particles and 10% acrylic or epoxy binder. It is even difficult to decipher between the looks of real stone, composite, and granite. Because the composites are man-made, there is no chance of variation as in granite or marble. Therefore the material does not need to be sealed. Using the same process- Silestone, Okite, CaesarStone, and Dupont's Zodiaq are the major manufacturers. The only difference among these companies are the variations in color and texture. Together they offer over 130 countertops, all of which are scratch resistant. They can stain if not cleaned properly.
Butcher Block: Price compared at $30 per square foot.
Ordinarily comprised from rock maple, it can also be made from oak and cherry or mixed and exotic species. Although the surface it explicit for cutting and chopping, knife marks will show and the surface is also prone to water damages. Tip: If placing the butcher block by a sink, apply several coats of sealant.
Stainless Steel: Price compared at $150 per linear foot.
For a professional style or restaurant appearance, steel is perfect. The stainless steel is an alloy containing minute amounts of chromium for its rust resistant surface. Because of its thinness, it is attached to plywood, which provides strength, and helps mute the sound. The pros of steel are that it is stainless, heat resistant, and easily cleaned. The cons may be far and beyond for some. Fabrication is extremely costly and difficult. It shows scratches, fingerprints, dents, and can be rather noisy work surface. Also, if you tire of the look and style in the future, it is quite difficult to change or replace.
Soapstone (Steatite): Price compared at $55 per square foot.
Historically, soapstone was used in kitchen sinks. Generally it is a dark gray color, smooth to the touch, and respectively stain and burn resistant. It does however need to be treated on a regular basis with mineral oil.
Designers and dealers get together yearly to discuss upcoming trends and exciting new ideas in home decorating. New and extravagant ideas have arisen in the kitchen. High tech laminates, stainless steel, and the mixing of all of the above materials for an artistic and personal design are among the many new ideas. Yet, the latest in cutting-edge technology is cement.
Countertops, Countertops, Countertops
Integrated drain boards and hydraulic lifts that let you access variations in height are helping designed countertops to be as functional and practical as ever. "Surface energy" is the combination of several countertops and a variety of styles and materials. Surface energy has prevented high functionality in the past, but today design pros are embracing new ways to cope.
A Bit of Last Minute Advice
In the end, you want to choose a countertop material that suits you and your home. Remember that none of the materials are trouble-free. Scratching and periodic resealing will apply to certain materials. All of them will stain if not properly cared for. The only material that does not stain is stainless steel, but it does scratch and the look isn't for everyone.
Tile and granite should be tested out before installing. Certain tile may dull when in contact with vinegar or other foods and chemicals. Test the surface before choosing a specific design. Granite can also contain irregularities. Although they are not noticeable on a 4x4 inch sample, it is best to meet the fabricator upon purchasing and choose the slab yourself.
A backsplash can include wall, sink, and prep area protection which makes the surfaces easy to clean. Once you have chosen a countertop, you will want to decide on the desired look of your backsplash. The overall look of your kitchen can be enhanced by a creative backsplash.
Here is information on some popular backsplash materials and their cost and installation.
Ceramic: Price is compared at $2 per square foot for machine-made tiles. Hand-made tiles compare at $20 per square foot. Mass produced tile murals compare at $45 for a six-tile pattern. Labor and installation is compared at $2.50 to $8.50 per square foot.
If you want versatility, ceramic is the way to go. Its shape, size, and color are among the greatest offers of all backsplash materials. Some different possibilities with ceramic include- a matte finish, a glossy finish, raised edges, textured areas for dimension, ability to rotate tiles, combining different shapes and sizes, and accenting. All of these possibilities can really accent your kitchen.
Stone Tile (Granite and Marble): Price is compared at $10 per square foot and up.
Granite and marble tiles come in multiple colors and textures. A new trend is tumbled marble in 4-inch squares. Because of abrasion and acid wash, it has a pitted surface area with softened colors.
Solid Surfacing: Price is compared at $25 to $30 per linear foot for loose. Integral backsplashes compare at $45 to $50. Full-heights compare at $75 per linear foot.
Solid surfacing can be costly due to the amount of wasted material upon installation. If you chose a solid surface countertop for your kitchen you can ask the fabricator if there are enough materials left over to make a backsplash. This way the fabricator does not have to waste left over and you just may get a backsplash for free.
Metal and Metal Laminates: Price is compared at $140 to $160 per square foot for copper or zinc. Stainless steel compares at $20 per square foot. With less metal material, prices compare at $8 per square foot. Fabrication and installation prices compare at $10.
Fabricators can create a backsplash from any sheet metal. This includes copper, steel, zinc, brass, and nickel. Surface textures include hammered, ribbed, and quilted. The problem with metal laminates is finding a fabricator that specializes in sheetmetal backsplashes.
Make a Splash
Picture the area around and above your countertop as a blank canvas. You or your designer can choose from endless textures and materials that will artistically define your kitchen. Glass, hand-painted porcelain, luxury tiles, gleaming metal, risen dimensional, and natural stones are among the possibilities. Mix, match, and accent away.