Which Bathroom Countertop Material is Best?

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Remodeling a bathroom can be an expensive proposition. But, replacing a bathroom counter top is a relatively inexpensive project. It all depends on which countertop material is used. Laminate countertops can be as little as $550 for an 18-foot counter, marble or exotic stone can run 10 times that cost.

Lifestyle, maintenance and choices

Today’s bathrooms are featuring more exotic materials. It is not unusual to find countertops of: concrete, granite, limestone, marble and stainless steel as a lifestyle choice.

  • Bathroom counters don’t receive the wear and tear of kitchens. Still, it is a good idea to discuss the durability and maintenance of exotic materials with a qualified installer or the manufacturer.
  • There are an amazing range of color, textures and finishes available for today’s countertops. Instead of looking at postage stamp sized samples, manufacturers’ websites now offer digital brochures, as well as smart phone and iPad apps that can help match the new counter to your taste. Online guides will let you try various materials and colors in a virtual environment.

Stone and granite countertops

  • Stone and granite counters are stain-resistant and breathtaking. Stone is the material of choice for high-end bathrooms that demand style. It is durable and easy to maintain, requiring little more than periodic sealing every six months. Stone can be cleaned with warm water and a liquid detergent. Avoid abrasive cleaners that can dull the surface.
  • Be aware that stone slabs will vary greatly from slab to slab. It is best to go to a stone yard and make the final choice.
  • Costs run from $75 to $200 per installed linear foot.

Quartz countertops

  • Quartz is actually a manufactured material that blends stone chips, resins and pigments for the look of limestone, granite or marble.
  • It offers the advantage of being even more resistant to scratches and stains and doesn’t require sealing. Most quartz is 90 percent quartz particles and is a synthetic composite in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses. Four companies; Silestone, Okite, CaesarStone and DuPont's Zodiaq make more than 130 manufactured quartz countertops. Quartz is the material of choice for a countertop with a specialized edging.
  • Costs run from $110 to $250 per installed linear foot.

Tile countertops

  • Ceramic tile has traditionally been the material of choice for bathroom countertops. It’s available in an almost limitless selection of colors, glazes and patterns. The downside to tile has been the need to clean the grout. However, many modern tiles are very large, which reduces the number of grout lines.
  • The myriad types of ceramic and porcelain tiles, including ones that have a metallic glaze, allow for fabulous new design ideas. Tiles can be combined with other materials such as glass or concrete.
  • Tile should be cleaned with ordinary household detergent.
  • Costs run from $2 to $40 per tile. For hand painted tiles $5 to $75 a tile installed.

Concrete

  • Bathroom countertops of concrete can create a unique one-of-a-kind look. Concrete is custom-formed by a local fabricator and can be tinted, textured and even include stone chips.
  • Concrete countertops can be rough and rustic with concrete stamps and brush patterns. Some include inlaidcoloredglass or old coins. Or, for a smoothed, polished look, the top surface can be ground down with diamond polishing stone, and coated with multiple layers of epoxy sealer for a high sheen or flat, buffed look.
  • Colors and textures will vary. Concrete is considered the most durable material available. Use proper sealants and regular cleaning and they will last a lifetime.
  • Stain-resistant concrete is slightly more expensive.
  • Clean with non-abrasive cleansers and avoid harsh pads that can scratch the surface.
  • Costs run from $70 to $175 per installed linear foot.
Concrete with decorative glass mixed in:

Laminates

  • Laminate countertops are generally manufactured from layers of paper or fabric and impregnated with resin over a composition wood. Laminates offer a lower-priced option when compared to other countertop materials. They are ideal for areas of heavy use but minimal abuse. Choices include hundreds of patterns, interesting colors and textures and detailed edges. Laminates typically show seams on the front edge and between the backsplash and counter. Post-forming is a process that melds adjoining sections, making them look continuous, but these are available in fewer color choices.
  • Most laminates will resist stains, impact and heat. Some will also withstand abrasive pads. The material is not considered trendy, but is a good choice for a remodel on a tight budget.
  • Costs run from $80 to $130 per installed linear foot.

Solid surfaces

  • One of the most popular countertop options available is a solid-surface counter. They are created to resemble natural stone. You’ll recognize the brand names: Corian, Staron, Gilbraltar and Avonite. They are an easy-to-maintain synthetic product for countertops and can be molded to fit any design. Solid-surface materials are also mold and mildew resistant. The nonporous, hypoallergenic surface discourages the growth of allergens.
  • Solid-surface countertops are nonporous and easy to clean with simple household detergents.
  • Costs run from $75 to $150 per installed linear foot.

Comparing costs of countertops

There are several key factors to consider when choosing a new countertop for the bathroom: price, maintenance and appearance.

  • The budget may be the most restrictive consideration. Stone or quartz will be at the high end of materials running $75 to $250 per installed linear foot. But, there are cost saving options such as using tiles that simulate marble or granite. Or, choose a thinner stone material and maintain that same high-end look.
  • Tile or solid-surface countertops are both mid-price choices. Tile countertops can run as little as $25 per installed linear foot up to $150 depending on the tile choices. Solid surface counters start at $75 a linear foot up to $200 per installed linear foot. And there are many choices in both materials that mimic the look of stone and other materials for a high-end look at a mid-range price.
  • Laminate countertops will be the most affordable choice. They still offer a wide variety of colors and styles; many are created to look like granite and high-end materials at a cost of $80 to $130 per installed linear foot.

Whichever material fits into the budget, installing new bathroom countertops is one of the easiest ways to express a sense of style in your home. Review the choices and feel confident about selecting the countertop that will work with your home’s lifestyle for years to come.

Last Updated: December 28, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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