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Countertop decisions. Anybody get new countertops recently?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by wahoowad, Sep 25, 2007.

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  1. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    We're planning on making some kitchen improvements. I replaced appliances earlier this year, now moving on to floor tile and kitchen counters. The kitchen counters have the potential to be the biggest cost. I have looked at everything from real granite, quartz resin (Called Zodiaq at Lowes) and Corian (some kind of solid plastic). I like various aspects of each and have seen styles I like in each. All are in my budget.

    Just wondering if anybody has traversed this area recently and have any feedback on factors that affected their decision?

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  2. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Hey Wahoo, We did the whole flippin kitchen in the last year. While not the biggest expense, the counters were definately up there. We started with a smallish kitchen with standard counters. I redid the counters about 2 - 3 years ago with a material similar to corian. ( I got it for almost nothing). I was just putting off the inevitable.
    We fiinally decided to do cabinets...countertops, the whole thing. And since we were doing all that, I had a wall taken out to double the size of the kitchen. there are a couple things that went into my final decision. First was cost. I am a cheap SOB. damned cheap. We had custom cabinets made.....two reasons. First is quality. I hate spending money and I really hate spending money on junk. Custom actually came out to be less......at least to start. Since we had custom and could do whatever we wanted we did whatever we wanted. and it added a bit of cost but still not as much as the "semi custom". instead of a 6 by 3 island I did an 8 by 5 grand piano shaped thing. it was a case of hitting the break point.
    We looked at Corian Silestone(quartz composite) and granite. Lots of counter space. the island top, two long wall counters and a concealed counter inside a pantry cabinet. I had my wife talked into doingn one of the long wall counters either in laminate or wood. The other was either gonna be quartz or granite. we went with Granite and I'm glad we did. ?Now I'm sure you have noticed that you can spend every frickin dime you will ever make on granite but we found that within a few dollars a square foot of the composite we had a lot of different styles available to us. Again back to breakpoint. When you hit a certain point of spending you might as well go ahead and get what youwant. The quality will be remembered long after the money is forgotten. The island is Green Maritaka and the wall runs are incas gold ( I think) I did both of them as a surprise for my wife and the concealed run was just laminate. no point gold plating the sewer pipes.
    At the point we did the countertops, I was getting low on cash and pretty grumpy about the budget, but it's done and we recovered. And it's nice. really nice. it changed the dynamic of the house quite a bit. I still freak about putting hot pans diirectly on it but my wife was assured that she could so she does it with abandon.
    Our marble fabricator is in Powhattan.

    http://s58.photobucket.com/albums/g276/Huntindad/Kitchen/

    some of the pictures are before I even had the counters in. I guess I need to put some new pix up there. didn't have all the cabinets in at the time.
  3. hilly

    hilly Feeling the Heat

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    I did a bit of research into this area and around here anyway, it seemed to me that arborite (laminate?) was the best bang for the buck. I have friends who have both granite and corian and I've heard that there are some care issues with each. My thinking is that arborite is cheap, durable and doesn't require some of the special maintenance/care that some of the high end counter tops do.
  4. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    quartz countertops are better than granite. Granite must be sealed and has other requirements but not so with quartz.
  5. myzamboni

    myzamboni Minister of Fire

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    +1 for Zodiac (quartz)
  6. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

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    We installed Silestone a year (2? I forget) ago. The wife picked it, I'm perfectly happy with laminate. It's decent enough, seems fairly indestructible. Can't say I'm crazy about the color texture, but then I have no real sense of aesthetics anyway.
  7. hilly

    hilly Feeling the Heat

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    I didn't know about quartz. Does it stain or are there other care considerations with it?
  8. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    We are planning a kitchen remodel and going through the same issues. I was surprised to learn that you can now get granite countertops that have a "lifetime seal" on them. In reality, I wonder if this means you have to seal much less often. Kind of like platinum sparkplugs - maybe you could get 100K miles out of them, but in reality, we all change them out before then.

    I don't mean to dilute this thread, but how much did the others who mentioned recent kitchen remodels spend on cabinets? I was blown away by the cost was we obtained estimates. I'm not looking at custom - just Kraftmaid or Thomasville - stuff available at HD/Lowes.
  9. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Here's a comparison between granite and engineered quartz. They say sealing, while required for granite, is not a major consideration (my guess is unless you're the one having to seal it...LOL).

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Silestone-vs.-Granite-Countertops:-The-Real-Difference&id=388015

    more comparisons:

    http://www.splitlevel.net/corian-silestone.html

    I think the term "quartz" is misleading...real quartz is somewhat transparant...."quartz" countertops are really bits of quartz and other stones held together by plastic binders........
  10. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    We were given some liquid to apply on the counters . it is easy ...just clean the counters, and rub it on and buff it. nothing fancy. Done it once I think. Counters look great. not a real issue of care.

