How to choose the right Counter Top for your Home

Whether you're purchasing a brand new construction home or a resale property, one of the decisions you are most likely to be faced with is the option to upgrade counter tops. Very rarely will a home come furnished with your exact taste, style, color, or type of counter top and there are multiple variations and materials from which to choose. But how do you know which option is right for you?

It's best not to allow any current trend to steer you in a direction that may seem stylish now, but will leave you once again remodeling a few years down the road once your modern design is yesterday's old news. Lifestyle and functionality should be your main guides in to making the right decision when it comes to choosing the right counter top for you and your home. Let's take a look at the Pro's and Con's of the five most commonly used Counter-Tops to determine which is best suited to adorn your kitchen or bathroom:


1. Laminate Counter-Tops

What are laminate counter tops? Laminate counter tops are made by pressing or gluing a single thin piece of plastic laminate on to an underlayment made of high-density wood particle board. The top plastic laminate layer can come in a variety of styles and colors, many that can even mimic a faux stone appearance. This counter top choice is by far the most used and chosen by new home builders as their basic choice for potential new home buyers. It's also the most affordable of all the counter-top options for current homeowners looking to renovate a kitchen or bathroom space. 

Price and affordability alone are what usually beckons most individuals towards choosing this option of counter top, although it does have many other positive features. Laminate counter tops are durable but susceptible to nicks and scratches by knives or other sharp utensils. You cannot place extremely hot objects directly on to a laminate counter top. A heating pad or other barrier is required. These types of counter tops are resistant to staining but must be wiped clean fairly quickly after spilling a substance known for it's staining properties such as red wine or grape juice. These liquids will stain a laminate counter top if not attended to immediately. Laminate counter tops cannot be repaired. Once they are stained, scratched, chipped, or cut, that damage will remain until the counter top is completely replaced.  

2. Butcher Block Counter-Tops

Throughout the generations, butcher block counter tops seem to always have their niche audiences but never quite make the mainstream. They add a style and variation that is unique, yet are universal enough to match almost any decor. True butcher block counter tops are made from separate strips of real hardwood(typically maple or oak) that are compressed, glued together, and sanded down for a uniform surface usually 2-3 inches in thickness. 

A sealant or oil needs to be applied and re-applied every year to prevent the wood from becoming porous and absorbing water or any food born bacteria. Butcher block counter tops can be scratched and damaged but a positive aspect of using this material is that it can be sanded, repaired, and re-oiled. Butcher block is also one of the more cost effective counter top options although not as inexpensive as laminate. Some hotter materials can be set directly on to a butcher block counter top but not for too long. The hot object can still burn the wood counter top surface if left without a heating pad or other protective barrier. Butcher Block counter tops, just like laminate counter tops, are stain resistant but can still be stained if the spilled substance is not addressed quickly. However, unlike laminate, if your butcher block surface does get soiled, it can be repaired and re-oiled. 

3. Granite Counter-Tops

Where do they get the granite used for counter tops? The overwhelming majority of the stone used for granite counter tops comes from quarries in Brazil where the rock is harvested, cut in to slabs and sent all over the world to be sold. There are also a few granite quarries in Italy, Spain, China, and India. The entire process from excavation to showroom floor usually takes about 30 days. 

Granite counter tops have been soaring in popularity for the better part of the last decade. You can find a granite slab in almost any color variation. It gives the homeowner the ability to choose their own unique, special slab and tailor it to their chosen decor and style. Each slab is different from the next which is why they are cut and numbered as they are harvested so that if multiple slabs are needed for the same kitchen or bathroom the slabs can be matched up to provide more uniformity. 

Although granite counter tops are an extremely rigid and hard surface they still need to be sealed each year as they are not 100% non-porous. It is possible to scratch granite counter tops but they can be buffed, repaired, and resealed. You can put a hot stove top pan or cooking sheet directly on to a granite counter top without worry about damage. Granite counter tops are also great for bakers as the surface maintains it's cool making it easy to roll out breads and doughs. Price can vary greatly for this type of material. Granite counter tops can be as little as $30 per square foot and reach up to over $150 per square foot making it a versatile option for many homeowners. 

