Solid Surface Countertops
I was in the K & B business back when Dupont was the sole producer of 'solid surface' acrylic countertops we all know as Corian®. With no competition, Corian® was produced in only 3 (nasty) colors. I recall the day they actually added a 4th color... pure white. That was big industry news back then, wow.
Today, many years past the patent expiration, at least 10 other manufacturers produce the identical product...100% acrylic...essentially a man-made plastic. Names like Staron®, Hi-Macs® and many others. Funny how adding competition changes things, today Corian® has to offer over 100 colors just to keep up!
For clarification purposes here it's important to understand one thing...."Corian®"...."solid surface"....and "acrylic" all imply the same material. The following sentence might help clear that up....
"Solid surface countertops are made from an acrylic formula, invented by the Dupont company who markets their product as Corian®. Today Dupont's Corian® has a lot of exact formula competition"
Below is a list of a few other brands offering acrylic solid surface.
Regarding the "Corian® vs Granite" discussion, It's going to be hard for me to hide my bias. You may notice that. Here are some facts that may be helpful about solid surface for your kitchen.
- Remember that despite all the different brand names of solid surface material, they are all made with exact same formula. 100% acrylic. So it is strictly a color competition.
- No matter what you are told about durability and repair, the truth is these products will scratch easier than plastic laminate, and the do-it-yourself repair kit that comes standard with any purchase of solid surface is evidence of that. Yes, you might be able to get the scratch out, but the sheen will never be the same as the adjacent areas.
- The feature of a seamless integral kitchen is not really a feature at all. This eliminates the option of ever changing out the sink, and the sink is first to show the wear and tear.
- Realize that all of these acrylic products are only 1/2" thick! All the exposed edges are fabricated to create the illusion of thickness. Don't stand on these tops to change a lightbulb.
- Price wise, the only colors of corian worthy consideration for a new kitchen (the 'Private Collection' of 36 colors) will fall into a range that would easily cover the cost of dozens of beautiful granite colors.
'Corian®' and all the other acrylic products make a great product for hospitals, dental clinics, laboratories and airport bathrooms. Dupont actually never intended for their original formula to become a product for residential kitchens way back when, it just happened...that's the power of clever marketing.
Solid surface counters...illusion of thickness
Solid surface counters...reality of thickness
So...What is acrylic anyway?
In the book Textiles: Fiber to Fabric. The author, Dr. Bernard P. Corbman, explains that "basically, acrylic is a type of plastic."
Is that really a consideration for your kitchen countertops ??
I find it fascinating that anyone would even consider a 'hardened plastic' imitation of stone for countertops when the real thing is available at the same basic price point. Everything else, even plastic laminate tries to look like granite...I think we call that flattery by imitation.
As I mentioned, I have a pretty strong opinion in the Granite vs Corian debate. I have nothing against using Corian......anywhere but your kitchen.
Corian vs Granite...Granite features
Granite for a kitchen, considerations
- Lead time...100 million years, plus a month.
- Manufactured by...Mother Nature
- Durability...see ancient Egypt.
- Available colors...almost unlimited
- Pricing...10 levels including many for less than man-made solid surface.
- Maintenance...sealed by local fabricators for 15yrs*.
- True thickness... 1 1/4" solid
Two centuries ago, Vermont was the only place in the world granite was quarried. Today granite is extracted from quarries around the globe. Different colors of granite come from different corners of the world. It is not a rare stone by any means, but certain colors are much harder to get to or to transport making them more 'precious' than others.
There is no perceptible difference in granite 'quality', but there are variations in coloring and veining from slab to slab as you should expect from a truly natural material like stone.
The typical thickness for granite countertops is 3cm. or just over 1 1/4". No illusions here.
Granite is polished to a sheen before it reaches your local fabricator, but the actual sealant is applied locally. A long term 15 yr.sealer is readily available albeit an option. These sealants made by GraniteShield® and Invisashield® have made a great product (natural stone) even better.
*15yr sealer..."utilizes catalyzing polymers that penetrate the stone then carbonize the surface pores"....whatever that all means. Trust me, you want it !
Pink Granite Obelisk
Good enough for me...
I watch a lot of programming on ancient history. I find it awe inspiring when I see an obelisk from the Karnack temple in ancient Egypt made from the exact same granite as a kitchen I may have done a few months ago. How cool is that!
There are several colors of granite that will absolutely knock your socks off in full slabs. Pink Granite and Blue Pearl are two of my absolute favorites.
Pink Granite for your Kitchen
Wow...how stunning is this Granite !
Choosing your granite
There are only a few precautions to inform you choosing your granite. The display board shown here is a terrible way to show granite samples. If your source for countertops is a full service kitchen dealer or a stone fabricator, you should be encouraged to go straight to to Granite wholesaler yard and tag your slabs as yours. This is vitally important to any colors with serious veining.
Don't make any other product selections (flooring, cabinets) based on your preliminary color choice from samples. When you actually get to see dozens of colors in full slab form, you might change your mind. Picking your granite is like a kid in a candy store. You will suddenly see a lot of colors that might be subtle in a small piece but eye-popping in full sheets. It's actually a fun trip.
Granite in full slabs
Bring your kitchen plans
Budgeting for Granite counters.
If you have been countertop shopping, no doubt you have run into the 'price per sq. ft.' means of promoting granite (49.95 s/f) ..What the heck does that mean to you and your kitchen? Geez, I hardly get it.
Anytime you see advertised pricing based on square ft., it's a simple attention grabber. You have no idea how many square feet you really need.
