Kitchen & Bath - Buying Guides

Buying guide: Countertops

By
Martha Uniacke Breen

Granite, stainless steel or concrete? Find out the pros and cons of a variety of countertop surface options.

What matters most to you: A certain look or easy maintenance? Do you hardly ever cook, do you cook a fair amount or are you truly passionate about cooking? Consider your needs -- and your budget -- before choosing a kitchen counter.

LAMINATE
Characteristics
- Huge selection of colours and styles.

Pros
- Has appearance of “rich” materials like marble or granite.
- Economical and easy to install.
- Available as prefabricated countertop or in sheets. (Fewer shades available in sheets.)
- Matte finishes are tougher than glossy finishes.

Cons
- Very vulnerable to stains, scratches and chips.
- Not highly heat-resistant.

Cost
About $15 to $25/sq. ft.

CERAMIC TILES
Characteristics
- Great variety of colours, styles and sizes, allowing you to get creative with your kitchen decor.

Pros
- Looks good in contemporary or country-style interiors. Highly resistant to heat and wear.

Cons
- Can crack.
- Surface joints, where dirt tends to gather, require regular sealing (using epoxy for the grout will prevent staining).

Cost
$15 to $50 /sq. ft.

SOLID SURFACING
Characteristics
- Corian is the best-known brand name of the so-called solid surface, or solid plastic, countertop materials.
- Composed of minerals, polyester and acrylic. Huge selection of colours and styles.
- Coloured all the way through.

Pros
- Resistant to heat, shocks, stains.
- Can be custom-moulded to eliminate seams and to integrate under-mount sink, for one continuous surface.
- No-maintenance, long life.

Cons
- Pricey.
- Look of plastic not to everyone's taste.
- Vulnerable to knife cuts, although scratch marks, stains and even holes can easily be repaired by a professional.

Cost
$50 to $100/sq. ft.

This article is featured on Buying guide: Kitchen essentials
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