What to Consider When Replacing Kitchen Counters

replacing kitchen counters

Your kitchen countertops can define the whole look of the room.

It’s also a massive undertaking to replace them, most of us don’t want to spend a whole bunch of time switching things out.

You’ll need to put some serious thought into making sure that you’ve got everything in order before you buy.

No worries, we’ve compiled this guide to make replacing kitchen counters less stressful than you’ve ever imagined. Read on and learn what you need to take into account before you even begin.

Questions to Ask Yourself

You’ll need to ask yourself some questions before you begin selecting the material, color, and other pieces of your new countertop.

If you answer all of these, then you’ll have a much easier time making a final decision.

  • Am I happy with my current material?
  • What’s my budget?
  • How much care am I willing to put in?

You don’t need to write them down, maybe apart from the budget, but keep these in mind as you continue to move forward.

The Material

The material that you use when you’re replacing your countertops should take top priority. While you’ll also need to tie the room together, which we’ll get to in a moment, it’s the material which determines just how functional your countertop will be.

Many of us are happy with the material we’re using. If that’s the case, then you’re in good hands and should be able to simply swap it out for the desired coloration and patterning.

On the other hand, if you’re completely new then you’ll want to know what kind of materials are out there.

Laminate Materials

Laminates, such as Formica, have begun to fall out of favor as time has gone on. They’ve seen a minor recent resurgence simply due to the number of colors and patterns available. You really won’t be able to match it anywhere else.

Laminates also tend to be cheaper than most options. This comes at the price of durability and longevity, however. They also don’t look as “polished” as most other options, simply due to the seams which aren’t able to be effectively hidden. 

Another difficulty is that the material is nearly impossible to repair once it’s been chipped.

Granite and Marble

Granite and marble fall under pretty much the same category. These elegant countertops add a sophisticated flair and longevity that can be hard to match, let alone beat.

They’re also heavy, quite expensive, and require a bit of maintenance if you’re seeking to make sure they stay stain free. DIY-installation also ranges from “outright impossible” to “extremely difficult” depending on who you ask.

Granite countertops come in a variety of patterns, and no two pieces will be the same in the end.

Both types of stone are also vulnerable to acid damage, so be sure to wipe up any spills of things like coffee as quickly as possible. Add in the fact that these stones need to be sealed annually and they’re a lot of work. In the end, however, it’s all for that incomparable finish.

Soapstone

Soapstone countertops can add a rustic, vintage look to your kitchen. They’re also not as soft as you’d think, although they’re sure to pick up scratches over time. After firing the soapstone goes from being extremely soft to relatively hard on the Moh’s scale.

It’s relatively inexpensive compared to granite, although softer. It also develops a patina over time which many people find adds to the whole aesthetic.

The main problem here is durability, at least compared to the other types of stone commonly used in countertops.

Engineered Stone

While it’s often called “Quartz”, engineered stone countertops are a man-made solution to the countertop equation. There are many brands, such as Silestone and 

They’re… well, they’re pretty awesome all the way around. While they may not have as naturalistic of a look as granite and marble, these engineered stones were made specifically to be used and it shows in practice.

The main problem with them is that they’re also rather expensive, so you’re not saving money if you decide to go this route instead of natural stone.

If you’re looking for something really unique, however, recycled glass countertops have pretty much the same material capabilities.

Hard Surface

These countertops were once the cutting edge. Originally created to replicate the look of stone, these countertops are fabricated through the use of resins and acrylics to create a good surface.

They sit in the middle between laminates and real stone in price range. This can be problematic in the end, since they have some unique vulnerabilities. The biggest one is that they’ll take heat damage from pots and pans.

They’re easy to repair and someone with a couple of friends to help carry the countertops could probably install them on their own.

Ceramic Tiles

Tiles can be a great alternative to the normally solid countertop. They’re relatively cheap, unless you go the full custom route, and they’re easy to install.

The problems that are inherent to them are pretty much the same as any other tile, however. They can crack under heavy impact, grout can be a pain to clean, and going the custom route gets expensive quickly.

One nice thing: you can tie them directly to the backsplash, creating a wholly cohesive look.

Wood

Some people still use wood countertops, although it’s uncommon to see them across the whole kitchen. Instead, many people have found that the best use for wood is as an accent counter or for an island.

While attractive, they do tend to damage more easily than virtually any other type of countertop. If you don’t mind the weathered, vintage look then that’s great but some do.

Wood comes in both dark and light varieties, in varying hardnesses, and really isn’t the most popular counter type in the modern world.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel isn’t all that common in homes. It’s a lot of work to install, will require a professional, and it’s definitely not cheap. It also tends to be noisier than the majority of other materials.

If a modern, sleek look is what you’re after then it’s great. Just make sure you go with a heavy gauge of the material, the thin stuff will tend to dent and warp if hit too hard.

There’s a reason for its use in commercial kitchens: it’s easy to clean and sanitize. It’s non-porous, won’t take stains, is harder than most kitchen knives, and is all around a low maintenance counter.

They can be quite expensive, but for the serious chef it’s hard to think of a worthy alternative.

Getting the Look

While it would be wonderful if we could just slap down a great looking piece of stone and have everything be great from the outset… that’s rarely the case. Unless you’re willing to repaint cabinets, match the flooring, and go through a full renovation you’ll probably want to match colors.

For most people, this will be pretty simple. Even repainting or staining cabinets isn’t that big of a task for the average person and it’s relatively cheap. The flooring is probably the most important piece to match your new countertop to.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have a matching backsplash installed to keep a seamless look across the kitchen. If not matching, then whatever you put up should compliment the counter itself.

There’s a big one many people overlook as well, which is undercabinet lighting. It’s a great thing to have, and many of us love it, but it can also cause quite a bit of glare if you’re using it over a highly polished countertop such as granite.

Overall, responsibility for the aesthetic is going to fall on you unless you’re hiring an interior designer. Give any choice of materials careful thought before you decide on them. A kitchen which clashes is a kitchen which is going to end up costing you more money in the near future.

Professional or DIY Installation?

Hiring a professional to install your countertop can get expensive. Of course, with some materials, you really don’t have a choice unless you happen to work in the field yourself.

If you do pick a material in which you can use either an outside contractor or do it yourself you’ll want to take a look at how much time you’ll have to put into the project and decide if it’s worth it to you.

Just make sure that you find a reputable counter contractor when you’re choosing someone to protect your investment.

As a general rule, not only will hiring a professional give you a better end result… it’ll also be a lot faster than you’re able to manage yourself.

Measuring for Your Countertop Replacement

Once you’ve found the material you want to replace your kitchen counter with, it’s time to invest a little bit more time to make sure everything is just right.

Before you go shopping through fabricators, it’s important to make sure that you have accurate measurements. The easiest way to do this is simply to divide your counter into rectangular sections.

In the case of ledges or curves, things get a bit trickier.

Curves should simply be measured as a rectangle, using the widest point of the curve.

Ledges should be measured as a square piece since the fabricator is most likely going to try to cut it from a single piece of slab or material.

Once you have your measurements you’ll simply need to call and order your countertop fabricator. In many cases they will also have the installation technicians you need to get things into place as well.

Don’t Forget Construction Time

Most people plan events around their kitchen. Whether it’s entertaining friends for cocktails or a child’s birthday party, many home activities are quite focused around this vital area.

That means you’ll need to take into account construction time when you’re getting ready to replace your counters. Most small-to-medium jobs will only take a single day if you hire a professional, but larger kitchens can take two or three.

Indeed, in a regular kitchen about three to five hours, or a bit more than that for stone, is fairly standard.

Home installs will usually take twice as long, especially if you’ve never done it before. An amateur can probably install a laminate countertop in an afternoon, but the time is going to go up with better materials.

Sourcing Your Materials

Kitchen counters take a beating, no matter what material you’re using. Natural materials like granite and marble can vary in quality from supplier to supplier. There’s just a lot that can wrong with the stone.

When you’re looking to find your materials you should use only the very best sources. It will cost you more, admittedly, but good stone will last longer and look better.

Shop around, but don’t go cheap to cut corners on a budget. You’ll end up regretting it in the end.

Time to Start Replacing Kitchen Counters

So, are you ready to get going? Replacing kitchen counters is going to be one of the biggest choices you’ll make in home renovations. It’s important to know what’s out there, where to find it, and who’s going to install it.

It can also be one of the best choices you’ve ever made.

If you think you’re ready, then we’re here to stand beside you. Contact us for a quote today, and get started on the kitchen you’ve always wanted.