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.