Granite is still king of the kitchen. Forget the trendies talking glass, soapstone, copper and concrete.
The reality is granite is still the first choice when people remodel their homes in many areas. Quartz -- brand names such as Silestone, Zodiaq and Cambria -- comes in second.
Kitchen designers and companies that fabricate countertops say the demand for granite is fueled by its relatively low price, which is competitive with quartz and Corian. It costs slightly more than laminate, which lacks the upscale aesthetic and resale appeal.
Don't be misled. Not only high-end custom kitchen designers are getting granite requests from their customers. It's also happening at home improvement centers, such as Lowe's.
"In a typical 10-by-10 kitchen, laminate will cost $1,200 installed compared to $1,600 to $1,800 for granite," says Angela Vasquez, kitchen cabinet specialist with Lowe's in Coral Springs, Fla. "When they see the difference is only $400 to $600, they go with the granite."
According to Ed Pell, manager of market research for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, which did a survey of 20,000 remodelers nationwide in August, 33 percent of countertops were laminate, 30 percent granite and 16 percent solid surface such as Corian or quartz.
"At the very narrow high end, choices are entirely different," Pell says. "A small amount of them request copper or concrete or glass."
But, says Daniel Kula, founder of Deerfield Beach, Fla, countertop fabricator Univeral Design, "Concrete and woods are fads that come and go."
Although some sources say Corian is on the decline, Vasquez says it's still popular with customers who do their research.
"They like the fact that they don't have any seams, and they like that they can have it repaired if it is scratched, burned or melted. The damage can be cut out and replaced. With stone, you aren't able to do that."
Jamie Eldridge, senior designer at Expo Design Center in Davie, Fla., says granite is still the most popular, but she also is getting requests for a new Silestone that resembles leather. Some trend-conscious remodelers are asking for stainless steel or copper, which Expo features in a wall display.
"People are definitely using copper and stainless on backsplashes," Eldridge said. "Stainless does scratch, but it's popular as countertops with people that don't cook or want it in a second home. For them, it's all about the look."
Here's information that will help you compare the materials and see which best matches your needs.
Best for: Homes without messy family members and those who want an upscale, distinctive look.
Price: $40 to $75 per square foot installed.
Pros: Natural beauty in multiple finishes and exotic colors, can pick own slab, resists heat, durable, waterproof, can be honed to produce a matte finish.
Cons: Porous and stains if not properly sealed, can scratch, bacterial concerns.
Maintenance: Needs sealing once or twice a year by homeowner.
Best for: Trophy kitchens or those that don't get a lot of use.
Price: $60 to $125 per square foot installed.
Pros: Earthy appeal that oxidizes over time to produce a dark color with light veining, non-porous, scratches can be repaired with sandpaper.
Cons: It's soft and can chip, especially on corners, limited color choice, resists germs and bacteria.
Maintenance: Leave alone or rub with mineral oil every 4 to 6 weeks.
(Silestone, Cambria, Zodiaq)
Best for: Those who cook a lot and have messy family members.
Price: $40 to $90 per square foot installed.
Pros: Durable, non-porous, resistant to scratches and stains, doesn't chip, more uniform appearance, no bacterial issues, many choices, some have 10-year warranty.
Cons: Not as natural looking, undermount sink has to be cut carefully to match.
Maintenance: Needs no sealing or refinishing. Easy to clean.
Best for: Country-look kitchen or kitchen with mixed styles of countertops.
Price: $40 to $65 per square foot installed.
Pros: Provides a warm and homey look, available in a wide range of colors and finishes, easy to clean, can be sanded and resealed, some are waterproof and scratch resistant, suited to imaginative shapes.
Cons: Can be damaged by oil and stains over time, but spills wipe up easily. Sanitize with 20 percent white vinegar and water, wipe with oil periodically.
Maintenance: Fine sandpaper removes surface scratches. Requires periodic sealing and refinishing to remove scratches, dings and dents. Apply satin finish oil to restore luster.
Best for: Ideal for pastry prep or trophy kitchens not used for much cooking.
Price: $40 to $115 per square foot installed.
Pros: Beautiful and natural looking, waterproof, heat resistant, wide range of colors.
Cons: More porous than granite so it's prone to etching and stains, bacterial issues, chips, not strong enough for heavy-use kitchens.
Maintenance: Needs annual sealing. Use mild cleaners without vinegar or citric acid.
Best for: Good choice for those who want a contemporary, industrial look and for second homes.
Price: $80 to $110 per square foot installed.
Pros: Non-porous, resists bacterial growth, variety of finishes, heat resistant, will not fade or chip, can be made with an integral sink for a seamless look.
Cons: More expensive than granite or quartz, may scratch or dent, fabrication is expensive, can't cut on it directly.
Maintenance: Like stainless appliances, can fingerprint and is time consuming to keep it looking clean. Towel dry after use. Clean with mild cleanser only.
(Corian, Swanstone, Avonite)
Best for: High-traffic kitchens where a lot of cooking is done.
Price: $49 to $63 per square foot installed.
Pros: Durable, long lasting, heat and stain resistant, non-porous, inconspicuous seams, resists bacterial growth, can be repaired easily, some offer 10-year warranty.
Cons: Falling out of fashion, not as natural looking as stone, not heat or scratch resistant.
Maintenance: Soapy water or ammonia-based cleaners will remove most dirt and stains. Minor blemishes can be sanded out or removed with mild household abrasive.
(Formica, Nevamar and Wilsonart)
Best for: Budget-minded homeowners.
Price: $30 to $40 per square foot installed.
Pros: Easy to install, resists stains and heat, durability has improved, choices are varied, including those that resemble granite.
Cons: Doesn't add as much value for resale, scratches and chips almost impossible to repair, most have visible seams although some post-formed seamless versions are available.
Maintenance: Cleans easily.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times