Q: I’m shopping for a kitchen counter. What are the main differences between the materials?
A: To narrow the options, first consider your spending plan. Low-cost materials — in the range of $2 to $10 per square foot — include ceramic or porcelain tiles and laminate. Corian, engineered quartz and butcher-block wood are all midrange options that can cost $40 to $75 per square foot. The most expensive materials are granite, stainless steel and concrete, which typically cost $50 to $150 per square foot. While stainless steel and concrete have the biggest price tags, there are disadvantages to each.
Pros: inexpensive; easy to clean and install; available in many colors and patterns.
Cons: water can seep through seams; scratches and nicks easily.
Pros: tiles resist staining; many colors and patterns; inexpensive; relatively easy to replace damaged tiles.
Cons: the grout can stain even when sealed, so maintenance is high.
Pros: you can cut right on it; easy to install, sand and repair.
Cons: needs sealing frequently; easily damaged by heat, cuts and impact.
Pros: available in different thicknesses; stands up to heat and impact.
Cons: scratches easily; can become discolored when exposed to prolonged heat.
Pros: very strong; comes in lots of colors and variations.
Cons: needs to be sealed annually; full slabs can look different from the store samples.
Pros: stands up to heat and resists stains; waterproof.
Cons: dents and scratches easily; shows fingerprints.
Pros: tints and textures offer a custom counter; stone shards can be incorporated.
Cons: scratches easily; susceptible to hairline cracks.