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Buying guide: Countertops

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Buying Guides

Buying guide: Countertops

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.

SOLID WOOD
Characteristics
- Adds lots of warmth to a kitchen; goes well with other very contemporary materials.

Pros
- Decorative.
- Usually maple, but available in a variety of richer woods too, like cherry, oak, mahogany or walnut.
- Low maintenance.

Cons
- Because it's varnished, this kind of counter definitely does not double as a cutting board.
- Vulnerable to knife cuts and heat.

Cost
$75 to $100/sq. ft.

STAINLESS STEEL
Characteristics
- Gives kitchen a contemporary look.

Pros
- Durable, heat-resistant and, because there are no joints, hygienic.
- Buffing takes care of most problems.

Cons
- Can be scratched or scored, but such marks are a little less visible on sanded or matte finishes. A drop of water or a fingerprint shows instantly.

Cost
$120 /sq. ft.

CONCRETE
Characteristics
- Provides the increasingly sought-after industrial look; especially popular for lofts.
-Grey or brownish, but it can also be personalized with colours, imbedded objects or etched designs.

Pros
- Heat-resistant and very durable. Extremely customizable, as form is poured on-site.

Cons
- Requires a coat of sealer.

Cost
$80 to $90/sq. ft.

BUTCHER BLOCK
Characteristics
- Very popular for preparing and cutting food.
- Made with hardwood (maple, oak or wild cherry).

Pros
- Perfect for work surfaces; like one big cutting board.
- Knife marks can easily be eliminated with sanding.

Cons
- Average resistance to wear and heat.
- Should not be installed close to surfaces exposed to water.
- For protection and to prevent drying out, should be treated regularly with mineral oil.
- Varnish should not be used.

Cost
About $75 to $100/sq. ft.

MARBLE
Characteristics
- Highly resistant; makes for a very elegant-looking kitchen.

Pros
- Pleasant to the touch. Very heat-resistant.

Cons
- Can scratch or stain.
- As a natural stone, it is porous and requires regular resealing (twice a year).

Cost
$90 /sq. ft.

GRANITE
Characteristics
- The natural stone most often used to make kitchen counters. Wide selection of colours.

Pros
- A sure thing.
- Durable, wear-, heat- and shock-resistant.

Cons
- Colour can vary from section to section.
- Requires resealing once a year to prevent staining.

Cost
$75 to $110 /sq. ft.

SOAPSTONE
Characteristics
- Natural stone.

Pros
- Resists heat well. Won't stain.

Cons
- Scratches easily, but damage can be reduced by sanding.
- Annual application of mineral oil helps preserve colour.

Cost
$95 to $100/sq. ft.

GLASS
Characteristics
- Available in a great variety of colours, shapes and thicknesses.

Pros
- Very durable.
- Heat-resistant.

Cons
- Can stain, scratch or break.
- Recommended only for small areas or backsplashes.

Cost
$110 to $140/sq. ft.

ENGINEERED STONE
Characteristics
- Made mainly from real minerals, usually quartz, mixed with acrylic.
- Available in many shades and also in a new, less glossy finish that looks
like leather.

Pros
- Stain-resistant.
- No joints, therefore smooth and hygienic.
- Patterns and colours are consistent.
- Scratches can be removed with buffing.
- Durable and low-maintenance.

Cons
- More expensive than granite.

Cost
$90 to $120/sq. ft.

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Buying Guides

Buying guide: Countertops