Several weeks ago, one of my listeners emailed a question concerning the choice between solid surface products and granite when it comes to upgrading kitchen and bath countertops. It's a question often asked on my redesign and staging calls. Countertops are the beautiful foundation and canvas of any kitchen or bath area. There are a wide variety of looks and products to choose from and if you are weighing the pros and cons of natural stone versus engineered or man-made and even laminate products there are a few things to consider in addition to cost. Choices will depend on whether you are set on a certain look or more concerned with the maintenanace aspects of your surfaces and your budget both money and time wise.
If you are on a very tight budget, today's laminates are not the laminates of old and you can find a huge selection at very affordable prices with great style. Pricing for laminate can be anywhere from $30-$45 a square foot installed.
On the solid surface front, Wilsonart, Silestone, Ceasarstone, Cambria are all brand names for products that combine quartz with man-made products that yield an engineered surface that closely mimics the look and texture of granite and marble. Cost of these materials and granite or marble vary but are pretty close in most cases unless you are going super high end natural stone; meaning rare pieces.
Granite pricing is dependent on availablity but most solid surface pricing, including granite can range anywhere from $40 to $100 a square foot installed depending on your choices. Starting your search on line is a great way to shop pricing. It's possible to save big by choosing remnants, discontinued lines or odd end materials. You must also consider the backsplash as this is an additional cost as well as what type of edges you would like. Customized looks will further increase the price. You can figure an additional 5%-14% cost for these type decisions. Make sure to get multiple bids from installers. As always lowest price does not always mean the best deal.
Granite comes in slabs and has more movement in the pattern and design versus engineered product. An average size kitchen takes about two slabs. Buyers must beware of "deals" when it comes to granite pricing. Some unregulated and unlicensed installers offer ridiculously low pricing but are in fact selling premade sections imported form China made from rejected granite. The surfaces are dyed and glued together and filled with wax. China does not regulate these products and there can be environmental concerns regarding the radon levels in these type products.
There are varied methods of installation as engineered surfaces can be installed with less demolition. Some companies specialize in the installation of solid surface products directly on top of existing counters. This is a great option that eliminates the time and expense of demolition.
Engineered surfaces are virtually maintenance free, heat and scratch resistant. Granite is more fragile and will require periodic but minimal maintenance if done correctly. Granite is porous and therefore should be properly sealed to prevent liquids, oils and unwanted stains from penetrating into the stone. In staging I see many homes where grease has soaked into the granite, especially around stove areas. Use recommended cleaning products and sealers and you should be able to have a beautiful glossy surface for many years.
I personally love the look of granite because of the more varied and unique movement and patterns. I have had granite in my kitchen and baths for nearly 8 years and it looks as good as the day it was installed with almost no fuss. It is still a popular choice when remodeling and will bring you good return on investment if you sell your home later on down the road. Statisically, granite is still the most popular choice with consumers when it comes to upgrading kitchen surfaces. It is still very synonimous with that "high end" feel. Whichever you choose, take your time and make sure you are truly in love with your choice!