Like most people, my life is full of manageable stress—bills, work, family—so the last thing I need is another anxiety-inducing worry, especially for something as innocuous as kitchen countertops. Life’s too short, right? Well, yes and no. If you’re lying awake in a cold sweat at 3a.m. you’re taking things too seriously and may need a chill pill.
That said, homeowners do take kitchen renos very seriously, and for good reason; not only do we spend large chunks of time in them while cooking and eating, but kitchens—specifically counters and cabinets—are the first place realtors look to when it comes to resale value.
Unlike other remodelling choices, countertops present myriad choices, from classic hardwood to engineered and natural stone, tile, stainless steel and concrete. Each one comes with its own pros and cons, so here’s an across-the-board lowdown:
Engineered stone: made from granite, quartz or marble mixed with resin and pigments, this type of counter looks natural, comes in many colours and resists dents and scratches. However, unlike natural stone, engineered stone isn’t porous and doesn’t require a sealer, so once it’s installed, you’re ready to go. Cost: $40 to $125 per square foot.
Natural stone: perhaps the most popular “upgrade” these days, granite, marble and slate counters bring nature inside, at a cost. These counters stand up well to heat and daily abuse but unlike engineered stone, they require twice-yearly sealing (in the case of granite) to protect against stains. Because these counters come direct from nature, the surface can appear slightly jagged and varied, which fits in perfectly with the organic, enviro-minded homeowner. Cost: $50 to $200 per square foot.
Tile: nothing says “olde tyme” quite like tiled countertops, perhaps because tiles (ceramic, porcelain, natural stone or mosaic) add a feeling of warmth and antiquity. Because tiles are often painted, colour choice is unlimited, as is texture and pattern. The downside: these puppies chip and break easily and grout requires yearly resealing to protect against mould and remove stains. Cost: $20 to $100 per square foot.
Stainless steel: stainless steel counters exude a professional, don’t mess with me, Gordon Ramsay is a personal friend attitude. The industrial-looking surface stands up well to heat, is easy to clean and requires virtually no maintenance; the fact that it easily scratches is the point here—sort of like “never trust a skinny chef.” Cost: $75 to $150 per square foot.
Hardwood: similar to tiles, hardwood gives off a rustic, Kim Robinson-esque look that harkens back to rustic living. Depending on where you live, hardwood countertops are often made from pieces of maple, yellow birch or white oak. While they stain easily, the surface is easy to repair (a light sanding and regular oiling are all that’s required). Look for products made from certified lumber. Cost: $50 to $200 per square foot.
Plastic laminate: here’s the basic, everyday material most cookie-cutter kitchens come equipped with. Easily damaged, this surface isn’t exactly durable compared with other choices. But wait, it’s not all bad; plastic laminate comes in a bevy of colours, is inexpensive and can be installed very quickly, which is key if you’re looking to sell and want a fast fix-up that still looks good. Cost: $10 to $10 per square foot.
For more about kitchen countertop choices, click here.