Countertop Buying Guide
Replacing a kitchen or bathroom countertop can be a relatively inexpensive part of a total remodeling job, costing as little as $560 for 56 square feet of laminate counter. Then again, you can spend 10 times that on costlier materials.
Traditionally, the more interesting countertop materials have been used in the kitchen. But more and more materials such as concrete, granite, limestone, marble--and yes, even stainless steel--are migrating to the bathroom. Though bathroom counters typically see less wear and tear than kitchen counters, you might want to limit materials that are more likely to stain or chip to powder rooms or lightly used guest bathrooms.
Each material offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. We tested more than a dozen popular types to see how well they resisted stains, heat damage, cuts, abrasion, and impact.
Tiny samples make it hard to visualize how the finished counter will look. Check manufacturer's apps that can help you match the counter to your cabinets and look online for tools that let you try various materials and colors in virtual settings. But always see the materials in person and bring home as large a sample as you can, even if you have to pay for it. Engineered stone, recycled glass, laminate, and solid surfacing are likely to match the samples you see in the store. If you're set on stone, however, go to a stone yard. You'll find significant variations not only from one slab to another, but even within the same slab. When you find a slab you like, put a deposit on it.
Start with the sink
A waterproof material such as concrete, solid surfacing, stainless steel, stone, or quartz is essential if the sink is under mounted--in other words, if it's raised into place from below the counter, rather than lowered from above so that its edges overlap the countertop. And keep in mind each of these materials, except stone, can be matched to the sink.
Tricks of the trade
Besides being on the lookout for sales, you can shave the cost by mixing materials. Since bathroom counters are typically smaller, cut costs by using less expensive stone or quartz remnants--essentially left over pieces from other jobs.
Although color and pattern of natural stone such as granite, marble, limestone, will vary, a visit to the stone yard may turn up pieces that work together. You can also save by using 3/4-inch-thick stone rather than the typical 1¼ inch. Beveled and bull-nosed edges add style, but they may boost cost. Rounded edges are safer than squared edges, and may not cost extra.
Let the fabricator do the measuring
All measurements and templates should be made by the installer including cut-outs for the sink and faucet. Then any errors are the pro's responsibility, not yours.
We found significant strengths and weaknesses among materials, but few differences among brands. Here are the types of countertop materials to consider.
Quartz Also known as engineered stone, quartz is a blend of stone chips, resins, and pigments. It's an ideal material for high-traffic applications. It comes in many vibrant colors and styles that mimic granite and marble