Tag Archives: Countertops

Movin’ on up!

Q:   We are putting our house kitchen1on the market but before we do, we need to update a few things.  Our biggest problem is the kitchen -currently, it has a bumpy off-white laminate countertop which has seen better days and yellow square backsplash tile… circa 1970.  We’d like to replace both, but we have a lot of countertop (there is other cabinetry and countertops not in the photo!) and two stretches of backsplash.  What should we put in its place that will attract potential buyers but still be affordable?   -J.S.

A:      When you are preparing to sell, most of the major improvements you make to the interior of your house should be made in the kitchen. Buyers generally place the most value on an updated kitchen.  With that said… you’d like to do this affordably?!  Before you start remodeling,  you’ll want to think about the cost versus value because you want it to look the very best for your money and you certainly want to make that money put into your improvements back… and then some. 

 A backsplash improvement for any budget would be to replace the existing tile with white or off-white subway tile.  It’s a classic look and can go with just about any style, which is what buyers like to see.  You can play up the green on the walls with a line of glass mosaics in shades of green… or any color that you have in the kitchen – it creates an accent and looks like it was thought out.  Here are a few examples of the classic look of subway tile backsplash I got off the internet:

subway tile1subwaytile2



   If your current laminate countertops are the pits, anything is better at this point.   There are several different price points to choose from.  Bottomline – go neutral so that buyers don’t see your tastes reflected in the house – they can start to see themselves living there.

**Update: Here are the tiles and solid surface countertop going into this kitchen:



Let’s check out countertop material:

Laminate – about $15-$60/ sqft installed.  Laminate is the ‘low end’ countertop material; made of polymer bonded to substrate – usually plywood or particle board; easy to clean, durable and comes in hundreds of colors or stone look-a-likes.  Not easily repairable if it chips; not heatproof so don’t put a hot pot on it… which in my mind is a ridiculous thing to want to do (see granite).  This would be the choice if your budget is down and dirty.

Tile – $5 -$50/ sqft installed.  Ceramic tile looks a bit more high-end than laminate.  I don’t love the look of ceramic tile counters – usually the grout looks grimy and can be easily scratch and chip.  Also, depending on the tile used the surface may not be entirely level. 

Granite – $50- $100+/ sqft installed (depending on the thickness).  Granite seems to be everyone’s choice in countertop material.  It’s durable, it won’t scratch or stain (if polished) and you can certainly put a hot pot on it. 

**Alright, I have to ask… how many people really put hot pots onto their countertop?! When I was a designer at a high end kitchen showroom, that was the question everyone asked – Oooh, I love limestone, but can I put a hot pot on it?  The butcher block top is divine… but am I able to put a hot pot on it? I’m leaning toward the stainless steel tops, but can I put a hot pot on them? If it was your very first time on this planet cooking …with heat, then yes I’d suggest you get a countertop that you could put a hot pot on, but the rest of us should go with something gorgeous that meets every other normal need for the kitchen.

Whew… with that said… granite is also very easy to clean, comes in a polished or honed finish and a smooth work surface. One of the downsides to granite is that I see the same stone in everyone’s home: the absolute black or the beige with little red specks (the name is different at every stone yard)- there are so many different granites out there with blues and greens in them. If you can find it in yourself – veer toward the unusual – they take granite a step up!  Sorry, I got away with myself there.

Marble – $50- $100+/ sqft installed.  If you are a baker, you will most likely have some marble in your kitchen somewhere.  Marble is great in that it’s easy to clean and heat-proof.  The movement in the stone (veins) create so many different looks.  This is a very classic looking material to use in a kitchen.  The biggest downside that people have with marble is that it stains.  It is a natural material and has pores, so yes that does happen – but there ways of getting them out.  Generally needs to be sealed. 

Soapstone – $70 – $100+/ sqft installed.  Soapstone has a really nice feel to it – silky and smooth.  Like marble it’s easy to clean, but does need to be sealed and can stain.

Solid Surfacing (Corian, etc) – $40 – $100/ sqft installed.  Some people dismiss solid surfacing because of its price and the fact they could put in granite for about the same price.  Unlike granite, you can scorch it with a hot pot and it can get scratched.  Otherwise, if it does chip or get scratched, it can be repaired; comes in many, many, many colors and patterns. 

 With solid surfacing you can have an integrated sink – a sink that is made out of the same material and virtually seamlessly attached so that it looks like one piece of material. Also, you could have grooves cut into the countertop sloping toward the sink, so that you can place your dishrack on it and have the water drain down.  I’ve seen strips of metal stuck in about 1/4″ higher than the surface to create a permanent trivet… so you don’t put a hot pot on it.

Stainless Steel – $65 – $100 (varies really)/ sqft installed.  Stainless steel tops look so cool!  Like some stones, you have to be okay with their look  after a little wear and tear because you will see scratches and fingerprints.  The price generally varies project to project because they are all custom-made to fit each space.

Quartz Surfacing (Silestone) – $75 -$125+/ sqft installed. Looks like stone… but isn’t. It’s made of about 93% quartz and 7% resins and pigments. Easy to clean and scratch resistant.  Installation needs to be precise and therefor installation cost is a bit high.

Wood – $50 – 200/ sqft installed (depending on the thickness). The looks you can create with wood!  Typically, you find small areas of wood countertops in a kitchen where you would chop and prepare, but I’ve seen entire island tops in wood.  Any type of scratch or mark can easily be sanded out.  However, to keep a wood top in great condition, it would need be treated with mineral oil periodically and like a wood cutting board, could swell and crack when exposed to prolonged periods of water. 

Concrete – $70+/ sqft installed.  There are a two main ways to install a concrete countertop – one is to install pre cast slabs and the other is to cast it in place.  If it’s poured in place – it takes a lot of time to install… about 10 days to cure.    Concrete is heat-resistant, but needs to be sealed.  It can come in just about any color and can also be imbedded with things such as stones, glass or fossils.

If you have any other ideas (or if you too wonder why people must put a hot pot on a counter) let me know!!

Please send me a photo of the kitchen after you get to the update… love to see it!


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