If you’re after a more personalized look, several companies provide options for customization. Atlanta-based Craft-Art offers exotic woods like Teak and Tigerwood, in addition to eco-friendly reclaimed woods. The Grothouse Lumber Company lets customers choose from more than 40 wood species and stains and more than 30 edge profiles to create a one-of-a-kind work surface. Bamboo countertops, such as those by Totally Bamboo in San Marcos, Calif., provide a sustainable option that is also slightly more durable than maple. The company sells countertops for $35 per square foot. "People feel good about using this renewable resource and they are surprised that they can get such beauty and strength without breaking the bank or the environment,” says Tom Sullivan, company president.
Concrete Once thought of as a basic construction and paving material, concrete has taken on a decorative focus as a countertop material in the kitchen and bath. These counters work in both contemporary and traditional spaces, depending on the color and shape of the finished product. Standard 1 1/2-inch thick countertops can run anywhere from $65 to $135 per square foot, and concrete counters can be customized by embedding stones, glass, seashells and other elements in the concrete during fabrication. Applying a sealer will help concrete resist water and stains. Find a local contractor through the Concrete Network.
Customized glass countertops can look like works of art. Photo courtesy of Think Glass.
Glass For something unexpected, glass countertops introduce practicality and beauty to kitchen and bath spaces. Non-porous, hygienic and impervious to stains, they can be wiped up with common glass cleaner. Think Glass manufacturers luxury countertops, between $200 and $300 per square foot, that are 1 1/2 inches thick or more. Although glass counters can scratch, placing a texture beneath the surface allows those scratches to be less noticeable.
Vetrazzo offers countertop surfaces made of 85 percent recycled glass glued together with cement, additives, pigments and other recycled materials, such as fly ash. The company says the product is comparable in strength, scratch resistance, thermal resistance and durability to granite. Like granite, the surface can etch if exposed to acidic liquids, but chips and etches can be repaired by authorized fabricators.
Porcelain For many years, homeowners chose 4x4-inch tile or 1-inch mosaic tile as a cost-effective choice for kitchen and bath countertops. Unfortunately, many found that grout lines were difficult to keep clean. Today, some Italian porcelain tile manufacturers are giving homeowners a reason to go back to tile, thanks to large-format slabs made out of porcelain. A practical alternative to natural stone, porcelain is highly heat-, scratch- and food-resistant and easy to maintain with common household cleaners.
Italian tile manufacturer Mirage now offers slabs up to 49 inches x 70 inches in size that can be fabricated into countertops, complete with cutouts for sinks and grooves for drying dishes. The slabs come in 40 colors, mimicking the look of natural granite, marble and slate, and can be produced up to 1 1/4-inch deep and with a honed or polished finish. “Porcelain is harder and more impervious than granite, so you need a good fabricator that uses stronger tools to cut the material,” said Daniele Bertacchi, area manager for Mirage.
There are a lot of countertop options available, and it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each material before choosing a surface. If you are realistic about your budget, lifestyle and the amount of time you have to devote to maintenance, you will be sure to choose the countertop material right for your home.