Mainstream countertop options can be summed up into one of four popular countertop choices:
Quartz (engineered stone)
Laminate countertop, with such brand names as Formica, is the least expensive surface available and is usually done in one of two types: Preform and Custom. The perform countertops are prebuilt, usually in 8 ft lengths and are simply cut to size and installed. Custom laminate countertops are slightly more expensive as the wooden top is constructed and a laminate veneer is then applied. The cost is probably the best feature of this product. Entire laminate countertop kitchens can be done for several hundreds of dollars. The look of a laminate countertop is usually dull and basic, not to mention the visible seams that can be found. It is also not very durable. Laminate countertops cannot be cut on and no heat should be applied.
Solid Surface Countertops
The originator of solid surfaces is Dupont. They created the popular brand called Corian over 40 years ago which they patented. Nowadays there are many solid surface countertops available, some popular brand names are: Formica, DuPont, Staron Surfaces, Wilsonart, Avonite and Karran. This type of countertop costs more than laminate countertops. This is due to the way it is glued together. Solid Surfaces use color matching adhesive so it is easy to make the seams disappear. The seam material is also the same has the surface material. The main features of a solid surface countertop are the seamless applications and the cost is less then granite and quartz countertop materials. The problem with this countertop material is that it is softer and scratches easily. You should also avoid contact with hot surfaces because it will melt.
Quartz (Engineered stone) Countertops
The most common brands for Quartz Countertops are: Zodiac, Silestone, Hansstone, and Cambria. Quartz Countertops have only available in the US for less than 10 years. It is one of the most durable countertop surfaces available. It looks and feels similar to Granite and it has over 100 colors available. (Granite countertops have thousands of color options). It is comprised of 93-97% ground up quartz and a balance of glue. The glue makes this material a more maintenance free countertop surface, just like solid surface material, as the colors are man-made and it is easier to get the seams to blend in. Quartz is more chip resistant and does not contain any fissures or cracks as a natural surface countertop.The upsides of quartz countertops are low maintenance and more consistent colors, while the downside is higher costs. Most entry level quartz countertop materials cost as much as upper level granite countertop colors.The other downside or upside (depending on your perspective) is the uniform color. This perhaps is the biggest difference between natural and “engineered surface” materials. If you want a very uniform countertop, then you may want engineered stone countertop. If you want a unique countertop, then let mother-nature take you there with granite countertops.
An average size kitchen for granite used to cost over $10,000 dollars, but came down in price due to high demand and is now a very cost effective surface for most homeowners. Since it is a natural material each countertop is unique. Ever granite slab has a different color and appearance. Even if you are looking at two granite slabs of the same granite type, the color or pattern in the slab may be different. It could bea different shade of the same color or one slab could have more veining then the other. We encourage our customer’s to pick the granite slab that we will be using to cut their countertop from. It is best to pick your slab because although a small color sample may give you an idea for the color of the granite, but since the granite is coming from a different slab than where the sample came from, there may be a difference in the actual color of your granite countertop. Granite slabs range in a material price from $8/sq ft to as high has $75/ft and therefore is a large range in the installed pricing of this surface. Granite is a very hard surface which will not be scratched by anything other than more granite or diamonds, but could have some issues with chips if it is hit with a hard surface such has a pot or pan. Some Granite’s, being a natural material, do have some hairline cracks called “fissures” and some surface pits are common in some stones too. Most granite should be sealed periodically as well to prevent staining. There are sealers now that are guaranteed for 15 years to “Lifetime” which may give you more peace of mind with your investment. Maintenance and chipping are probably the biggest downside and with natural materials making seams disappear is difficult. Granite has a relative cost and an exceptional natural beauty, which makes it one of the best choices for countertops, currently available.