If you were to stand at the door and survey your kitchen as if seeing it for the first time, would you be 100% happy with what you see? Gleaming appliances, rustic brick backsplash, cozy nook setting, functional flooring, and the absolute perfect window treatments … well, maybe one minor tweak to consider might be a new countertop. Your countertop has seen much action through the years – cookies cooling in neat rows for the kids, kneading the dough that never seemed to rise right for artisan bread and cookbooks spread open to try new recipes. There are many memories, and many stains and scratches too, all which you’ve artfully covered with a cookie jar and your large mixer, but, admittedly, the Formica is starting to wear and looks a little dull and tired. That old countertop has served you well through the years, so why not splurge and treat yourself and perk up your kitchen with a new countertop? If you’re puzzled by the many varieties of countertops available these days, you’re not alone. You don’t have to abandon the Formica, as you can still buy it or a similar synthetic type of countertop, but do consider some of the more-popular trending countertops today.
Mixing old and new
First of all, if a new countertop is the only renovation in the kitchen you will be tackling, the biggest consideration is preserving the “look” of your current kitchen. A cozy country kitchen would keep that rustic look with wraparound butcher block countertops, but a gleaming black onyx granite countertop treatment would look sorely out of place. Don’t limit yourself to choosing a countertop for an existing kitchen from just a few styles you see online or in home decorating magazines. Consulting with a home remodeling contractor in Scottsdale, Arizona who specializes in kitchen design. These are the six most-popular kitchen countertop treatments ranging in price from least expensive to most expensive.
Popular types of countertops
Ceramic tile – Though the countertop may look striking when brand new, and damaged tiles can be easily swapped out and replaced, after the counter tiles begins to age, it becomes a chore to keep the countertop looking good. Because the surface is uneven, grout will collect food particles which will stain the color, tiles often chip or crack, and the effort of scrubbing the tiles to keep them clean will cause the high-gloss finish to become dull. The initial cost of ceramic tiles is relatively inexpensive, depending on how large of an area and the exclusively of the tiles, i.e. inexpensive ones might be $4.00 for solid-color tiles ranging to $8.00 for custom tiles.
Butcher block – To bring warmth and add conviviality to your country kitchen décor, you cannot beat butcher block countertops. There are two styles of wood utilized for butcher block treatments: “edge grain” which are wood rails that run the length of the piece and “end grains” which are created by end pieces of wood rails fused together to form a checkerboard pattern. The latter is considered stronger and more durable. The most-common butcher block woods used for countertops are hardwoods such as walnut, oak, maple and cherry. While these woods are durable, it is their finish that makes them stand out in a room. They might be treated with drying oils (linseed, tung or a diluted varnish) or non-drying oils (vegetable or mineral oils). They might also be treated with a glossier finish like paraffin or beeswax. The benefit of butcher blocks is they are much less expensive than granite, or even quartz, and they will lend ambiance to your kitchen. While butcher block countertops can be installed professionally, some people may choose to do it themselves and buy the blocks in pieces which cost approximately $60.00 per section. While they are naturally anti-bacterial, you must be careful not to use a knife and make cuts into the wood. Unfortunately, to keep them looking good, there is some maintenance involved several times a year when any scratches or dents in the wood should be buffed out with sandpaper and when the wood begins drying out, it must be treated with oil to maintain the luster.
Synthetic – These are manmade materials such as acrylics or polyester resins, prized for their non-porous surface which repels stains, mildew and is germ resistant. They can be found in various colors, some which resemble high-end materials like granite or marble, and the pieces usually are seamless. Synthetic materials are relatively expensive ($50.00 to $200.00 a foot), and, though durable, are still vulnerable to heat, scratches or dents. It is recommended they be installed by a professional.
Soapstone – This is a trending countertop treatment. Though this natural stone is formulated with talc which is relatively soft, for countertop use, it is combined with high quantities of quartz, thus making it more durable. Soapstone’s natural gray color is a neutral tone which blends perfectly in any kitchen, however, with age, it tends to darken, so this should be kept in mind. Maintenance is similar to a butcher block, wherein regular oiling and buffing is recommended. Soapstone is relatively easy to install and may be a DIY project or installed by a professional. The price range is approximately $75.00 to $150.00 a foot.
Stainless steel – This is a trending look for kitchens. It is a very durable medium, shiny and easy to clean and disinfect, and may be cut to size and shape very easily. The whole countertop may be done in one piece so there are no seams. It is approximately $85.00 to $150.00 per square foot including installation, which is best done by a professional. Stainless steel comes in finish types such as satin (smooth), antique matte or specialty. If you are worried about rust or corrosion, have no fear – stainless steel is impervious to rust, corrosion, stains and even heat. It is simple to keep clean, just by using dishwater soap and buffing dry to keep it shiny and gleaming. On the downside, however, fingerprints will show up easily, but are easy to remove, though you must be careful not to dent or scratch it.
Granite – This medium is gaining popularity despite the often rather steep price, in part, because the durability factor for granite is so high. Some of its plusses are that it does not show dirt, stains or scratches and you can even place a hot pot on the surface without fear of leaving a permanent scorch or burn mark, and it is impervious to water. Granite finishes may be polished, sandblasted, brushed or flamed and come in a wide variety of colors. It is great for the resale value of your house. On the downside, however, is the expense as mentioned above. It costs anywhere from $45.00 to $450.00 per square foot, depending on the thickness and origin of the stone; a standard-size kitchen might cost $2,500.00 for the countertop plus installation. Installation may be lengthy and arduous as the granite slabs are very heavy and cumbersome to handle. While granite is prized for its durability, it requires maintenance to keep it looking in top shape. The recommended upkeep is an annual resealing. Kitchen designers suggest that the syndrome of “granite fatigue” has set in, i.e. homeowners who once clamored for granite countertops are now opting for quartz instead since it looks similar to granite with none of the upkeep.
Alternative countertop treatments
There are a handful of other options for countertop treatments not discussed in detail above. These are very durable and natural looking: soapstone, quartz and marble. Paper composite is durable but is composed of post-consumer recycled paper and fibers held together with a plastic resin. If you decide to keep your existing cabinets, but still want the look of granite countertops, but the cabinets cannot support the weight, there is an option. Granite tiles are available in 12 X 12 X ½ inch size, therefore they are much lighter in weight and may therefore be used in conjunction with the existing cabinets. Granite tiles, as well as all the countertop options listed above, are all available for your consideration, and, an expert in kitchen design and remodeling would be able to advise you which would best enhance your present kitchen, to give you a fresh look, durability and many years of blissful kitchen ambiance.