Choosing the Right Countertop Doesn’t Have to be Overwhelming
By Trish Amundson
There’s no place like home—especially the kitchen and bath. These are frequently-used rooms that should be comfortable and convenient with functional countertop spaces.
Countertops are available in a number of colors, textures and patterns that comprise a range of costs and maintenance requirements. Whether you’re building or remodeling, choosing a specific product from hundreds of options can be overwhelming if you don’t have direction from a kitchen and bath expert. Here, three local professionals offer a variety of counter selections. Each provides insights into a current trend while sharing pros and cons to help you make your selection with care.
“Quartz is an engineered stone that is nonporous and very durable,” notes Kailee Klevan, kitchen and bath designer at Beyond Kitchens. “It’s created by combining ground quartz pieces and resins to bond it together under intense heat and pressure. Pigments are added during the fabrication process to give it a beautiful color and pattern.”
The choices are endless, including solid colors, subtle patterns, a marble or concrete look, and designs with large veining. A significant advantage of quartz is that you can get the same look of granite without the maintenance or worry of stains and scratches. In addition, the nonporous surface doesn’t retain any moisture or food crumbs—it’s always a clean and safe workspace. “For maintenance, your daily wipe-down with soap and water is really all you need,” says Klevan.
Quartz is more expensive than granite, starting at $60 per square foot installed. It’s very durable, but the man-made material is not indestructible. “It’s mostly made of natural stone and can still break, crack and scratch,” she says.
“You can get quartz from a variety of manufacturers that sell it at different price points,” Klevan says. “A cost-saving option we often utilize is selecting remnant pieces from our local stone fabricator. They are reasonably priced and are perfect for vanities or a smaller countertop area.”
She cautions, “Be sure not to confuse quartz with Quartzite—they are two very different products. Quartzite is a natural stone.”
Granite is available in subdued earth tones as well as vivid patterns, and it offers a unique look that generally has lots of character and stands out. “Many times, people choose granite based on the color and how they want their room to feel,” says Michele Holzer, a sales associate at The Pinske Edge.
According to Holzer, its best advantage is the natural beauty because each slab is unique. It’s more heat resistant than quartz and more effective in outdoor applications, with less fading. A disadvantage is that it needs to be sealed annually to maintain its resistance to stains. Granite also has natural fissures and pitting that make it less durable than quartz.
The cost of granite varies based on the color and pricing and begins at approximately $45 per square foot installed. But it’s more affordable than some customers think. “Oftentimes people stop into our showroom with the idea that they can’t afford granite, and they are pleasantly surprised,” says Holzer. “People also are concerned with granite harboring bacteria because of the porosity of the surface, but as long as you are sealing your granite, this should not be an issue.”
Laminate countertops, once a popular choice for many kitchens, are making a strong comeback. They are no longer just for low-budget projects and are now used in higher-end homes due to their improved quality and stylish appeal. Laminate also comes in hundreds of colors and styles, and it can mimic other options. “It can look like granite or quartz,” says Donna Strobel, store manager at Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath. “You can mix laminate with other materials, too, such as having an island with a quartz surface and using laminate around the rest of the kitchen.”
Wilsonart and Formica are well-known brands of laminates available at Gerhard’s. The product consists of a thin layer of laminate on a wood base. It’s durable and water-resistant, but unlike a solid surface, scratches cannot be sanded out. Laminate offers a high-end look at a lower cost of $20 per linear foot.
Opportunities to customize installations appeal to customers. “Popular undermount sinks can be installed with laminate,” says Strobel. “This option has been around for a while, and now everyone is catching on to it.” In addition, it can be installed by do-it-yourselfers. Professionally installed, these counters will cost more and may include custom-edge treatments. Strobel says that one line, for example, offers 15 different edges.
CHOOSING YOUR COUNTER
To select the right countertop, think about the intended use and the material that will function best for you. If you want a more natural look, granite may be the choice for you. If you want the look of real stone but not the maintenance, you can find a similar look in quartz or laminate. Determine what fits into your budget.
Seek out the professionals for their wisdom and expertise in countertops. They can advise you and get you on the road to choosing a counter that’s perfect for your space and your lifestyle. They can help you find a product you’ll absolutely love.
Michele Holzer, sales associate at The Pinske Edge, pinske-edge.com
“I love the character and uniqueness of granite but the durability and maintenance-free quality of quartz, so my dream home would have a combination of both. I would put granite on my island to create a ‘wow’ factor, with a subtle quartz top along the perimeter, so it doesn’t compete with the focal point of the island.”
Kailee Klevan, kitchen and bath designer at Beyond Kitchens, beyondkitchens.com
“I do not by any means love the countertop in my kitchen right now, but we just moved into our house a few months ago and a kitchen remodel is definitely in the future. When we do get to that point, I will be selecting a quartz countertop. It is important to me to have a nonporous surface.”
Donna Strobel, store manager at Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath, gerhardsstore.com
“I have laminate counters in my home, and they’re so durable. We also have laminates on display and in use in Gerhard’s Kitchen and Bath on our desks and countertops.”
Trish Amundson is a Rochester-area freelance writer. She loves the warm tones and veining in her kitchen countertops, which easily hide spilt liquids and food that sometimes go unnoticed … for weeks.