Countertops for All Lifestyles

With so many materials to choose from, make sure you know what’s right for your client.

While generational differences may influence preferences in kitchen aesthetics, looks shouldn’t be the only factor in the selection of an appropriate countertop. More than decoration, these hardworking surfaces undergo regular abuse and require proper maintenance to preserve their performance and appearance. Given the variety of materials currently trending, understanding the functional qualities and cost of each will ensure a countertop that your client — regardless of age — will love.

Select a countertop your clients will love

Easy-living quartz

A favorite of consumers, from Baby Boomer to Millennial, is quartz, and with good reason. Nonporous, it’s impervious to stains, acid and scratches, and comes in numerous colors and patterns, including faux stone and concrete, so there’s something for everyone. The material stands up to heat, but a trivet is recommended under hot cookware. Unlike natural stone, quartz countertops don’t have to be sealed, and clean easily — both strong selling points. Quartz runs $100–$200 per sq. ft. for materials and installation, according to CounterTop Guides.

Easy-living quartz

Rock-solid granite

Though waning in popularity, granite remains a top choice for those who prefer the beauty of natural stone. As Jamie Gold, the owner of a kitchen and bath design firm in San Diego, California, notes, “There is no finer artist than Mother Nature.” One of the hardest surfaces available, granite is durable and heat-resistant but can chip if something heavy is dropped on it. Moreover, periodic sealing is a must to prevent staining, says Gold. Granite comes in a range of grades and prefab slabs are available. Expect to pay between $100 and $250 per sq. ft. for custom work, according to CounterTop Guides.

Rock solid granite

Concrete considerations

Concrete may be trending among young urbanites, but concrete countertops — not so much, according to designer Patricia Gaylor. As a surface material, concrete is tough and long-lasting and an attractive complement for modern kitchens. Countertops can be customized with myriad pigments or embedded objects. But concrete is porous and must be regularly sealed to protect against staining. Although concrete is heat-resistant, its sealants sometimes are not. Costs can run $64–$135 per sq. and more for custom designs, according to Concrete Network.

Concrete considerations

Laminate goes hip

Budget-minded consumers young and old may want to consider laminate, which provides performance and easy upkeep. Available in a dizzying variety, today’s laminate designs not only ably mimic wood and stone, but also boast hip, funky graphics perfect for young homeowners, says Kate Fortlage, director of strategy and innovation at Formica® Group, North America. In fact, Formica “has made a concentrated effort to introduce new designs that younger consumers would enjoy,” Fortlage says. And thanks to edge profiles, brown seam lines are a thing of the past, replaced by continuous, finished edges.

Laminate goes hip

And there’s more

Other common countertops include wood, stainless steel, and solid surface. A warm addition to any kitchen, wood tops are good for cutting when in butcherblock form but do not come cheap and should be sealed regularly to prevent warping or bacterial growth. By comparison, stainless steel and solid surface are more maintenance-friendly and can be fabricated with an integral sink, thus eliminating seams that trap dirt or bacteria. Both are nonporous and durable, but stainless is not scratch-proof, and solid surface can develop a dull film if water is allowed to dry on it.

Try wood, stainless steel, and solid countertops

Helping your client choose an appropriate countertop can be a complicated process. Simplify it by knowing not only what’s available but also what your clients will love looking at and live with, whatever their lifestyle