Kitchen Countertop Buying Guide

New countertops are an essential part of the kitchen remodeling project, and our goal is to help you make a choice you’ll be pleased with now while still enjoying their good looks and practical benefits in the years ahead.

Our countertop buying guides are designed to take the guesswork out of the selection process through a wealth of accurate information. An educated consumer will always make a better decision! The individual pages for each type of countertop are complete with prices, pros and cons for each that allow you to research and compare your favorite options.

countertop buying guide

Reasons to Update Kitchen Countertops when Remodeling

For some of you, worn and outdated countertops are a primary motivation to redo the kitchen. However, even if your current counters are in reasonably good condition, there are several reasons to consider replacing kitchen countertops when remodeling. Which of these apply to your situation?

  • Your old countertops don’t fit your new design scheme: Perhaps they’re the wrong style, color or material, and you just know that they’ll be the drab brown shoes in a room full of beautiful black dresses if you leave them in place!
  • You’re changing the layout of your kitchen: When you are adding an “L” as a breakfast bar or reconfiguring the kitchen entirely, your old countertops won’t be the right size.
  • The countertops aren’t kid-friendly: Some materials harbor bacteria and are hard to clean. Others stain or chip easily. Sharp corners can cause injury. There’s a long list of why some countertops aren’t a good choice for families with young children.
  • The house might go on the market in the near future: Updated kitchen countertops will be attractive to prospective buyers.
  • You just don’t like the old countertops: If you’re typical, you are in the kitchen a lot. Time spent there will be much more enjoyable when your surroundings make you smile.

Resurface, Refinish or Replace: What’s the Difference?

With a limited number of countertop materials, you have repair options to avoid replacing them. Here are your choices:

Refinish: Some wood countertops can be refinished in the way wood floors are. This requires sanding off the top layer to remove scratches, stains, burns and other defects. The countertops can then be stained and sealed to make them look new.

Resurface: Most concrete and stone countertops can be resurfaced. The old surface is ground away, and the countertop is polished and sealed.

Regrout: Let’s throw this one in for tile and stone slab countertops. Sometimes the ceramic, glass or stone looks great, but the grout is stained or cracked. The old grout can be removed and replaced with fresh, clean material. The result is the same look without the ugly defects.

Replace: This means to remove the old and install new countertops.

Ask your countertop contractor if you have any repair options, and get several estimates to compare prices and the contractors’ experience.

What to Consider when Choosing Your Countertops

This site includes individual countertop guides for a long list of countertop materials. In each guide, you’ll find extensive information, so they are an excellent resource to consult when making your decision.

As an overview, here are the questions to consider when choosing your kitchen countertops material:

Do you make a mess in the kitchen? If you love baking, cooking, concocting recipes and entertaining friends, then you’ll want a countertop that is non-porous, stain-resistant and easy to clean. Consider stainless steel, concrete, laminate, marble slabs, granite slabs, recycled glass, porcelain, solid surface or quartz. Keep in mind that marble and granite must be sealed properly to keep out stains.

Do you have children at home? If so, in addition to a stain-resistant countertop material, you should consider one that resists heat. Kids sometimes forget and put pots straight from the range onto the countertop! Materials to avoid include solid surface, wood, butcher block and laminate.

Do you have plans to sell? Here’s a financial tip about kitchen remodeling. High-end materials have a lower return on investment than more affordable countertops like laminate, ceramic tile and bargain materials such as discontinued granite tile.

Is an environmentally friendly material a top priority? If so, reclaimed wood, recycled tile and recycled glass countertops are fantastic.

Your Countertop Choices

Here is the list of countertops covered in our very thorough guides. We’ll add additional countertop guides as new materials hit the market.

Finding a Countertop Installer

The key to finding the right countertop contractor is to ask multiple installers for countertop installation estimates. Each contractor should know that they are competing for the work, so they’ll give you their best deals. Keep in mind that low cost shouldn’t be the only criterion.

When getting countertop installation estimates, ask each contractor about the installers’ expertise and experience. Get references, or at least look at a portfolio of the company’s work. Check with the Better Business Bureau too. Online reviews of the countertops contractors can be helpful, but keep in mind that some negative reviews are written by unseemly contractors in an attempt to discredit competitors. In summary, get several countertop installation estimates, and take the time to learn about each contractor before making the decision of who to hire.