Image by granite-charlotte via Flickr
If you are studying the options for different choices of counter tops and vanity counters, you are no doubt going to be overwhelmed by the vast amount of choices now in the market. Here are a few of the most readily available choices to help in the decision making process.
Granite- Granite is an igneous rock that is comprised mostly of quartz and feldspar. Forming from slowly cooling Magma far beneath the surface of the earth, granite is heat resistant, and can endure hot pans, extreme cold, stains, scratches and looks beautiful year after year. The various choices in color also make this gorgeous stone fit any design. Great for kitchen and bathroom vanities. Prices per square foot generally range starting at $50.00, but it is a wise investment as it adds value to your home. It is one of the most desired upgrades of the last decade in homes. For a less expensive alternative many people are opting for granite tile in their kitchen design. There are more seams, but the overall look of granite is still very much observed. Only purchase granite that is sealed and look for a warranty of no less than 15 years on the seal.
Solid Surface- Commonly known as Corian, this type of counter top is manufactured out of acrylic resins. It is a man made material and its range in color runs the gamut. Heat and scratch resistant and a little less costly than natural stone, solid surface counter tops are an upgrade consideration from laminate and a practical selection in homes with children. Scratches can be buffed smooth as well. Prices vary from about $35.00 a square foot, installation fees can vary. Sinks can be integrated with solid surface counter tops and give a smooth seamless transition and back splashes can be fused on to the surface. While heat and stain resistant, solid surface counter tops are not completely impervious to damage. They can crack, scorch and can not endure direct high heat to the surface. A little extra care is needed, but no more than what a homeowner would need to exercise with most other options for counter tops. This type of counter top is also an ideal vanity choice in bathrooms.
Laminate- The most commonly used counter top material, laminate is comprised of layers of paper that have been treated with resin and fused together using high heat and pressure. Today, laminate has a wide variety of styles that can mimic the look of wood, granite, and quartz. The most modest sheets of laminate will be sold in solid colors and range in price from around $ 5.00 a square foot. High end laminate come with high sheen, and textures to look like the more costly stone counter tops and the prices can be quite costly depending on installation and can run up to $45.00 per linear foot. Custom edges will add to the costs as well. Laminate will not add as much in value to your home as stone counter tops, but for the new look and beauty they offer, it will definitely appeal to any home buyer. Laminate can stain, but it can be easily cleaned with baking soda and water, and in some cases bleach/water solutions are needed. Laminate is naturally anti-bacterial. Although scratch resistant, laminate can chip and be damaged. The higher end laminates are manufactured with a texture and most scratches will not be readily visible, however, badly damaged laminate can not be repaired. If poorly installed, moisture seeping into the seams can cause the laminate to separate from the wood it is glued to. It is not a good idea to place any hot items on laminate, you should use trivets/pot holders and not place hot pans from the stove directly on the surface of a laminate counter top especially for an extended period of time.
Ceramic Tile- Ceramic tiles were used a great deal prior to granite being readily available. It is heat resistant and scratch resistant and less costly than stone counter tops. It is also fairly easy for the home owner to install in their home, provided they have access to or own a wet saw. Ceramic tiles do require that the grout be sealed regularly to prevent it from stains and mildew issues, especially in bathroom areas. Ceramic tiles range in price from around $10.00 a square foot (this does not include installation) ,and come in many color choices and patterns. It is not as valuable an upgrade as granite, but it is considered an upgrade to laminate and is still used often for back splashes. Ceramic tiles do offer the homeowner a certain amount of creativity , making it a more personal customed improvement to your home. Tiles can be scratched, chipped and even broken but also can be replaced on a need-to basis. Tiles are also available in other materials and worth investigating, but prices will be higher than ceramic porcelain. Keep in mind these are just a few samples of the options available. Visit your local hardware, or home improvement center to see the full range of choices available. Remember to do your research!