Kitchen countertop trends come and go, and what's hot right now won't be forever. (Read: Kitchen Remodeling Trends to Follow or Skip) If decorating tastes change like they always have, the costly granite you see in every decorating magazine will one day seem as dated as some older laminates look today.
So if you can't afford to have a slab honed and perfected for your kitchen, don't worry. You've got lots of other countertop materials to choose from. They're beautiful, resilient, and they're also something different from every other house on the block.
Kitchen Countertop Option #1: Wood
Don't let it fool you. Of course wood can scratch, warp, burn and fall prey to a number of different problems. But no more than laminate. And wood has a warmth that no other material can match. Remember that baseball bats are made of hickory wood, and they hold up to a lot of abuse.
Wood can be very inexpensive, or high end. The prices range from about $18 to $130 per square foot, according to Countertop Guides. With the right care, a wood countertop can keep its good looks for many years. And unlike some other materials, you can sand out some types of damage and refinish it to look as good as new. A little beeswax and mineral oil are all you'll need to keep this countertop looking great.
Kitchen Countertop Option #2: Stainless Steel
Stainless steel countertops have a longstanding reputation for durability and easy to clean. They require very little special attention, since you can just wipe them down and go. Fingerprints can be a problem, but a matte finished stainless helps alleviate that.
Stainless isn't cheap, as Countertop Guide says it comes in at about $30 to $90 per square foot. But it makes up for it in longevity and maintenance ease. This is the most popular choice for professional kitchens. If you want a kitchen that you can really get down to business in, stainless might be the right choice for you.
Kitchen Countertop Options #3: Tile
Wait! This isn't your mother's tile countertop. Although the traditional 4-inch glazed ceramic tiles are still as available as they ever were. They're also super cheap, and today's modern tiles are anything but ordinary. If the idea of scrubbing all those grout lines is more depressing than inspiring, then you really should check out what's new.
Tiles come in extreme sizes now, some as large as the depth of a typical countertop. So while you will have a few grout lines, you don't have to settle for a 4-inch grid. Some tiles have a realistic wood grain, and some look like stone. You can even design your own tiles, hand painting or stenciling them and sending them off to be fired. And there's really nothing wrong, and a whole lot right, with the immaculate and cottage-friendly look of a pristine white ceramic tile countertop.
Your kitchen countertop takes up some prime real estate in one of the busiest rooms in the house. It needs to look great, hold up to a lot of use, last for years, and hopefully not cost a fortune. And don't forget about the back splash. (Read: Kitchen Remodeling Ideas for Beautiful Back Splashes)
While it's true that granite is one tough and good-looking customer, the investment might not be worth it in the long run. No matter how beautiful it looks today, chances are one day you'll gaze upon it the same way that your mother looked at her once-fashionable avocado green appliances.
Changing the kitchen countertop is a big investment, no matter which material you choose. A good kitchen remodeler is the best first step in getting it right. Check out Hiring a Kitchen Contractor if you're getting ready to remodel your kitchen. It will help the process go more smoothly.
PS Looking for more information on remodeling kitchens? These articles might help: