Choosing Kitchen Countertops While Keeping Your Budget in Mind

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The countertops in your kitchen can make a statement and become an integral part of your kitchen’s style.  When choosing a material for your countertops; cost, appearance and functionality must be taken into consideration. Some options are as inexpensive as $10 per square foot, others as high as $100 or more per square foot. What you choose heavily depends on your budget and your desired end result.  Because kitchens are so commonly considered the gathering place of a home and are a huge selling point for many buyers, your choice should also take into account the added value to your home.  So, let’s take a look at the different materials available and their benefits and differences:

Laminates are the least expensive, averaging $10-$40 per square foot. They're relatively easy to install, but they don't hold up well against scratching, gouging and scorching. They also tend to look old fairly quickly, though occasional replacement may be a viable option, considering the low cost.

Today laminates comes in a plethora of textures and colors and offer good stain resistance and easy cleaning. Installed over plywood, they can be replaced in a weekend for the DIY homeowner or can be installed in a day by a professional contractor.  TIP:  It's sometimes easier to replace the entire plywood plank versus scraping glue off the existing plywood.

Ceramic tile is another option with modest cost. Some tiles are as low as a few dollars per square foot, though prices can reach as high as $50 per tile. They're easy to install in new kitchens, but fairly difficult to replace or repair. Once glued down replacing them requires gouging out the grout and prying up the old tile, which can be a tedious and time intensive task. TIP: When replacing damaged tiles, take special care and patience to avoid damaging surrounding tiles.

Grout can also become a problem with ceramic tiles, since the rough surface and the porous nature of the grout can make cleaning a difficult chore.

Benefits to ceramic tile are long-life, heat resistant, scratch resistant, stain resistant and the huge variety of colors and designs available.

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Styled concrete is one of the newer options for kitchen countertops, and it can often be installed for as little as $50 per square foot. It's almost impossible to scorch and can be colored to match almost any color scheme.

Keep in mind, concrete is heavy and requires extensive drying time before it can be used. It needs to be properly sealed, usually more than once. Installation is generally best left to experienced professionals who specialize in decorative concrete.

Stainless steel is also coming into vogue again. Costing around $50-$65 per square foot, it's in the middle of the pack in terms of price. It does show scratches easily, though some pre-roughened styles help to hide scratching. It's easy to clean, but the surface can become splotchy over time. TIP:  Stainless steel makes a big style statement, so if considering stainless steel for your kitchen countertops, ensure it fits your style and kitchen design.

Marble has been used for countertops for centuries. It can be expensive at $75 per square foot, but it looks great new and ages beautifully. Since it's porous, it will require regular re-sealing and polishing to avoid absorbing stains and becoming discolored. Marble comes in a wide variety of styles, each one unique to the source of the material.  Marble countertops can add enormous value to a home and have a timeless style that won’t become dated years later if you decide to sell.

Granite or Quartz makes for one of the best countertop surfaces, though you will pay a premium. Prices start at $80 per square foot and rise rapidly from there. The material is highly resistant to scratching and won't stain when sealed properly. It looks stellar, but installations almost always make seams and have to be carried out by a professional contractor experience in granite or quartz countertop installation.

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Combining the best of old-world looks with modern technology, Engineered Stone is a good option. Prices start at $50 per square foot and rise moderately. Just about any stone-like pattern can be reproduced and surfaces can be made unique. Corian is a popular choice in engineered stone, complete with the option of seamless sinks made from the same material, clean lines and ability to buff out scratches are just a couple of the unique benefits.

The material never needs sealing and resists stains and scratches. Heat resistance is rarely a problem with these materials. Professional installation is common, but some can be carried out by skilled do-it-yourselfers.

Regardless of what countertop material you choose, consider how long you'll own the house and what you intend to use the surface for. TIP:  Thinking long term is key for any successful remodeling project.

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