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Ask Martha

Choosing a countertop material

When deciding between granite and other countertop materials, first consider your budget.
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
When deciding between granite and other countertop materials, first consider your budget.

Q. I’m shopping for a kitchen counter. What are the main differences between the materials?

A. With a growing number of kitchen countertops for every style and budget, choosing one can feel overwhelming. To narrow the options, first consider your spending plan. Low-cost materials — in the range of $2 to $10 per square foot — include ceramic or porcelain tiles and laminate. Corian, engineered quartz, and butcher-block wood are all mid-range options that can cost $40 to $75 per square foot. The most expensive materials are granite, stainless steel, and concrete, which typically cost $50 to $150 per square foot but can also increase the resale value of your home. While stainless steel and concrete have the biggest price tags, there are disadvantages to each. Often, you trade practicality for a luxe finish. See below for the pros and cons of common countertop materials, from least to most costly.

LAMINATE

Pros: Inexpensive; easy to clean and install; available in many colors and patterns.

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Cons: Seams show at the edges; water can seep through seams; scratches and nicks easily.

TILE

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Pros: Tiles resist staining; many colors and patterns; inexpensive; relatively easy to replace damaged tiles.

Cons: The grout can stain even when sealed, so maintenance is high.

WOOD

Pros: You can cut right on it, so it’s often used on islands as a prep area; easy to install, sand, and repair.

Cons: Needs sealing frequently; easily damaged by heat, cuts, and impact.

CORIAN

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Pros: Available in different thicknesses; pieces can be joined to look seamless; stands up to heat and impact.

Cons: Scratches easily; can become discolored when exposed to prolonged heat.

GRANITE

Pros: Very strong — it stands up to heavy and hot pots, spills, and knives; comes in lots of colors and variations.

Cons: Needs to be sealed annually; full slabs can look different from the store samples and vary from piece to piece.

STAINLESS STEEL

Pros: Stands up to heat and resists stains; waterproof, so it can be used with an undermounted or integrated sink.

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Cons: Dents and scratches easily; shows fingerprints; best not to use for food preparation.

CONCRETE

Pros: Tints and textures offer a custom counter; stone shards can be incorporated.

Cons: Chips and scratches easily; susceptible to hairline cracks.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.