Kitchens sell houses. Countertops and surfaces in a kitchen can set a positive tone. Sometimes an upgrade to a countertop will transform a kitchen. When replacing a scratched, scorched, stained or just plain unattractive countertop, give careful consideration to the impact the selection will have on the overall resale value of the home. Fortunately, there are many options in a wide range of prices. 

Granite: Polished and honed granite countertops have held the popular edge amongst consumers in recent years. A natural material, each slab is unique. Color variations in the stone’s pattern compliments a wide palette of paint and accessory color options. It’s important to note that granite is porous; stains, especially from oils, wine and acids should be cleaned promptly and a yearly sealing is recommended. The installed price per square foot ranges from $60 to $150. Be prepared to pay more for exotic slabs.

Soapstone: Available in a range of gray tones from light to dark, all with subtle veining, soapstone is heat-resistant. While soapstone can scratch, the imperfections fade away or can be sanded out. Unlike other natural stones, it doesn’t require yearly sealing. However, the surface will darken when mineral oil is applied. The cost per square foot ranges from $80 to $110.

Slate: Stunning, rich and natural, slate is highly-resistant to heat, chips and scratches. Slate is anti-bacterial, chemical free, stain-resistant, noncombustible, strong and durable. Requiring less maintenance than some of the other stone surfaces, slate is available in shades of black, charcoal, gray, pewter, green, purple and red. Installed slate countertops will range in price from $80 to $120 per square foot.

Marble: The gray-toned veining in Carrara or Calacatta marble has timeless appeal and gives any kitchen a decidedly high-end look. These natural dark and light variations in the stone also help disguise wear and hide light stains. However, marble is porous so staining can be a problem. Special care with anything acidic should be taken to prevent etching and regular sealing will keep the creamy surface looking its best. Marble counters range in price from a low of $80 to a high of $175 per square foot.

Wood: Available in a wide-variety of colors, grains, thicknesses and finishes, the natural, warm-beauty of wood is an attractive option. Often mixed with other natural surfaces, wood is highly resistant to heat, durable and relatively easy to repair. Warm pots and pans can be placed on wood and, if properly sealed, butcher block is a popular prep surface. Wood countertop prices range from a low of $35 to a high of $250 installed per square foot.

Stainless Steel: The clean, bright, metallic finish of stainless steel coordinates with any color. Used in a modern industrial-style home or a country farmhouse, stainless steel inhibits bacterial buildup, making it the most hygienic countertop available. Stains clean up with a cloth and mild soap. Resistant to up to 800 degrees, so stainless steel can take the heat. The price for installed stainless steel ranges from $70 to $150 per square foot.

Concrete: Concrete countertops are highly customizable. Adding stain colors to the concrete mix, or materials such as glass or tile, create a unique kitchen surface. Regular sealing is required to prevent stains and water damage. Although the materials required to prepare and install concrete countertops are relatively inexpensive, considerable time and attention to detail is required. Be prepared to spend between $65 to $135 per square foot installed.

Laminate: First invented in 1912, laminate countertops gained general approval after World War II. Formica became the recognized brand of this heat-resistant, wipe-clean product. Today, new printing technologies combined with patterns that resemble natural stone, wood, quartz or bright, saturated colors are capturing trendy consumer’s attention. On the economic side, laminate’s budget friendly cost of $15 to $25 per square foot with installation can tip the scales for some.

Solid Surface: Corian made by DuPont is the most commonly known solid surface countertop. Made from a nonporous acrylic polymer, Corian is easy to clean and nonporous so stains don’t penetrate the surface. With proper cleaning, Corian also resists the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. Available in a number of colors, one of the greatest benefits of Corian is it’s seamless appearance. Cuts and scratches can be buffed out. Corian is heat resistant but can be damaged by excess heat. The price for installed Corian ranges from $42 to $65 per square foot.

Quartz/Engineered Stone: Originally introduced as a high-end alternative to granite, quartz is the biggest trend for countertops in 2018. Thanks to its non-porous surface, quartz countertops are practically maintenance-free. Resistant to stains, scratches, heat and impact, quartz countertops don’t need to be sealed like natural stone countertops. Once available only with a polished finish, today a honed, sandblasted, or embossed treatment is available. Engineered by combining approximately 93 percent ground quartz, resin and pigments, quartz comes in a wide array of colors and patterns. Costs range from $75 to $120 per square foot installed.

In addition to quartz, neutral tone countertops are among the top trends for countertops today. The preference for bright, attention-grabbing countertops is fading away and making room for softer tones. You are most likely to find soft grey, white and beige tones in kitchens in 2018.

Picking the right countertop material is very important. Your counters should complement the style of the home. Collaborate with your home designer and your trusted, expert realtor to discuss current trends and how each of these options might add to the value of your home.  

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf. They can be reached at: [email protected]