4. Quartz Counter-Tops

Sales of Quartz counter tops in the United States has seen a 60% increase since 2004. Real quartz is a natural stone like granite harvested from quarries, however, manufacturers use a combination of 95% ground natural quartz with 5% polymer resin to make a man-made quartz stone counter top product. This results in a very-hard, low-maintenance, natural stone look counter top that can be custom colored and made to any specifications. Quartz counter tops provide a more uniform look than granite because of how it's made and designed. 

Quartz counter tops are a non-porous surface so there is no need to seal them and you don't need to worry about staining, corroding, or color fading. However, this material can still be damaged by excessive heat. One of the most popular name brands of Quartz counter tops is Silestone. This is not an inexpensive upgrade. More expensive than granite counter tops, you must weigh out the pro's and con's of quartz to assess whether your budget can handle this solid stone choice. 

5. Marble Counter-Tops

One of the most expensive yet stylish counter top upgrades is Marble. Generally, this counter top material is a reserved option only for homes that would be classified by the luxury moniker. Mostly resting in the color palette of white and grey combinations with a few slabs that contain brownish and black hues, marble is considered timeless and classic. 

Marble is a soft, fragile, and porous material. It is susceptible to scratching, staining, and cracking, and will develop an aged patina over time and with use. Some of the more inexpensive marble counter top options start at around $125 per square foot and work up from there. If you are a first-time home buyer or in the market for a property considered in a mid-range price bracket, installing marble counter tops may not be the best option for you. You may not see the return on investment with this material if it's installed in anything less than a high-end home. 

Conversely, if you are in the luxury home market and a higher-end granite or quartz material isn't to your liking, marble counter tops are not only highly sought after but almost expected in some upper price ranges. 

Trendy Counter Top Options that may not Impress

As a homeowner you quite possibly have thoughts of raising your kids and retiring in your dream home, however, statistics show us that most individuals or families move every 5-7 years. That means any change or upgrade you do to your property will need to appeal to future home buyers. Most of the counter top materials listed above are universally accepted as viable options, however, there are some personalized or trendy choices that could turn off those that may one day be in the market to purchase your home.

1. Soap Stone

Architectural-grade Soap Stone is an extremely soft natural stone material thanks to it's high concentration of talc. It doesn't stain, it's heat resistant, and does not need to be sealed as it's a non-porous material making it one of the preferred counter top surfaces for science labs. Soap stone is susceptible to scratching, however, they can be sanded, buffed, and repaired. One of the main downfalls of soap stone is there really is no variety of color. There are only differing variations of grey which when treated with mineral oil(which proper soap stone maintenance suggests) turns almost to a charcoal black. It's a very specific style and look that isn't altered easily and does not blend well with a wide variety of color palettes. 

2. Concrete

There's a stigma surrounding concrete counter tops that some people just can't get past.Concrete may be good for dams, bridges, sidewalks, and coliseums, but counter tops? We're not talking about picking up your favorite outdoor running track and placing it on top of your cabinets. Concrete counter tops can be stained to an unlimited amount of colors to match or contrast any design style. One of the biggest drawbacks is the cost. You may not think it, but concrete counter tops are very pricey mostly due to the fact that they are labor intensive to make and install. Prices can range from $75-$150 per square foot putting them above even some higher end granite or quartz options. 

3. Stainless Steel

This is a counter top material you won't often find in many properties, however, home improvement television reality shows seem to try and entice the average homeowner in to this surface more and more. Stainless steel counter tops are heat, water, and stain resistant. It is a non-porous material and protects against mold and microbes so hygiene and maintenance are non-issues. However, this material will scratch and dent. Once scratches and dents are visible there is no correcting them. 

Stainless Steel counter tops are also a very specific style choice. Reserved usually for upscale, modern lofts or trendy industrial designed spaces, there is a limited audience willing to live with this counter top material choice. You will severely restrict the appeal of your kitchen or bathroom if you choose to install stainless steel as your preferred counter top. 

Choosing the right counter top may not be as easy as you once thought. There are so many different materials in which to choose and within each category there are additional styles and varieties to consider. One thing remains true and timeless; Don't let the popular current steer you in a direction that leaves you stuck with a counter top you regret. Carefully weigh-out your lifestyle and needs then choose the appropriate counter tops that reflect the best combination of functionality and personal taste. 


If you or someone you know are in the market to purchase or sell a property in Gilbert, Arizona or the East Valley, let the experts at Zion Realty help you. Our knowledge isn't just limited to counter tops! We'll give you professional guidance throughout the entire home buying or selling process. Contact us Today!