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Stay On Top of Your Countertop Options

When customizing your kitchen or bathroom, one of the most important decisions you will make will be what counter top material you should use. There are many factors that can contribute to choosing the perfect counter top - style, functionality, and price, just to name a few. Making the right choice may seem daunting, but here is a comprehensive list of the four most popular counter top materials, including their positives, problems, and price tags.

GRANITE

Average Cost of Installation:

$50 - $80 per square foot

Pros:

Granite Counter-top

The classic granite counter top is very popular amongst homeowners, for good reason. It’s a beautiful material unique to every cut and the type of granite used, which can give a kitchen or bathroom a glossy appeal. Granite is a very functional material too. Durable against chips or scratches and heat resistant, it is a great material for the toils and troubles that occur in the average kitchen.

As mentioned before, each slab of granite is unique. This means that each piece of granite will have different absorption properties, which affects whether or not a sealant is necessary. Though many people believe all granite counter tops need to be sealed in order to preserve them, if your cut of granite won’t absorb water, it won’t absorb sealant. This keeps maintenance very simple.

Cons:

Granite, though elegant, is also a very heavy material. Different types of granite will have different densities, ranging anywhere from fifteen pounds to thirty. Therefore, cabinetry below granite counter tops will need to be built durably in order to withstand the weight of the stone. Additionally, the weight of granite can make installation difficult, requiring proper equipment and safety measures to assure both you and your new counter top to come out safe and sound.

MARBLE

Average Cost of Installation:

$60 - $80 per square foot

Marble Counter-top

Pros:

Marble, like granite, is a popular natural stone that adds a classic luxury to the space it is in, if for a slightly higher price than granite. Marble is also a very cool material, maintaining a consistent temperature that makes it ideal when working on food items like pastries. Marble, as a softer stone, gives homeowners the ability to sand some imperfections away.

Cons:

Marble, unlike granite, must be sealed regularly to prevent it from being stained and etched. Marble is a material which is very susceptible to acids, and food items like fruits, vegetables, juices, wines, and vinegars all have enough acidity to discolor the marble’s white sheen. Some homeowners don’t mind this cortication of the stone, but that is each homeowner’s individual choice. Furthermore, marble is a weak stone that can chip or shatter under the right conditions, and is expensive to replace.

CONCRETE

Average Cost of Installation:

$70 - $90 per square foot

Pros:

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Concrete, though not as traditional as natural stone counter tops, gives homeowners a very unique and durable surface for their kitchens and bathrooms. Concrete is an energy efficient material, maintaining a cool temperature around the clock. Additionally, concrete counter tops can be recycled from other concrete sources in your area, making them an environmentally conscious material. Because each concrete piece must be custom built for a surface, homeowners can choose the shape, edging, texture, inlays, and stain of the concrete to exactly their liking.

Cons:

The process of custom-making concrete counters is expensive, and one of the pricier counter top options on this list. Prices will only increase the more custom a homeowner wants the concrete to be. Additionally, like natural stone options, concrete makes for a heavy counter top, and may crack over time. It requires proper support to prevent damage to the counter top, the cabinets, and the contents within.

However, most complaints about concrete counter tops stem from the fact that they are easily stained, even with proper sealing. The porous quality of concrete means that once acids, oils, or moisture is absorbed, it is incredibly difficult to make the stain come out.

WOOD

Average Cost of Installation:

$40 - $50 per square foot

Pros:

Wood Kitchen CountersWood counter tops are popular choices for homeowners who want a more natural, warmer tone to their kitchens and bathrooms. Once sealed, wood counter tops in the bathroom are just as sanitary as any natural stone alternative, for a fraction of the price. However, for wood counter tops in the kitchen, most homeowners choose not to seal wood and instead oil the wood.

These unsealed, oiled wooden counters are called butcher blocks. Oiling the wood allows for a stronger definition of the natural wood grain. This also makes the surface better for food preparation, and easier on knives - hence the name. While having nicks and a patina in the wood is sometimes viewed as adding character to a butcher block, homeowners who wish to preserve their unsealed wooden counter tops can use a portable chopping block, or even sand away and re-stain any inconsistencies in the wood.

Cons:

The same flexibility that allows homeowners to determine the look of their wooden counter tops also creates wood’s biggest problems. As an unsealed material, it is very susceptible to pathogenic growth in a moisture heavy environment like a kitchen, and must be cleaned and oiled every four to six weeks to keep it sanitary. Furthermore, wood, like marble, is vulnerable to stains and chemicals that can create a patina that not all homeowners may enjoy. Wood does not stand up well to heat, either, and hot pans placed on wood’s surface can easily damage it.

Wood, even if it is sealed, will swell and contract with moisture. Therefore, when installing wood counter tops, it is necessary to leave a small amount of space for the counter tops to settle into - otherwise one runs the risk of cracking the wood.

TILE

Average Cost of Installation:

$10 - $20 per square foot

Pros:

Tile counter tops can offer the same charm and resistance against heat and nicks that natural stone counter tops offer, for a much cheaper price. Rather than replace an entire section of stone if a counter gets damaged, inexpensive tiles can be replaced at much less of an effort. In fact, tiles allow for a great degree of customization for a homeowner, who can mix and match tiles at their discretion in order to create the design they desire. Instead of hiring professionals to install a counter top, homeowners themselves can lay down tiles for a simple D.I.Y. project.

Cons:

Though tile counter tops can be installed with relative ease, proper installation is key. If the grout that the tiles adhere to is not sealed, it can stain. Even with proper sealing, though, the grooves between tiles are easily infected with bacterial and fungal growth, and must be cleaned regularly to prevent sanitation issues.

Your counter tops will see most of the activity in your home, as one of the largest continuous surfaces that any sort of items can be placed on. It’s important to make an informed decision about what sort of material you should use for your counter top, so that your home is not only aesthetically pleasing, but functional and clean.

For Further Reading:

http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/our-10-favorite-kitchen-countertop-materials/pictures/index.html

http://www.bhg.com/kitchen/countertop/top-10-countertop-materials/#page=1

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/chooosing-kitchen-countertops-147495

http://theinspiredroom.net/2012/01/23/cherry-hardwood-kitchen-countertops-pros-cons-faq/

http://www.thekitchn.com/all-about-ceramic-tile-countertops-countertop-spotlight-170863

http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/1623075/list/Kitchen-Countertops-101--Choosing-a-Surface-Material

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