Upgrading Your Kitchen Counter Top

Maybe your kitchen is a bit dated or you just would like a new counter top and you are wondering what type to purchase, how much it will cost and what is needed to install it. We will try to answer a few of these questions here and some  you may not have considered.

To begin with, it is not just about the counter top. In fact for most people as soon as you decide to make one change, you will quickly find out that the new counter top makes everything else look  really old or at least outdated. The cup boards need to be at least painted, re-stained or just replaced. The sink and the faucet will need to be updated since they will usually not match with the new counter top and then there are the appliances.  The existing appliances  may all work properly, but they just will not look good with that new counter top.

Consider that you might be thinking of a new built in oven and counter top heating system. As soon as you go for that change then the microwave, the fridge and the dish washer will need to be changed so that everything will match. While you are at it why not replace the floor and the lighting system. I know of two families who got started this way and ended up spending $32,000 and $40,000 each.  One even had to rewire every thing because the existing wiring was not up to code! We added this paragraph to warn people that it is not just a new counter top once you get going.

Types of Kitchen Counter Tops

There are five basic types of counter top that consumers can chose from, which are listed below. We will expand on each of these to give you a bit of a description. Within each type there are many colors and styles to choose from along with the back splash that goes along with them. They all have advantages and disadvantages which we will also try to cover to help you choose between one or the other.

  • Laminate
  • Ceramic Tile
  • Solid Surface
  • Natural Quartz
  • Granite


Laminate is the most common material used by builders in all new homes as the basic kitchen counter top. In most cases this will be the base and everything else will be an upgrade if you are buying a new home. This is likely what you have in your home if you have never upgraded your home. Laminate is usually a plywood or particle board material with plastic laminate sheeting glued to the wood. This is the least expensive option for new homes as well as replacing an existing counter top. It is also the material that will wear quickly and may show marks from sharp objects and hot items unless you are really careful and use cutting boards all of the time to protect it.

There are lots of colors available for this material and is relatively easy to install and work with.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is just what the words describe. These are tiles that are glued to the wooden counter underneath with grout to fill in between the tiles. They are very durable, easy to clean and they resist heat, water, bacteria and also stains. Caution is needed regarding the grout you select since a light material will show stains etc easily. Also it is recommended that you seal the surface of the grout to protect it from food stains etc. Your local building warehouse experts can provide you with guidance on these issues and the materials to utilize.

Solid Surface

These materials are made from polyester or acrylic resins. They are durable, smooth and easy to clean. Apparently they resist heat, however personally I would always use a pad underneath anything that is hot. Water, bacteria and stains are no problem for this material and it never requires sealing.  Some people think it feels like natural stone, while having a more uniform appearance and lots of color choices. If you are opting for an under mount sink option you can do this with these materials.

Natural Quartz

These counter tops are made with a combination of quartz, resins and pigments. They are very smooth and durable and consumers find them easy to clean.Again these counter tops resist heat, however I would always use a pad under anything hot to avoid potential damage to the resins. Water, bacteria and stains are no problem and you do not need to seal the counter top to protect it. There are lots of color choices and you can also mount an under mount sink if this is something you are interested in.


Granite is the most expensive and the most durable. It is easy to keep clean, however consumers must realize that granite must be sealed and must be properly maintained.  Granite is smooth and resists heat as well as water and stains provided that is sealed properly. It also resists bacteria. With granite you can also mount under mount sinks. Everyone we know is upgrading to granite, but we are beginning to wonder why since it seems to take more maintenance and it is more expensive. For example, granite counter tops need to be cleaned and then re-sealed every two years.

Installation of Your New Counter Top

Unless you are a skilled do it your self handy man, most consumers will opt for the store to arrange for installation of the counter top regardless of which one you purchase. If you make a mistake, you have to purchase another counter top, while if the  installer makes a mistake, well it is the stores issue to deal with.

Coordination with a plumber and electrician will be required. The existing sink and faucet will need to be removed and either reinstalled or replaced with new products once the new counter top is completely installed. You will also have to provide the installer with the dimensions of the sink so that the proper sized hole can be cut to accommodate the sink you select.

The same applies to built in counter top ovens. The electrician will need to disconnect and remove the old one and then reconnect it once the counter top is installed. If you are installing a brand new unit, the counter top installer will need the dimensions of the counter top oven so that he again can cut the proper sized hole.

Once your kitchen is completed, even if you just replaced the counter top you will be amazed at the difference. It will add value to your home and a new life to your kitchen.


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