Choosing The Right Countertop
Along with vanities and cabinets, countertops will be primary focal points of your
bathroom or kitchen makeover. They set the design foundation that will determine
style of sinks, faucets, bathtubs, flooring, paint colors and decor. The right choices
can create a jaw-dropping wow factor and the wrong selections will establish a
boring atmosphere. Budget, function, maintenance, scalability, flexibility and beauty
must be considered. The design style should be a reflection of personality and
lifestyle of the homeowner within the budget limitations.
Countertop material options have come a long way since the early days of Formica and
ceramic tile. Even laminate countertops have progressed from a few pastel solids to
a wide range of colors and patterns. Natural stone options of granite and marble
have become more affordable. There are even man-made engineered stone such
as quartz that are equally as beautiful as granite while featuring greater durability.
Stainless steel, glass and even concrete countertops have become modern day choices.
Consider All Factors. Don't Rush A Decision.
You are investing big dollars. Minimize costly mistakes. Determining the correct
balance of budget and desires is the goal. Do a lot of research. Visit online sites
as well as kitchen and bathroom showrooms. See, touch and feel possible choices.
And be sure to hire expert fabricators and installers. Often, retaining an interior
designer is more cost-effective in the long run. They will likely make suggestions
and point out pros and cons that you may not have even considered. Besides
bringing a skilled design eye to the remodel, they can help you avoid costly errors.
As with any creative endeavor, a bath or kitchen remodel can be a confusing
and daunting process. The goal of this article is to help you make well-informed
decisions by providing an overview of kitchen and bathroom countertop options,
advantages, disadvantages and a basic idea of cost comparisons. It is important
to emphasize our mission is exposing criteria that should be considered, but the
ultimate decisions are yours to make based upon your own parameters and extended research.
The quality and beauty of laminate has come a long way. In the old days there were
just drab, dull, pastel solid colors. Now there are almost infinite finishes from which
to choose including matte and glossy finishes as well as patterns that look like granite
and marble. Laminate countertops are the most common of counter top installations
primarily because laminate is generally the most affordable countertop material.
Laminates are comprised of sheets of paper and plastic resins to form a rigid surface
that is fairly durable. Laminates come pre-molded with rounded edges or in sheets
ready to apply and install on the plywood counter surface. A big advantage is that
back-splashes can be built right on top of the countertop.
Pros. Inexpensive. Although laminates do resist scratching, they are not scratch or
stain-proof. If laminate gets permanently damaged, it is relatively inexpensive to
replace. It is easy to clean.
Con. They are definitely not "knife-proof" so cutting boards are mandatory. Setting
hot pans on laminate will damage the surface. It is not scratch or stain-proof and if
damaged, laminate is difficult to repair and may require complete replacement.
Cost. $10 to $40 square foot depending upon fabrication features.
Cleaning. A soft, wet cloth and liquid dishwashing soap is all that is needed for
regular cleaning. Some stains can be removed with a paste comprised of baking
soda and water. Apply the paste to the stain, let set for a minute and then wipe-
off. If needed, duplicate the process. Do not rub. It will damage the surface.
Concrete countertops are relatively inexpensive and will produce beautiful visual appeal
providing that the installer is skilled and expert in the process. Essentially the cement is
one part cement and three parts fine sand. After adding water to the right consistency,
it is added to a form on the vanity or cabinet. You may elect to stay with the natural
gray color of cement or blend a color additive stain to match the desired decor. The
surface must be sealed to protect against staining. When installed properly, a concrete
countertop can be both stunningly beautiful and very durable.
Pros. Relatively inexpensive. Can be conformed to size and shape. Strong and durable.
Cons. Requires special sealing. Durable but not beyond damage. Cutting on the surface
will damage the sealer. Always use a cutting board. Hot pans will also damage the sealer.
Susceptible to hairline cracks which requires immediate re-sealing.
Cost. $50 to $200 square foot depending upon inlays and shapes.
Cleaning. The sealer can stain and can become discolored if spills are left too long. Wipe
up spills right away using a damp sponge or soft cloth. A neutral pH cleaner may be used.
Do not use bleach or any fluids that contain ammonia. Re-seal every so often or when
worn spots begin to appear.
Many consider ceramic tile as "old-fashioned" but today ceramic tiles can be
found in an almost limitless range of both solid and textured colors and designs.
Next to laminate, ceramic tile countertops are generally the least costly when
compared to granite, marble, quartz and stainless steel countertops or even Corian.
