Kitchen Counter Tops

kitchen countertopHome architecture and design has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. Typical home was compartmentalized structure unit with each functional area separated from the next by walls. Over the times, this style of architectural design became les desirable as homeowners liked the concept of the Open Floor Plan. This transformation in home architectural design changed the boundary lines between the functional areas. In example, the dining area and family room combined to become the concept as the Great Room.

This architectural design transition also had influenced the kitchen area. What once was considered strictly for meal preparation is now also considered one of the social gathering places within the home. This requires that modern kitchen is to not only be a workspace but to also look uniformed with its surrounding ares in terms of style and visual appeal.

So important are these functional and visually aesthetic considerations that when the homeowner considers to remodeling their home, they usually look to the kitchen as the place to start. Surveys confirm that homeowners normally choose the kitchen as the area they would most like to remodel. This also makes good economical sense because kitchen remodeling has the highest average return on investment when selling your home.

When the decision is made to begin a home remodeling in the kitchen, most homeowners choose the kitchen countertop replacement as their first project. This is understandable because countertops are such a highly visible part of the kitchen. New countertops in the kitchen provide a maximum visual effect for your remodeling dollars. Even though countertops are highly visible, they are also a functional aspect of the kitchen and must be able to withstand years of daily use.

Today’s homeowners have more choices than ever before in countertop materials. We can take a look now at some of the more common options.

Laminate Countertops:

This has been regarded as the material of choice for homeowners whose primary consideration is cost. Homeowners are now choosing laminate not for its affordability but for its aesthetic visual effects. Many younger homeowners choose laminate countertops for its “retro” look. Laminate-king Formica is making laminate patterns and styles that cater specifically to this market segment.

Laminate is non-porous, durable, and requires virtually no maintenance. Unfortunately l

Laminate is not heat resistant so can burn when hot pots or pans are placed on it.

Laminate countertops do come pre-made in common lengths as short as six feet long and as large as 12 feet long, and in standard widths. These pre-made sections are available with either mitered ends or straight ends.

Since laminate comes pre-made in large sections and is made of easily cut materials, it can be installed in a short amount of time.

Material Cost: $5-10/square foot
Labor Cost: $25 to $30/hour

tile kitchen counter top

Tile Countertops:

Tile is preferred by many homeowners because of its durability. Also, for its ability to provide a custom look at an affordable cost. Tile is available in a almost endless variety of sizes, colors and textures. Tile is made of ceramic or porcelain, natural stone, such as granite and marble.

Tiles can vary in their ability to withstand temperature extremes. To avoid breakage under thermal shock, you should not place very hot objects directly on a tile countertop. Grout is material used to fill the spaces between individual tiles, and since it is porous like a stone or concrete. Grout must be sealed after installation. Then maintained thereafter to protect against discoloration and bacterial buildup.

Tile prices vary from depending on color, texture and material.

The underlayment such as Hardie Backer, FiberRock and Durock provides the install with a smooth and level surface that will give professional results.

Material Cost: $2 to $60/square foot
Labor Cost: $20 to $50/hour

Solid Synthetic Countertops:

Solid synthetics are typically made of acrylic-based material. This is a nearly indestructible surface. When scratches do occur, a gentle rubbing using a scotchbrite pad can usually polish them out. Solid synthetics are non-porous and so never require sealing.

Corian™, is the leader in this category, offers 130 pattern and color choices. Corian™ claims to be “heat resistant,” but it also warns against exposing it to extreme heat.

Material and Installation Cost: $45 to $75/square foot

NOTE: These prices are all-inclusive of material, fabrication, and installation. It also includes a basic edge cut called “eased-over.”

Solid Engineered Stone Countertops:

Solid engineered stone is composed mostly of quartz crystals that are held together using resins or glues to create a non-porous and scratch resistant surface. Due to it's non-porous, solid engineered stone surfaces do not require sealing like grout or normal stone. Similar to Corian™, makers of solid engineered stone warn against exposure to “excessive heat”.

