When you remodel your kitchen you can easily watch your budget spiral out of control. One good way to avoid this is to plan out your kitchen renovation and this includes considering your finishes, such as countertop and backsplash material.
Material options for counters and backsplash
To decide on the countertop and backsplash that best suits your needs and budget, consider the following:
Want a sleek, commercial kitchen look? Go with stainless steel counters. The biggest advantage is that the material seams can be welded, ground and buffed out to create a seamless look. Also, the material has excellent resistance to heat and stains. The disadvantage is that steel dents and scratches very easily and fingerprints smudges require constant cleaning.
Want a country-kitchen look? Go with butcher’s block. Maple and teak are the most common, but other woods are also used. The great thing about a wooden countertop is that it doubles as a cutting board and it’s relatively easy to install and repair (even Ikea does it!). Problem is a wooden countertop isn’t great with heat, it cuts and scrapes easily and requires quite a bit of maintenance (you need to oil it and keep it moisturized at least once every three months).
Want stone without the imperfections? That’s when people started to experiment with limestone countertops. Problem is this material scratches and chips very, very easily and staining is a real problem.
It’s sold as an eco-friendly material option but that doesn’t mean it’s well-suited for countertop use. It stains easily, scorches and can easily show knife nicks and marks. Also, moisture will warp this material so using it near a sink may require a premature replacement of your new countertop.
Want an infusion of colour in your kitchen that’s resistant to heat, cuts and scratches? Consider recycled glass shards that are glued together with adhesive that helps create a solid surface. Keep in mind that glass can chip easily and that the glued area can stain easily.
Quartz is stone, but it’s a blend of stone chips. Because it’s an engineered stone product that uses resins, it can come in a variety of colours and styles. Even better is that quartz is a great at repelling spills, dealing with heat and knife cuts and it doesn’t have to be sealed for stain protection. Also, since it’s waterproof it’s often a great option for those that are opting for an undermount sink.
When selecting a quartz counter, however, keep in mind that some patterns can appear to uniform—too unnatural. Also, edges and corners are more prone to chipping (and only a pro can fix them). To prevent this costly repair, consider paying for rounded corners.
As a natural product, each slab is absolutely unique. Better still, it’s excellent at dealing with spills, hot pots, knife blades and wet areas. It does require periodic sealing for stain protection, so keep that in mind when budgeting for this type of counter.
There’s a reason why laminate was used as a countertop in just about every home built a few decades ago: It’s durable, resists staining, impact and heat and withstands even the heaviest, most abrasive kitchen uses. That said, the quality of laminate can really differ. Some versions have a coloured layer on top of a dark core. This layered process can let water sep into the seams and cause separation (this is what happens when a corner on a laminate counter begins to peel upwards). Also, laminate can easily be scratched, so make sure everyone in your family uses cutting boards.
This is a popular choice although it’s lost favour with designers in the last decade. Still, the material can be a great countertop choice particularly for those that want a cost-conscious choice that’s also durable. As an added bonus, a tiled countertop can seamlessly transition into a tile backsplash. Keep in mind that the weakest part of this type of counter is the grout, which is likely to stain over time. Choosing a darker grout and buying a few extra tiles (to swap out for any damaged pieces, over time) will help increase the longevity of this countertop material.
For backsplashes, you’ll want to pick a tile based on your needs. For stain-resistance consider porcelain, which is a type of ceramic tile that’s fired at a higher temperature which makes it a denser, less porous ceramic. Porcelain is also easier to clean than most other options and comes in a wide variety of styles. For DIYers, make sure you buy the right setting glue—you’ll need the kind designed to adhere to non-porous materials.
In a rush to find a granite-like alternative, some designers started using soapstone in the kitchen. While it’s a beautiful natural product that withstands heat well and can withstand small scratches it’s not great at withstanding knife scratches and slices. Also, to protect it and keep it somewhat stain-resistant you need to rub it with mineral oil.
You’ll need to hire a custom-fabricator for a polished concrete countertop—although brave do-it-yourselfers are certainly trying their hand at using this material. Keep in mind, though, that despite its modern, clean look, concrete chips and scratches easily and you’ll need to double-seal to get heat and stain protection (so use a topical and a penetrating seal).
A classic option that’s used frequently in other countries, marble countertops are great for those worried about chips and dings, as they can be easily polished out. However, you will need to seal the marble to prevent scratches and staining can be a real issue with marble even after it’s sealed.
Ways to save money
One way to save is to consider using materials that are currently discounted. By keeping an eye out for sales and using more expensive material in prominent areas, such as an island, and less expensive material on countertops that are covered up, you can save a bit of money. Also, see if higher-priced options have a remnants section, as these smaller pieces are ideal for islands, sink counters and breakfast nooks. If you go with rounded edges, it’s the cheapest option, whereas beveled and bull-nosed edges will add style and expense.
To save yourself extra costs and frustration make sure you measure the countertops accurately (or have a professional installer do this) and consider where you want the material seams to go. If you are using a professional installer, make sure the contract itemizes the specific material (both in terms of length and thickness), as well as what is included (such as cutouts for sink, faucet, or cooktops), along with the type of edge you’ve selected and whether or not the removal of the old countertops is included.