The most common type is "glazed" which is made from clay and then fired at very
high temperature creating a non-porous surface.
Pros. Affordable. Non-porous which means the tile itself will not stain. Hot pans
may be placed directly on the tile without worrying about burn-marks. It is
moisture resistant and easily cleaned. Broken, chipped or cracked tiles can be
replaced without having to replace the entire countertop. Always purchase extra
tiles for exact color matching when making repairs.
Cons. The tile grout is not moisture resistant, stains easily and can breed mold if
not cleaned frequently. Tiles can be broken, chipped and cracked.
Cost. $15 to $60 square foot.
Cleaning. The ceramic tile themselves are cleaned easily with soap and water using
a soft cloth. Stores do sell grout cleaning liquids, but most often grout can be cleaned
by lightly scrubbing with a non-toxic bleach. A toothbrush works well. Be sure to
rinse well after beaching. Read more about how to clean ceramic tile grout. There
are also professionals that specialize in tile and grout repair in Phoenix.
Phoenix Ceramic Tile Installers.
Granite is becoming the surface of choice for smart bathroom remodelers. It can
come in countless shades and patterns, accentuating any design style or theme.
It maintains its polished look with minimal upkeep and is fairly durable for bathroom
use. It can scratch however the normal wear and tear of the bathroom rarely
creates a problem for a granite countertop. Because most bathroom countertops
are six feet or less in size, single slab pieces can be finished at surprisingly affordable
prices. When granite is cut into slabs and highly polished it exposes a touch of elegance
that is a unique piece of natural art. Read more about granite and granite color ranges.
Pros. Durable and heat resistant. Hard surface resists scratching. Elegant and brilliant.
Every piece is unique, so you never have to worry about your neighbor having the
same design. Will last indefinitely with proper care. Never will go out of style.
Cons. Expensive. Requires special sealing and sealing maintenance. Granite can crack
if abused. Granite can never be matched. Granite will stain if they are permitted to sit
for extended durations. Best clean immediately clean after use.
Cost. $100 and more per square foot
Cleaning. Easy cleaning with soft cloth and warm water. Read more about how to clean and maintain granite counter tops.
Phoenix Granite Installers.
Quartz countertops are very similar to granite. Whereas granite is a natural stone, quartz is
an engineered stone comprised of mostly natural quartz crystals. A slab of quartz engineered
(man made) stone contains 91 to 97% quartz crystals combined with colors, resins and
other ingredients to give it color and consistency. The patterns of quartz and its polished
brilliance is very similar to granite but is more consistent since it man-formulated. Generally
a quartz countertop is similar to the cost of granite, but features more advantages.
Quartz is much stronger and more durable than granite. It is non-porous and is therefore
more sanitary since bacteria does not penetrate its surface. Quartz engineered stone is
manufactured in the US by Cambria and has many authorized suppliers in the Phoenix area.
Pros. Very durable. Non-porous. Scratch, mold and mildew resistant. More consistent
pattern versus granite. Indefinite lifespan with proper care.
Cons. Expensive. More difficult to repair chips and cracks versus granite.
Cost. $100 square foot and up.
Cleaning. Easy cleaning with a soft cloth and warm water.
Phoenix Countertop Contractors.
Like granite, marble is a natural stone that is found in quarries around the world. A
great thing about marble is that no two stones are the same. Every marble countertop
is a unique original. It is brilliant and elegant making it a great choice for luxury kitchens
and bathrooms. Marble is not as hard or durable as granite and therefore is more
susceptible to scratching and staining. "Cultured Marble" which is a blend of crushed
marble, calcium carbonate and polyester resins that bind the ingredients can be a more
affordable option. Cultured marble countertops are generally waterproof and more
durable and stain resistant versus quarried, natural marble.
Pros. Distinguished and elegant. Marble is tolerant to heat. When properly cared for,
marble will last a lifetime. Nothing will capture the elegance of upscale bathrooms than
marble. It is an investment that pays dividends over a long period of time.
Cons. Expensive. Softer than granite making it more susceptible to scratches and
stains. Must be regularly sealed and does not react well to chemical cleaning agents.
Unlike ceramic tile countertops, repairing a broken and cracked area is impossible to match.
Cost. $100 square foot and more.
Cleaning. Wipe with a soft cloth dampened with warm water. You may also use a pH-neutral cleaning solution.
Phoenix Marble Countertop Installers.