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  • Choosing a Countertop

    If you’re considering a new countertop, the myriad of choices may be somewhat overwhelming. For a kitchen countertop in particular you may be looking at a significant investment. Take the time first to mull over these four primary considerations.

     

     

     

    1. Functionality. Countertops vary in their ability to handle a hot pot right off the stove. A clean appearance and hygiene vary by the finish and how porous the material is. Some are better at resisting the effects of oils, dyes and acids. Some are more durable. Consider your lifestyle and the needs specific to your family.

    2. The look and feel. Countertops may lend warmth, character, sleekness, sophistication, colour, texture, or drama to complement any décor style. Most countertop options come in a wide variety of designs and colours.

    3. Cost. Prices range significantly between the various materials. Some can be installed by a handy person while others need the pros, adding to the cost differential and the wait from order to install. 

    4. Home value. Countertops can have a positive or adverse effect on a home’s selling price. Know what your area and price range standards are, and try to meet or exceed what buyers will expect.

    Here’s a look at the options out there, with ballpark costs and their characteristics.

    Laminate

    Inexpensive; lots of colours, patterns and textures available including a copy of most of the other countertop options; stain resistant; waterproof; low maintenance; decorative edges available in case these ever come back in style; a handy person can install. Not heat proof, can crack and scratch, shows seams.
    15.00-60.00/ sq ft

     

    Ceramic tile

    Inexpensive; durable; easy to install and wipe clean; heat and moisture resistant. Uneven surface, grout will stain, tiles can chip or crack, typically not a good selling feature.
    5.00-150.00/ sq ft

    Butcher block and finished wood

    The natural beauty of wood compliments all home styles; great for chopping and easy on knives; a softer landing for items dropped and a warm feel; can be eco-friendly ie reclaimed wood; can be refinished periodically. Will burn, dent, scratch and stain; will darken from moisture; high maintenance needing food-safe protective sealer; can be expensive for live edge and other signature pieces.
    40.00-150.00/ sq ft

    Bamboo

    Although a grass, it adds the warmth and character of wood. Eco-friendly;
    easily stains, scratches and nicks; may warp near a sink; requires oil and wax maintenance.
    40.00-100.00/ sq ft

    Solid surface

    Manufactured material including the well know brand DuPont Corion, made from acrylic and polymer. Uniform, homogenous, smooth finish; invisible seams with seamless sink and backsplash options; non porous; can sand away stains and scratches; organic shapes are possible and virtually any design and colour. Not recommended for hot pots; will scratch, dent and stain; narrow profile ¼, ½ or ¾”; somewhat limited appeal, perhaps because it doesn’t offer the popular luxurious depth of engineered stone or granite.
    45.00-150.00/ sq ft

    Recycled or crushed glass

    A new trend featuring crushed glass or pieces of glass encased in tough clear acrylic or embedded in concrete. Unique beauty with stunning design possibilities; non-porous; heat resistant. Can crack from too much weight; will chip or break; shows scratches and fingerprints; vulnerable to acidic foods.
    60.00-300.00/ sq ft

    Soapstone

    Natural stone, sometimes with a blue or green blue tint, largely gray with flecks and veins of lighter quartz interspersed. Becomes a darker charcoal colour with use or when treated with mineral oil. Smooth matte finish; resistant to stains and etching from acidic foods; scratches can be sanded or oiled away; easier on the environment than other quarried stones. May chip, crack and scratch; needs regular maintenance
    75.00-150.00/ sq ft

    Stainless Steel

    Durable, non-porous, stain proof, rust proof, easy to clean, reflective, provides a statement piece. Organic shapes are possible and a seamless sink and backsplash can be part of the design. Hot pots won’t hurt the surface, and it will stay cool during the hot summer months. Scratches and a natural patina will occur and become part of the look. Noisy, shows fingerprints, will dent. Requires a solid base, often hardwood, in order to minimize dents. May be difficult to source; a local metal fabrication company is sometimes the best option. Copper, zinc, pewter and bronze are also being used for countertops with similar qualities.
    70.00-100.00/ sq ft

    Engineered Stone (Quartz)

    Mimics the beauty of natural stone with the durability of a sold surface product, made from a mix of 90 percent quartz plus color and resin. Predictable, uniform, non-porous, stain and scratch resistant, no sealant required, with a smooth, cool surface. Not heat proof, seams are noticeable.
    65.00-200.00/ sq ft

    Concrete

    Heat and scratch resistant; very strong; texture and colour options; seamless integration of sink and backsplash; can be a beautiful signature piece. Can crack, porous, unforgiving of dropped dishes, must be sealed and waxed, expensive and may be difficult to source good workmanship.
    80.00-150.00/ sq ft

    Granite

    Natural, each piece is unique; sinks can be under mounted; variety of patterns and colours and edge options; heat resistant; cold hard surface with visual depth. Seams are noticeable: best to select from a specific slab to avoid unforeseen variations. Shows water marks; edges can chip which can sometimes be repaired by a professional; requires regular resealing; unforgiving of dropped glassware and dishes
    80.00-100.00/sq ft

    Marble

    Natural, each piece is unique; smooth surface; won’t chip or dent; heat resistant; excellent surface for rolling dough. Vulnerable to acidic foods and staining: requires vigilant removal of anything spilled on it and regular resealing.
    100.00-400.00/ sq ft

    Lava Stone

    Fairly new to the Canadian market, lava stone is extracted from quarries in France and Italy and finished with a enamelling process which makes it virtually indestructible. Look for brand name Pyrolave.
    Distinctive and luxurious; non-porous; UV stable for no fading; can be used indoors and outdoors; highly resistant to scratches, temperature and stains; can be shaped; easy clean.Cutting boards are recommended for the sake of the countertop and the knives. Cost is high due in part to high shipping costs; long lead time and even waiting lists.
    250.00-350.00/ sq ft

    Now you have some basic comparisons, and the next step is to get out and take a look. Touch the various materials, and ask to see life size samples. Shop around for pricing. Ask about warranties. Survey friends and family about what they love and hate about their countertop, and weigh their response against your own lifestyle priorities. You may want to combine more than one countertop to create interest, such as a contrasting top on the kitchen island. Don’t be afraid to dream big, with ideas such as waterfall ends, large profile edges, diagonal or curved shapes, and more. Check in with your Stager and Realtor as to what is hot and selling well in homes comparable to yours, and what will stay in style over time.

    These same criteria factors should be helpful for choosing bathroom countertops and surfaces surrounding tubs and showers. For smaller countertops in particular, ask your local suppliers if they are selling ends at a reduced cost. Many vanities are being sold with a countertop included. When you see something you like, check what the countertop material is and make sure it fits with your needs.

    Do your research, ask for help when you need it, and have fun creating your new kitchen or bath.

    Melanie Orr is a home consultant and stager in the Metro Halifax area of Nova Scotia.
    She can be reached at 902-223-3237.
    Interiors by Melanie -- increasing the value, use and beauty of home

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