There are many decisions to make when planning a kitchen remodel or new bathroom design. Your home is the center of family life and must be able to take you from your morning cup of coffee to family dinners, Saturday book club with friends, holiday celebrations, and more. The products and materials you select for your home must balance style with functionality to ensure they meet your needs. It can be tricky to find the perfect materials that bring your design vision to life while also being able to stand up to the rigors of daily life and fit within your budget. Start by working with an experienced design professional who can help you navigate the numerous decision points regarding layout, storage, and product selection, and manage the remodeling process from start to finish.
One of the hardest working surfaces in any kitchen or bath design is the countertop. It covers a large, very visible surface area and therefore has a huge impact on your style. Plus, it must be able to withstand moisture, spills, splatters, and heavy or sharp items. Your countertop must also partner with other design features like cabinets and the backsplash to tie together your room’s design aesthetic and color scheme.
How much space do you have and what is your room’s layout? If your kitchen design includes an island (or more than one!), do you plan to use the islands for food prep, cooking, dining, or cleaning up? You could pick the same countertop for perimeter cabinets as you do for your island. Or top your island cabinetry in a different material to enhance your room’s style and fit the specific functional needs of your island.
You should also consider how much cleaning and ongoing maintenance you are willing to commit to. Some surfaces are more prone to staining or scratching and must be treated with greater care. If your chosen countertop is more porous you must immediate clean up any spills or splashes to avoid damaging or staining it. Some countertops can take the impact of a knife meaning you can cut directly onto it, while others can be easily damaged. Certain surfaces are more heat resistant than others, meaning hot pots and food items won’t damage them. With some countertops, regular maintenance is essential, such as resealing the surface to maintain its water-resistant qualities. Decide how much maintenance you are willing to undertake and find a surface that fits your top priorities.
Assess Your Style
Your countertop forms a key element of the room’s style, so it helps to first decide on your design aesthetic before selecting materials. Are you going for a classic, traditional look for your kitchen or bath? Is your taste more farmhouse style, industrial, or perhaps eclectic? There is a countertop material to enhance any bathroom or kitchen design vibe. Thankfully there are many alternatives available so you can balance your style needs with functional requirements. For example, if you love the look of a natural material like marble but can’t commit to the ongoing maintenance, then find an alternative such as engineered quartz that gives you the look of marble in an easy to maintain material.
Set Your Budget
Countertops are a significant investment that enhances the value of your home. There are a wide range of budget options available, but it pays to invest in the best surface you can afford as it will last longer and be an asset in your home. Look at your remodeling budget and think about how much of this you can commit to the countertop.
If your preferred surface is too expensive, consider finding a more budget-friendly alternative that checks as many boxes as possible on your list of requirements. You could also think about cutting corners on other design elements, like your flooring, in favor of spending more on the countertop. Or install your more expensive, preferred countertop material in one section of your kitchen design and balance this with a less expensive option for the rest of your kitchen.
Find Your Ideal Countertop Material
Now that you understand your style and practical needs, have an idea of your available budget, and have assessed your priorities, it’s time to examine the top options for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Here are some of the main surfaces available:
Granite is a natural material, which means every piece is unique and gives your bath or kitchen design a one-of-a-kind appeal. It is a classic choice that never goes out of style, and a luxury material that enhances any living space. Granite is a durable, hard surface, so much so that it can dull knives if you cut directly onto it. For this reason, it’s best to use cutting boards when chopping or preparing food. This countertop material can also withstand high heat, which makes it ideal for handling styling tools in the bathroom or hot pots and pans in the kitchen. Granite does need to be re-sealed over time to maintain it’s appearance and durability.
Quartz is one of the top choices for today’s kitchen and bathrooms, and it’s easy to see why. Quartz is a natural material, but these countertops tend to be an engineered surface comprised of quartz and resin. This creates a nonporous, durable, and hygienic countertop ideal for any space in your home. It comes in a variety of shades and styles and can be designed to mimic natural stone surfaces. Unlike granite and other natural surfaces, quartz does not need to be resealed but remains nonporous without additional maintenance. Quartz can withstand heat but is susceptible to damage from high heat and temperature changes; therefore, it is recommended to avoid placing very hot items directly on the surface.
Wood brings warmth to any room in your home and works very well in a kitchen design to create a cozy, welcoming space. Wood can be used for your entire kitchen countertop or limited to one section such as the kitchen island. It pairs well with almost any kitchen design style and with many of the top choices for cabinet finishes, including white, gray, blue, and black.
Wood is not as well suited to a bathroom design since it is a high moisture environment. In a kitchen design a wood countertop must be resealed regularly to protect the surface against spills and food splatters. Wood is prone to scratching and dents, but this natural wear and tear is part of its charm. Also, wood tops can be refinished over time to extend their lifespan and even give them a fresh look.
Marble countertops epitomize classic beauty and luxury. This is a natural surface, meaning each slab is unique, and it is available in a range of colors to customize your room’s style. Marble is heat proof but is also a porous surface, meaning it is prone to staining and impacted by moisture. Make sure marble surfaces are properly sealed to protect them and follow maintenance guidelines by resealing them regularly. If marble is not practical for your entire kitchen design, consider installing it in one section as a feature. This works especially well if you love baking, as marble is a cool surface ideal for rolling out pastry.
Solid surface lacks the style appeal of higher end products but makes up for it in terms of durability and ease of maintenance in an affordable countertop. This mid-price range option blends together acrylic and resin to create a durable surface that can be formed in any shape. It can also be produced in a seemingly endless array of colors and patterns, meaning this surface can be fully customized to create the look you want. It can be designed to mimic natural materials but is not able to achieve the same look.
Laminate countertops are ideal if you are on a budget or perhaps remodeling a rental property and want to keep costs down. It is one of the most affordable options on the market but is not as durable as higher-end surfaces. It comes in a range of colors and patterns, and modern plastic laminates have come a long way in terms of appearance.
While these are among the top options on the market, there are a wide range of other choices available, including other natural surfaces like soapstone and limestone. Concrete is ideal for industrial or modern style kitchen or bath designs, providing a one-of-a-kind surface that is poured onsite and customized to your preferred shape. For a truly unique look, terrazzo is a modern take on a classic surface that has been around for centuries. It combines resin with pigment and chips of different materials to create a standout style.
When choosing a countertop, you should also decide the edge you want to give your surface. These may vary depending on your preferences, the material, and your lifestyle. It’s best to go with rounded edges if you have small children or are designing for aging in place, as they are less likely to result in injury from bumping into them. Some of the top edge profiles include eased, bullnose, and beveled, among others. With a wood top you could choose a live edge, which incorporates the natural edge of the wood into the final design. You should also look at the installation requirements as these can differ from one material to the next and will impact on your budget. Finally, consider your other design elements and how they fit together with the countertop, such as cabinetry, backsplash, sinks, and more.
There are so many options available for countertops for kitchen remodels and bathroom designs, it can be difficult to choose which one is right for you. Start by examining your practical considerations, then look at your room’s style and how the countertop will become part of your design aesthetic, and finally think about how much of your budget you can commit to the countertop. Work with an experienced design and remodeling professional who can advise you on these and other questions when planning your new kitchen or bathroom. Talk to our team to get started!