Your kitchen is the heart of your home, which means your countertops have to be fit for the job. Sure, it’s nice if your countertops are stylish, but are they durable, cost-effective, and suit your lifestyle? In this buying guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about popular countertop surfaces so you can make an informed choice.

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Quartz Countertops

Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular due to their solid stone-like appearance and even coloring. While quartz is a naturally occurring mineral, quartz countertops are actually manufactured from quartz particles mixed with a binding resin. Thus, the final color pattern is designed and not a product of nature.

These countertops have a lot of the benefits of a solid stone slab countertop, like granite, but there are some drawbacks you need to be aware of. Since quarts countertops contain a large amount of resin, they’re susceptible to heat damage. Placing a hot pot or pan on a quartz countertop can burn, melt or damage the surface. Unlike granite or marble, however, quartz is resistant to staining from liquids like red wine and doesn’t require a sealant to keep it stain-free.

Quartz is made by different brands, and each brand has their own colors and product names. Quartz prices vary, but you can expect to pay a little less on average than granite. Typically around $50 a square foot, with added costs for upgraded edge profiles.

Selecting the right quartz countertop really comes down to coordinating the color and edge options with your kitchen and personal taste. Both the light and dark color patterns are the most popular since they are fairly neutral. For edge profiles, a simple, beveled or eased edge will be the lower cost option and will look great in most homes. For a higher-end look, consider a more ornate edge profile that gives a more regal feel to the space.

Glass Countertops

If you want a unique and modern look, consider a glass countertop. Glass countertops offer a multitude of designs, configurations and price points. There are two different types of glass counters: Recycled glass and Solid glass.

Recycled glass countertops are manufactured countertops that are made from broken shards of glass which get embedded in a resin or concrete base. They come in a wide range of glass and base colors but most commonly feature blue, green or brown glass pieces. Some versions are resistant to high heat, but others aren’t, so be sure to check the product details for each product you consider. The biggest advantage of the type of glass countertop is its affordability. Recycled glass countertops will range in price from around $75 to $100 per square foot. Expect to pay more for counters with concrete substrates.

Solid glass countertops are manufactured individually for your unique application and feature a seamless look with blue or green hues. Their countertops are much less common than recycled glass versions, due to both their higher price and stark appearance. Solid glass counters can withstand high heat from pots and pans, and they can also be used as a cutting board. They clean up very easily with soap and water or glass cleaner. But, just like any piece of glass, they will show dirt or smudges, so you will need to wipe them down more often than other countertop materials.  Since this type of countertop requires specialty equipment to manufacture, there aren’t as many manufacturers making them. Consequently, you’re going to pay quite a bit for this type of counter. Prices range from just over $100 to well over $300 per square foot.

Marble Countertops

Marble has an elegant appearance that elevates the feel of any kitchen. However, marble isn’t always the best choice for some homes, nor is it the most affordable countertop option. There are fewer marble color options compared to granite or quartz, but there is still a relatively large variety. Although most people seem to prefer the lighter options, like Carrara or Calacatta, marble is not just a white stone.

Marble is mined all around the world, and different regions produce different colors of slabs. You can find marble in cream, brown, green, and dark hues, although darker colors are typically harder to find in a countertop slab compared to the lighter tones.

Before you decide on marble as your countertop material, be aware that it stains fairly easily from acidic liquids, like red wine. You don’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a countertop only to have an orange juice spill discolor it. Just be sure that marble is the right material for your kitchen habits and lifestyle.

Marble comes in a wide variety of prices, and it is typically quoted per square foot, so it’s a good idea to know how much you will need. Since marble is a natural product, every slab is unique. You can expect to pay anywhere from $75 per square foot up to several hundred dollars per square foot, depending on the features of the individual marble slab. If you want a thicker countertop or a more decorative edge, you will pay more.

Granite Countertops

Granite is one of the most popular choices for kitchen countertops and for good reason. It’s a beautiful, natural product that not only adds value to your home but also holds up well in daily use. Granite is a durable substance, so it doesn’t scratch easily and can handle a little wear and tear. It’s also resistant to heat, so you’re safe to put pots and pans on it. The drawback is that granite is porous, and if your countertops are sealed poorly, it can harbor stains and bacteria. Most granite countertops need to be sealed every year.

Granite comes in a wide variety of prices. It can vary from $45 per square foot up to around $100 per square foot, depending on the grade and color pattern. Two nearly identical pieces of granite can have different prices if one has a more even color pattern or simply looks more attractive than the other. Thicker granite is also going to be more expensive than thinner granite.

Concrete Countertops

Unlike granite or marble, concrete countertops aren’t cut from a slab and trimmed to order. Instead, concrete countertops are custom made for each individual kitchen application, giving your near total control over the finished look.

Due to its industrial vibe, concrete usually looks better in a city loft than a country kitchen. However, concrete counters can be incorporated into any style if designed properly. Concrete colors are predominantly on the darker side of the color scale, with a few lighter options. Edge options may be more limited compared to granite or marble, depending on the supplier.

One of concrete’s big advantages is that you can make it whatever thickness you’d like. Standard granite and marble countertops are around 1 to 1.5 inches thick, but it’s not uncommon to see concrete counters 2-4 inches think. To handle the extra weight from the countertops, your kitchen cabinets might need to be reinforced for what’s needed.

Concrete countertops run around $100 per square foot, depending on how thick you want them. Although the material costs are low for concrete, a significant portion of the cost is in labor.