Kitchen Countertop Buying Guide

Consider function, style and budget when shopping for counters for your remodel
Formica Calacatta Marble

Formica Calacatta Marble

Photo by: Formica


By: Kim Hildenbrand

Before you start shopping for kitchen countertops, make sure you have a well-thought-out plan for your kitchen renovation. Consider how long you plan on living in the home, as well as the cabinetry and fixtures you plan to use. You should also consider what types of upgrades are typical for similar homes in your area.

The kitchen is the hub of your hectic home, where you cook, entertain and relax—and your countertops must reflect this. These hardworking surfaces must suit your space, complement your style and meet your needs. Today's countertop choices are more varied and exciting than ever.

Kitchen Countertop Styles and Trends

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Eco-Friendly Composite Countertops

Formed from materials such as fly ash or recycled paper, composite countertops inhibit the growth of bacteria and resist stains, scratches and heat. Most are free of VOCs, emit no radon gasses, and are considered food safe. Composite countertops sometimes require sealing or special maintenance. Image courtesy of Paperstone

Natural Granite Countertops

One of the most sought after materials in kitchen countertops, granite serves as a beautiful, durable heat-resistant surface for meal preparation and daily use. Granite countertops are fairly low maintenance: a yearly resealing will help prevent stains and bacteria growth. Design by Christopher J. Grubb of Arch-Interior Design Group Inc.

Photo By: Designer, Christopher J. Grubb

Benefits of Granite Countertops

Granite countertops come in a range of colors — from warm browns and beiges to cool blues and grays — to suit any kitchen design. While granite is one of the more expensive materials available, granite countertops can last a lifetime and can increase the value of a home. Design by Dan Heldenbrand of DH Interiors

Photo By: Designer, Dan Heldenbrand

Durable Engineered Stone Countertops

An attractive alternative to natural stone, engineered stone countertops — composed of 93 percent quartz particles — are catching up with granite in popularity. LG Viatera quartz countertops combine the elegant look of stone with increased durability. Quartz countertops are scratch-, stain- and heat-resistant and require very little maintenance. Image courtesy of LG Hausys Co.

Photo By: LG

Benefits of Engineered Stone Countertops

Engineered stone countertops come in a wide range of colors, from subtle and natural to bright and bold. Ideal for modern and contemporary kitchens, these vibrant Silestone countertops are scratch-, stain- and heat-resistant and contain Microban, an antimicrobial product, for increased protection against bacteria. Image courtesy of Silestone by Cosentino North America

Photo By: Cosentino

Classic Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block countertops offer warm, timeless appeal and an ideal surface for cutting and chopping. Scratches and burns on butcher block countertops are easy to repair — just sand them out and apply mineral oil. Image courtesy of The Grothouse Lumber Co.

Photo By: The Grothouse Lumber Company

Upscale Laminate Countertops

Today's laminate countertops can mimic the look of pricey stone and solid surface countertops for a fraction of the cost. Laminate countertops are very low maintenance, but they're not heat-resistant and are susceptible to chips and scratches. Image courtesy of Formica Corp.

Photo By: Formica

Customizable Concrete Countertops

A hot trend in countertops, concrete can be custom cast to create one-of-a-kind designs. It can be ground, polished or stained, and embedded with embellishments from seashells to stones. Concrete countertops require regular sealing. Image courtesy of Buddy Rhodes

Low-Maintenance Solid Surface Countertops

Nonporous solid surface countertops are durable and easy to maintain, with no sealing required. Today’s designs take style to the next level by mimicking materials such as granite, quartz, concrete and glass. Sharp knives and hot pans can sometimes damage solid surface countertops. Image courtesy of DuPont Corian®

Elegant Marble Countertops

Marble countertops add unmatched beauty to a kitchen. Although marble does stain and scratch more easily than granite, its smooth, cool surface is ideal for baking and rolling out dough. Marble is one of the most expensive options in kitchen countertops. Design by Erica Islas of EMI Interior Design

Photo By: Designer, Erica Islas

Timeless Soapstone Countertops

Durable soapstone countertops become more beautiful with age, darkening over time for a dramatic appearance. Unlike other stones, soapstone won’t absorb stains and discolorations, so it doesn’t require sealers. Surface stains can be removed with a gentle sanding, and scratches can be removed with mineral oil. Image courtesy of Soapstone International Inc.

Classic Tile Countertops

With a wide range of colors and textures available, tile countertops can be customized to fit the style of any kitchen. Tiles can crack and require grouting, so they are a little more high maintenance than other countertop surfaces. Design by Didier Michot

Photo By: Designer, Didier Michot

Sleek Stainless Steel Countertops

A stylish option for modern and contemporary kitchens, stainless steel countertops provide a durable and easy-to-clean work surface. Though they're resistant to heat and stains, stainless steel countertops can scratch easily. Design by Barb Ince

Photo By: Designer, Barb Ince

Choosing Kitchen Countertops

Here's how to start the selection process:

Function First. Because every household is different, you won't find a one-size-fits-all material. Are you an enthusiastic chef who slices and dices five nights a week? Do you host cocktail parties at the bar area or serve family dinners around the island? Do your kids spill orange juice and smear jam most mornings? Rank the importance of factors such as durability, stain resistance and ease of maintenance.

Signature Style. Consider which surface you find appealing: the look, feel, texture and shades. Should it be warm or cool to the touch? How important are integrated sinks, seamless appearance and vibrant colors? Consider additional details, including thickness, overhang and edge options. You should love the end result.

Mix It Up. Each material offers unique strengths—from heat resistance to ease of cleaning. How can you ever choose just one? Maybe you shouldn't. Some homeowners find that mixing a variety of materials creates an ideal kitchen. Depending on your space and needs, for instance, you may want a stone-topped baking center and a butcher block island for chopping.

Establish Your Budget. This part isn't the most fun, but it's the only way to determine your options. Along with material costs, take into account any fees for delivery and installation, as well as any custom details such as edge treatments, integrated sinks and backsplashes.

Explore the latest kitchen countertop options:

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