THE WALL STREET JOURNAL HOMES
Countertops Limited Only by Your Budget and Imagination
Formica laminate was the default choice in kitchens, but homeowners now look to luxury options like quartz, granite, glass and agate.
By Robyn A. Friedman
Countertops have come a long way from the plain designs and singular choice of the past: Formica laminate.Today, homeowners have a seemingly inﬁnite variety of materials to choose from, encompassing varying custom details at a wide range of prices. Some of the latest popular picks include granite, quartz, agate and glass.Some countertops have become not only the focal point of a room but a piece of art for the home, such as a glass top that has an artist’s work embedded in it, or an agate piece backlit with semiprecious stones.“Granite is the least of what we’re doing,” says Bill Feinberg, president of Allied Kitchen & Bath, a remodeling ﬁrm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., referring to a recent favored choice among many homeowners. “There are products out there now that are so different from what you’ve seen in the past. People are limited only by their imagination and their budget.”
“Quartz is all the rage right now,” Mr. Feinberg says. “It’s eco-friendly, nonporous, and most people pick it because of the color. You can’t ﬁnd granite in white, for example.” Quartz countertops are man-made. The so-called engineered stone has the look and feel of natural stone and has become increasingly popular with homeowners and designers because it is resistant to scratches and stains, and never needs to be sealed. It is also easy to install and seams together relatively easily for larger applications. Brands include Silestone, Cambria and Caesarstone.
Price: About $50 to $100 a square foot, including installation
Granite is still one of the most versatile materials in homes today. Available in numerous colors and veining—depending on the types of minerals and rocks that combine to form the natural stone—each slab of granite is different. Granite is found throughout the world. It comes in huge blocks that are formed into slabs, then shaped, edged and ﬁnished by craftsmen. They can be custom designed for a wide range of needs. A multitude of ﬁnishes are available. Some of the more popular ones are polished, honed and leathered. Leathering gives granite a subtle texture to hide smudges. “In the early 1980s, the popularity of granite skyrocketed for kitchen surfaces,” says Joe Percoco, founder and president of Percoco Stone Finishing in Denver. “During that time, people wanted polished granite to be the crown jewel of the kitchen. Now, people still want natural stone but want it to blend in more so it’s not so dominant. Enter our line of ﬁnishes, which take the glitzy look away and soften it.”
Price: About $50 to $75 a square foot, including installation.
Available in many textures and thicknesses, these translucent countertops are often backlit to create colorful designs in different styles that are functional and distinctive. Homeowners can take it a step further by having an artist paint a piece between layers of glass during the manufacturing process. Although glass countertops are durable, they can crack or chip—and repairs can be costly.
Price: Cost depends on the thickness of the glass, but about $200 to $300 a square foot, including installation
Homeowners who want an exotic look often turn to agate. They can use the stone to create their own semiprecious countertop, adding a custom, high-end look that is considered by many to be a work of art. Some designers go further, opting to showcase the agate by backlighting it with LED lights.
Price: Agate is available only in full slabs, which cost from $10,000 to$15,000, or about $300 to $500 a square foot,