Even if you did know the math, realise that any advertised s/f price is often a barebones price. Your choice of edge detailing, undermount sink cut-outs and sealant are all add-ons, and plumbing work is all extra.
It is almost impossible to 'price shop' your countertops without a top view plan of your new or existing kitchen. Even with that, you may have to wait for an estimate.
For a realistic budget, try to add up the 'lineal' or 'running' feet of your new kitchen as measured against the wall, on a peninsula and/or an island. That should be 22' or less for a small kitchen, 22-33' for an average kitchen, over 33' would be a big kitchen. Anyway, take whatever that total is x 225.00. ...So if yours adds up to 20 lineal feet....take that 20 x 225.00 = $4,500.00. Using that pricing would cover dozens of spectacular colors, a premium edge detail, full installation, undermounting your sink and a 15yr sealant.
Soapstone countertop and sink
Soapstone is not a brand name as most believe. It is another quarried stone that has some popularity for kitchen countertops. It is a talc (mineral) and quartz blend that creates a beautiful surface in the black/grey tones (always) and is often mistaken for slate.
The same thing that makes soapstone popular is also its biggest detriment. It's soft. In fact it feels like a fresh bar of soap. It will scratch easily. It is fabricated using very basic tools, maybe even as a diy project.It will darken with use and treatment, which creates a lot of character. I far prefer it for light use areas, like dry bars and buffet tops.
A note on soapstone sinks as is pictured above... visually dramatic but terribly impractical. Note the square inside corners of the sink...enough said??
Quartz vs Granite
Quartz. Quartz is a unique product made in Italy and China. It is all mixed the same way...93% crushed quartz and 7% resin and filler to rebond the quartz composite into a sheet form. So, once again it's simply a color contest.
Quartz is very durable, in fact it requires the same diamond tip tools as granite to fabricate. But it just does not have the character of most granites colors and prices toward the upper end of the granite range. You can count on one sheet matching the next so it's color reliable in sample pieces. There are some new adds to the quartz offering I have yet to see. If exciting or unique I'll be back here to edit. Until then... you know what I recommend.
Update: I stand corrected on quartz. Cambria brand quartz is actually made in the USA, albeit the same formulation. I have seen a few of the newest Cambria quartz colors in full sheets and love them. Quartz has gone way beyond the original brown and beige monotone colors into a full spectrum of veined and muti color random patterns....and I love random. The images above are from the Cambria Waterfall collection of quartz colors.
Undermounted stainless steel sinks.
Choosing your kitchen sink
Using Granite or any other natural material for your kitchen will dictate the use of an undermounted stainless (or composite) sink.That's a good thing!
The most often used sink is a large bowl/small bowl configuration. I like those. But everybody does their clean-up differently. Personally, I prefer a deep, oversized single bowl. Kraus, Elkay and Franke' all offer a wide array of undermounted stainless steel sinks.
Beware of the 'shiny' finish on stainless steel. Franke and Bella both offer a beautiful looking high lustre finish as a standard which will show permanent and irreparable scratches in a short time. I recommend Elkay & Krauss for stainless and Blanco 'silgranite' for quartz (composite) sinks.
Finally here, if you've never used custom fit stainless steel grids for your kitchen sink, they make a wonderful accessory that serves multiple purposes. Please consider at least one for your new sink.
Replacing countertops only...
Just a quick note to anyone considering a kitchen 'facelift'...planning new countertops over existing cabinets.
I have sold/supervised plenty of 'countertops only' jobs. But always with a warning. If you are going to pay the big ticket for new countertops (other than Formica),without replacing the cabinets and/or improving the existing layout...you are basically committed to the existing kitchen layout, function and actual cabinets... forever. You are creating a precise footprint with new (and permanent) countertops. Do you understand what I mean? I cringe every time I am asked to do such a project.
Planning your own kitchen? Need help?
Getting ready to remodel or building a new home? Be sure to see my profile page for contact info.
For more on kitchen planning...
- Kitchen design tips...Angie's List vs Home Advisor
Angie's List and Home Advisor are at war with each other in the business of finding you a contractor. Yes you need referrals, which one, and why.
- Kitchen Design Tips...
Planning your own kitchen....my best kitchen design tips and advice with pictures!
- Kitchen Design Tips...buyer be aware....
Planning a new kitchen is often a once in a lifetime occurrence. We all know HOW to spend 30,000 on a new car...but a new kitchen?? Grab some inside knowledge before you begin..
- Kitchen design tips...Choosing the right refrigerator.
Your choice for refrigeration is perhaps the single most important product selection. Don't screw it up. Allow me to explain.
- Kitchen planning...your cooking appliances.
Big, important decisions on your cooking appliances...Every new kitchen I have ever planned starts with the clients appliance preferences. This article is specific to built-in cooking vs. freestanding
Melody on July 28, 2018:
Very great article about issues you need to know about counter tops & sinks and what to use. It is very important to pick out the slab since you are paying a high price for it. Learned a lot!!
RTalloni on May 04, 2018:
Thanks for this look at countertop products. Helpful.
LinStory from Seattle,WA on September 17, 2014:
Another excellent article.
We have had CORIAN (Dupont) in our kitchen for about 9 yrs. When we bought it , there were so many colors to choose from, and since we were very specific about the counter-top's color, we went w/ CORIAN. Actually , I simply loved the stuff for all these years and never a problem. It is so easy to maintain . In our kitchen, the CORIAN looked amazing & especially with the lighter colored cabinets that we had.
I has been 9 years and now that we want to change the kitchen cabinets and flooring, we have decided to go w/ QUARTZ.