Renovating a kitchen can be time consuming, headache causing and mind numbingly costly. Choosing the correct countertop material for your budget and lifestyle is crucial. It's important to consider longevity, durability, maintenance and price, since this is not a decision (like paint color), that can be quickly or easily changed once installed. Below is a list of nine common countertop materials that should help you decide which material will work best in your new kitchen.

1. Laminate: Made from laminating multiple layers of kraft paper together, laminate is the best choice for the budget consumer.

Costs: Low cost ($25 to $50 per square foot)
Pros: An endless range of color and patterns; low maintenance; easy to install.
Cons: Sensitive to heat; chips and scratches easily; not easily repaired; seams show; is often considered a low grade option with upscale buyers.

2. Ceramic Tile: While custom tiles and complicated tile patterns can be costly to purchase and install, ceramic tile can be an affordable and durable option.

Costs: Low to moderate ($10 to $90 per square foot)
Pros: Durable; low maintenance; easy to clean; heat resistant; wide range of colors and styles; tiles can be replaced if chipped or cracked.
Cons: Tiles can crack or chip; grout can stain if not sealed; looks dated to some consumers.

3. Wood and Butcher Block: Available in a wide variety of options with wood types including oak, maple and teak.

Costs: Moderately expensive ($50 to $100 per square foot)

Pros: Warm, organic look and feel; scratches can be removed by sanding and re-sealing.
Cons: Absorbs bacteria if not sealed properly; scratches easily; sensitive to water staining over time.

4. Granite: The gold standard in higher grade kitchens and is much desired by consumers at all economic levels.

Costs: Moderately expensive ($50 to $100 per square foot) but coming down in price do to its frequent use by renovators and builders.

Pros: Comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns; heat, stain and scratch resistant if sealed properly; extremely durable; luxurious looking and feeling; flat and cool surface makes it suitable for rolling out dough.
Cons: Although new sealers make the material more maintenance free, granite requires annual sealing; can crack if not properly installed; dulls knives if cut on directly; visible seams; can emit low levels of radiation.

5. Engineered Stone: Usually made of 93% natural quartz combined with pigments and bonding resins. Major brands include CaesarStone, Zodiaq and Technistone.

Costs: Moderately expensive ($50 to $100 per square foot)
Pros: Almost indestructible; heat, scratch and stain resistant; non-porous so it resists bacteria; endless color options; very easy to maintain (no sealing).
Cons: Homogenous looking surface is not appealing to those who want the visual swirl and movement of granite.

6. Concrete: Often used in more contemporary kitchen designs.

Costs: Moderate to very expensive ($65 to $150 per square foot)
Pros: Stain resistant when sealed; easily tinted an unlimited number of colors; durable; versatile and highly customizable as it’s usually cast on site and can be cast in any shape.
Cons: Stains easily if not properly sealed; only heat resistant when not sealed; can crack with settling or stress.

7.    Solid Surface: Made from a high quality and durable resin (plastic), usually one-half to three-quarter inch thick. Major brands include Corian, Silestone and Avonite.

Costs: Expensive to very expensive ($90 to $150 per square foot)
Pros: Comes in a vast range of colors and patterns; non-porous so it resists bacteria; seamless appearance; not entirely stain or scratch resistant but is easily restored with a non-abrasive cleanser.
Cons: Vulnerable to heat stains; not entirely stain resistant; scratches easily.

8.    Marble: Considered the most luxurious looking counter top material but also requires the most maintenance.

Costs: Very expensive ($100 to $150)
Pros: Looks elegant and very upscale; solid and cool surface is suitable for rolling dough.
Cons: Scratches easily; sensitive to stains and acidic products such as fruit juices, coffee, soda, alcohol and salad dressing; requires periodic resealing; can crack if not installed properly.

9.    Copper and Stainless Steel: Commonly thought of as a commercial material, but is often used in contemporary kitchen designs.

Costs: Very expensive ($100 to $250 per square foot)

Pros: Virtually indestructible; easy to clean; heat, stain and bacteria resistant; highly customizable
Cons: Noisy; dents and scratches; dulls knives if cut on.

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