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Cheap Countertops

Exploring the Relative Range of Prices for Kitchen and Bathroom Counters

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Cambria Quartz Countertops - Whitehall

Cambria Quartz Countertops - Whitehall

Copyright/Courtesy Cambria USA
Is there such a thing as cheap countertops? I would be careful about throwing out terms like "cheap counters" because it's a bit like talking about cheap new cars: some new cars are less expensive than others, but new cars are always pricey. Since everything is relative, let's talk about what's cheaper than another thing in the world of countertops.

Some types of countertop materials will literally break your budget, ensuring that nothing else in your kitchen or bathroom gets remodeled until you can put together more funds. Other countertop materials help you strike a better balance. Remember that it's not just about the materials; you've got fabrication and installation to think about, too. Often, it's the materials that drive the fabrication/installation costs up or down.

Let's start with the most expensive countertop materials and work on down to the cheap countertops.

Insanely High Cost Countertops

  • Slab Granite
    Slab granite typically ranks as the most expensive countertop material precisely for the reasons listed about. The material is pricey (it's usually imported). Fabrication is difficult. Installation requires professionals. Slab granite is never a DIY project.
  • Concrete
    Again, high-end. Concrete countertops rank neck-and-neck with slab granite in terms of cost. Even though the material seems ordinary enough, it is usually tinted and treated to make it something more resembling a kitchen countertop than a backyard patio. But the real cost-driver is fabrication and installation. Not only must professional install concrete counters, but unlike solid-surface, laminate, and even slab granite, you won't find a lot of shops specializing in concrete counters.
  • Quartz Countertops
    Quartz countertops, even though they are man-made (out of mostly organic materials), still come at a high price. Quartz counters lately have become a favorite alternative to slab granite. Cambria and Zodiaq are two popular brands of quartz countertops.

Moderately Priced Countertops

  • Modular Granite: Pedra, Etc.
    With modular granite, the cost comes down precipitiously. For one, we're not talking giant, uninterrupted expanses of granite. Modular granite is bigger than tile, smaller than slab. This means that slices of modular granite can be handled by one or two people and can even by installed by yourself.
  • Solid-Surface
    Solid-surface: that's the industry term for man-made, polymer-based countertop materials like Corian and Silestone. It's surprising that the cost of solid-surface materials ranks pretty close to the cost of organic materials.

Cheap Countertops

  • Tile Granite
    Now we're finally getting into the range of cheap countertops. Tile granite typically comes in 12" or 16" squares, and no mail order costs are involved: go down to your local tile store, Lowe's, or Home Depot and there it is. Not only that, but tile granite can be installed with epoxies rather than mortar. And with the tiles fitted close together, this eliminates the need to grout between the tiles. Granite—any natural stone—will be an expensive material. But with tile granite, you can bring the cost of installation down to zero dollars.
  • Laminate Counters
    Laminate: Formica, Wilsonart, and so on. It's possible to purchase expensive laminate counter materials, but more often than not you'll find that laminate is cost-effective.
  • Ceramic Tile
    Ceramic tile has long been a favorite choice for cheap countertops. If you're so inclined, you can purchase hit rock-bottom prices by purchasing white 6"x6" semi-gloss tile for 4 cents a square foot and install it yourself yourself. Add some bullnoses and corners and a backplash, and you've got a cheap countertop. Seams are the big problem with ceramic tile counters, though, and discerning home buyers who are also avid cooks tend to look down on ceramic tile counters.
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