Solid engineered stone is preferred by homeowners who want the look and feel of natural stone. Also, combined with the convenience of a synthetic product. It is also preferred by homeowners who like a more consistent pattern. Less of the random patterns and “visual movement” that are created by varied grain and characteristics of granite. Several companies manufacture solid engineered stone, including Silestone™ and CaesarStone™.

Material and Installation Cost: $60 to $80/square foot

NOTE: These prices are all-inclusive of material, fabrication, and installation. It also includes a basic edge cut called “eased-over.” (See below for more information about edges)

Solid Natural Stone Countertops:

Granite Countertop:

Granite has remained the most popular countertop material for higher-end kitchen projects. Granite is popular because of its unique look, color variants, and natural grain and vein patterns. Be sure to inspect your granite slab before fabrication because each slab is unique even within the same color grade.

Although granite is fairly heat resistant and safe from thermal shock, it is always good practice wise to use hot pads whenever placing very hot items on the countertop.

Because Granite is porous, it must be sealed after fabrication and resealed every year or so thereafter depending on the sealer. With improper sealing, granite can be stained by acidic liquids such as wine. Granite slabs are normally available in 2cm and 3cm thicknesses for residential use.

Material and Installation Cost: $60 to $100/square foot (for two-centimeter slabs)

NOTE: Two-centimeter slabs require the installation of a plywood underlayment support over the entire countertop area before the finished granite is installed. To prevent the edge of the unfinished plywood layer from being visible, it must be hidden from view by having a “built up” edge fabricated onto the granite slab.

remodeled kitchen counter topMarble Countertop:

Marble is regarded by many as the ultimate choice for kitchen countertops. It gives the reminiscent look of European cafes and bakeries. However, marble is relatively softer and more absorbent than other natural stone materials. Marble does require much more maintenance to keep it looking new. This means to having to reseal a marble countertop as often as every couple of months.

Many homeowners who do not want to retain a like-new appearance and who do not want the hassle resealing their countertops frequently. They select marble for its ability to age gracefully by developing a glowing patina. Bakers love marble’s ultra smooth finish and cool feel make it ideal for rolling out bread and pastry doughs.

Material and Installation Cost: $60 to $100/square foot

Soapstone Countertop:

Soapstone has long history of residential use. Including the use in architectural building blocks, hearths, fireplace stoves, sinks, and kitchen countertops. It is considered the original stone countertop. Like many of the natural stone materials mentioned above, soapstone slabs will vary in color depending on where it was quarried.

Soapstone is exceptionally heatproof and is not susceptible to thermal shock. Soapstone’s color may be altered wherever it is subjected to extreme heat. The use of hot pads is recommended.

Due to the fact that soapstone is non-absorbent and does not require sealing. It is not affected by contact with most household liquids with the exception of mineral oil, which will darken the stone. Most surface stains that occur can be rubbed out or sanded out to reveal a like new surface.

Material and Installation Cost: $75 to $100/square foot

Concrete Countertop:

Not currently considered a commonly used countertop material. Concrete is now rapidly becoming what many designers consider to be the material of choice for higher end remodeling. This will give a less traditional look. In the hands of the right installer specializing in concrete countertops, concrete can have a endless variety of forms, colors and textures. This can also include decorative additives such as glass beads, seashells and colored stones.

Material and Installation Cost: $70 to $150/square foot

Additional Cost Considerations:

The homeowner needs to take an active role in the various steps of the project as your contractor will help you.

You will need to shop for your stone at any of a number of retailers that sell stone slabs to the public. These retailers display their slabs in large warehouse-like facilities where you can look through dozens or hundreds of slabs that are stacked on edge like huge books. Once you’ve selected your slab or slabs, your contractor will then select a fabricator to perform the tasks described below.

The fabricator that is chosen for your project will perform most of the individual tasks, including taking measurements and preparing a template in your kitchen, transporting the slabs to their shop, all of the fabrication processes including edge cuts, transporting the completed slabs to your home, installing in your kitchen, filling in the seams with epoxy, and sealing the new stone surface if not previously done at their shop.

Replacing your kitchen counter top involves many decisions. Time, research and consideration will ensure that your new countertop will continue to meet all of your expectations for many years and many years of enjoyment.

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