Synthetic stone countertops, such as brand-name products like Caesarstone, Silestone and Corian, have many of the same advantages of natural stone countertops, but with additional benefits. They can be engineered to match the patterns and grains of natural stone slabs, but unlike stone slabs, not having enough of the source material to adequately cover the surface area is not a major consideration. More synthetic can always be made. Synthetic stone countertops, however, can cost as much or more than natural stone countertops.
Another factor that may make synthetic stone countertops a good choice is ease of maintenance. Synthetic stone slabs can be manufactured all in one piece, which alleviates the need for maintaining or repairing the grout or sealant where two natural stone slabs would meet. Unlike natural stone countertops, many synthetic stone countertops do not need to be sealed regularly. Synthetic stone countertops are also more resistant to the chipping, pitting or cracking that can occur with natural stone.
One of the least expensive and affordable countertop options, laminate countertops are generally made from paper pressed between plastic resins using heat which is then bonded to a firmer material like particle board or plywood. Popular among homeowners because of its durability and design versatility, laminates come in a wide variety of colors and textures that mimic high-end granites, marbles and slates. Laminates also allow the appearance of materials that aren’t as kitchen-friendly, such as hardwoods.
Laminate countertops provide a budget-friendly alternative and can be made to have the look of stone countertops. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Linda B.)
Laminate countertops, which are commonly referred to by the most popular brand name, Formica, are economical choices. At approximately $10 to $30 per square foot, they are suitable for people with limited budgets.
In terms of cons, laminate countertops are not always easy to clean. They are also easily damaged; they are not heat or scratch resistant. And if damage occurs, most laminate countertops cannot be repaired, only replaced. Where stone or synthetic stone countertops could theoretically last hundreds of years, as laminates become worn, they may start to look faded and dull.
Another material to think about when choosing new countertops is wooden butcher block. Butcher block countertops are a versatile home design trend that can lend warmth to your modern kitchen or an authentic feel to a vintage farmhouse. At approximately $40 to $60 per square foot, they are also affordable.
Butcher block countertops have several advantages and disadvantages in terms of durability. If they are scratched or burned, the damage wood can be sanded down with ease and reoiled. On the negative side, there isn't a lot you can do if your butcher-block countertop becomes dented by the impact of a heavy object. Wood also ages well, gaining more character the more its used. However, because wood is naturally porous, wooden countertops do require regular maintenance in the form of regularly wax or oil treatments.
Tiles are available in a variety of materials, from ceramic tile to natural stone to recycled glass to handmade porcelain. Like some other options, its shape and coloring can be left to the imagination of the homeowner. Cost will vary depending on the size of the tiles, size of the countertop and quality of material.
The biggest advantage of tile countertops is that they can be designed in an endless array of ways. Individual tiles can be replaced easily and affordably. It's also easy to find heat-resistant tiles. Cons include the fact that the grout between them can stain. The tiles can be chipped or cracked quite easily in some cases.
This is an increasingly popular option, because of the homeowner’s ability to customize it according to color and design. Rocks, shells or colored glass can be added to the concrete to add texture or unique. While this modern option may be popular, it will likely cost the homeowner more per square footage compared to laminate and tile.
Concrete countertops are extremely durable but also lend a nice aesthetic alternative to more conventional kitchen countertops.