In a typical kitchen, countertops take nearly as much wear and tear as the floor. Spills and stains, damage from cutting tools and hot pans, even harsh cleaners can all take a toll on a countertop surface. Furthermore, since it is so visually prominent, an old, stained countertop can make the entire kitchen look worn and tired.
Replacing kitchen countertops can be a big, expensive project. It’s sure to improve the look of your kitchen, and improve the value of your home when it’s time for resale, but it’s not always easy to know when is the right time, and what to replace it with.
When to replace your countertops
If you aren’t sure whether your countertops need replacing, try to look at your kitchen objectively. You might also look at a photograph, to reduce the over-familiarity, or ask your friends what they think.
- If your countertops look dirty or dingy even when they are clean
- If they are difficult and time-consuming to maintain
- If they are cracked or heat damaged
- If they are badly stained
- If they don’t match the rest of the kitchen décor… it is probably time to do something about your countertops.
- If it is part of a lerger kitchen remodel.
Repair vs. Resurfacing vs. Replacement
If you decide to update your countertops, you may not need to replace them entirely. There are many options for fixing or improving your current countertops, which may help ease the burden on your budget, and the logistical challenges of replacing countertops. Remember that your old countertops are likely to go into a landfill, so extending their use is not only budget-friendly, it’s eco-friendly as well.
Depending on the material your existing countertop is made of, localized damage can often simply be repaired. If the countertop has a worn or damaged area, but is otherwise attractive and in good condition, it’s worth looking into having the damaged area repaired. This can be done by professionals, or there are DIY kits available for repairing laminate and solid surface countertops.
If the countertop is structurally sound, you might consider simply refinishing or resurfacing it. Countertops can be resurfaced either by a professional or with a DIY kit from a home center. While Pinterest and YouTube are full of beautiful countertop refinishing jobs completed by homeowners, it can be difficult for most amateurs to achieve really professional, durable results. Although it’s a great option for updating countertops on a budget, it’s not a bad idea to at least consult with a contractor and get an estimate first. It may not cost as much as you expect, and the final results will be better.
Severely damaged countertops should be replaced. You should also consider replacing countertops prior to selling your home. Many homebuyers are willing to pay a premium for high-quality countertops, and DIY resurfacing projects will make the kitchen look better, but not add much to the home’s value.
Kitchen countertop materials
Kitchen countertops are made of a vast array of different materials, and each one has benefits, drawbacks, and impacts on budget and kitchen décor. There is no “best” material for every kitchen, only the best fit for your home.
Granite is the most popular, high-end material for countertops. Granite is a natural stone, quarried from large deposits found all over the world. It is favored for kitchens due to its attractiveness and durability.
- Natural material
- Resists heat damage and scratches from knives
- When properly sealed, resistant to staining and easy to clean
- Heavy; must be professionally installed, must check weight capability of cabinets
- Corners may chip on impact
- Needs to be resealed periodically
- If it is improperly sealed, they are not only susceptible to dirt and stains, but may harbor bacteria
- Available only in light to dark shades of greys and browns
- Seams will be visible
Quartz or Marble countertops are engineered to mimic the look of natural stone without some of the unwanted properties of stone. Quartz countertops are usually made from 93% quartz stone, suspended in about 7% resin for binding and color.
- Looks like natural stone
- Because it’s manmade, it’s available in a broad array of colors, patterns, textures, and finishes
- Slightly less expensive than natural stone
- Non-porous, so it doesn’t need to be sealed and is intrinsically stain and bacteria-resistant
- Resists scratching and chipping
- Easy to clean
- Resistant to chipping
- Needs no homeowner maintenance
- Heavier than granite
- Less heat resistant than natural materials
- Will discolor in sunlight; if a portion of your counter is lit by a window, that part will discolor over time
Laminate countertops are made with a hard core of particle board with layers of hard plastic bonded over it. These are extremely common in most homes because they are inexpensive and durable.
- Available in the widest variety of colors and patterns of any countertop material
- Non-porous material is naturally stain and bacteria resistant
- Easy to clean
- Seams are easily hidden
- Needs no homeowner maintenance
- Easily scratched
- Not heat resistant
- Difficult to repair
Tile countertops are made from ceramic, glass, or porcelain tiles. Tile has been used as a building material for thousands of years, and has been used in kitchens for centuries.
- Available in a wide array of colors and patterns.
- Colors and patterns can be mixed and matched for interesting accents, décor elements, and backsplashes, making it the most expressive and artistic option for the kitchen
- Can be scaled and installed perfectly for your home and décor
- Tile itself is easy to clean
- Tile itself is inexpensive
- Tile is easy to transport and lightweight; it doesn’t require a lot of people to lift heavy slabs
- Tile itself is very durable and resists heat, scratching, and staining
- Grout needs to be periodically re-sealed to resist staining and discoloration
- Tile can be expensive to install
- Grout is not resistant to heat
Countertops can also be made from other natural stones, wood, steel, concrete countertop, and even glass and porcelain. There are options for every budget, look, and lifestyle.
When your countertops have lost their luster, there are a million ways to bring your kitchen back to life and transform it. You can choose new materials, or by simply resurfacing to make your old countertops look like new again. Given the range of options at every price range, there’s no reason to go on living with old countertops.