    As for the cabinets. Kraftmade and Kitchencraft were 2 of the brands we looked at. and every other brand you can imagine. my wife had gotten hold of a catalog that had everthing they make. We asked about specific items and had people tell us we couldn't get them. had 5 solid quotes . the same product would cost different amounts from different people. The quartz composite counter top was almost 10 bucks a sf more from HD than from the marble people. We had a basic idea of what we wanted and I had sketched out some things with Google sketch. We had looked at every showroom in our city. everything from the borg displays to the absolute ridiculous high end and the home show expo. my wife spent 6 months with a folder collecting ideas and looking at things We basicly wanted 30 linear feet of cabinets, top and bottom and an island. the quotes came in all over the map. Just for kicks I contacted a custom builder to see what kind of things he could do. quotes fr om semi custom people came in everywhere from 21-34 K. None of them actually gave us what we wanted. They all said the word "can't" to me. When you are taking my money and saying that word I don't like you.
    We were interested in Cherry.

    Custom quote came in at just under 15K with no countertops. Cherry was 8 % increase. Builder showed us Sapelle and Cherry. My wife chose Sapelle. Which was cheaper. Since he had the ability to do exactly anything that we wanted, we got a littler more particular. My wife saw an enclosesd pantry in a magazine. He charged a premium for it but builit it to sit over an HVAC reroute I had done and under a support beam. And it looks like it belongs. in the end we tacked another 10 k to the figure. Again countertops were not included. But we spent the "average" quote we got from the commercial cabinet places got a custom job with more options and twice the island area. I even looked into premanuvacuted self assemble cabinets but would have spent 10 grand just on the materials and it wouldn't have been exactly what we wanted.
    The kitchen probly doesn't belong in this house but we don't plan to move anytime soon so we got what we wanted.
    By the way I drive a 12 year old car. Wife drives a 10 year old car. Daughter drives 12 year old car. the kitchen didn't cost much more than getting myself a nice new ride.
  11. hilly

    hilly Feeling the Heat

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    It also won't depreciate and likely will increase the value of your home.
  12. TedNH

    TedNH Member

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    I can replace the laminate/post form counter-tops in my house 3-4 time at least before I approach the cost of solid surface.
    Also bucher block is a nice alternative.
  13. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    I guess we're not that far off base. We have two quotes so far. One, from a kitchen place, came in at $17k. Home Depot, with Kraftmaid cabinets, came in at $16k, but did not include the 10% to 16% increase for the upgraded finish. Neither quote includes counter tops, just cabinets. We have a lot of cabinets and my wife wants a few of the pull-out drawers, etc - but still, I was hoping to spend around $10k. We found it took weeks to get a quote. Wife drew out kitchen design to scale and gave them a list in tabular form of the cabinets she wanted. Pretty simple. Still took weeks to get a quote. I imagine we'll get a few more before all is said and done.

    Regarding countertops - it seems that the solid surface stuff goes on sale every few months, but you have to like the 10 or 12 colors that they put on sale. Also, for butcher block check out grizzly.com - you can buy workbench tops that are finished with the same food-safe finish that the kitchen place sells you, but for much less.

    Still the project must go on - we are committed now. We have a split level built in 1970 that has original cabinets - they are falling apart. We're going to bang out the wall dividing kitchen (which is quite small) and the living room and make one big kitchen/great room area. I bought a Napolean 1150P to park right in the middle, so we need to get this done so I get this stove burning!!!!
  14. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, David and everybody else.

    We are still very undecided.
  15. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'd love some new granite countertops myself.
    The others are erzatz, just like laminate imho.
  16. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Tim, make sure it's not a load bearing wall . you will need to make consideration for it if so. We did drawers for most of the base cabinets. Our builder also surprised us and did blumotion drawers for all the drawerrs. We had paid for 3 sets and he gave us 15.

    Wahoowad. They are having the Carry street kitchen tour here in richmond soon. I might take it just to see. I am sure there will be some rather high end kitchens there.
  17. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    A family friend is a contractor - he looked in the attic with me and confirmed the wall is not load bearing. That's a weight off my shoulders ....

    Are the drawers you are referring to the ones that close softly - almost like a hydraulic action? Those are nice. What kind of flooring did you go with? I think we're going to wind up with laminate. I really like the wide plank hardwood, but too costly.
  18. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Yes the soft drawers to keep my idiot children from slamming the faces loose. Floor is red oak. already had it but had to get a floor guy in to repair and refinish. the original cabiniets were put in before the floors were done and after removing a wall we had to have some wood added. We also pulled up all the carpet in the house since there were wood floors under them. Lots more expensive and I will grant better looking floor choices out there but it suits me.
  19. steamguy

    steamguy Member

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    Resurrecting an old thread, but newly joined member...

    We re-did a kitchen and a bath, and had gone through all the choices at the big box stores and some local outfits, and thought the man-made stuff was just a bit out of our reach, but we wanted something more natural than Corian. We ended up with real granite for 2/3 the cost of the man-made stuff at Home Depot.

    The secret was that we found a company that imports them pre-finished, pre-edged, in standard-size slabs. Most of the expense involved in real stone is the finish work. If you can cut down on that, you can reduce your costs drastically. For instance, using through-mount sinks instead of undermount is a real money-saver. For instance in the bath, the difference was like $300 for the one sink opening. With a through-mount, all they need is the template with the cutout dimensions and they chop an ugly hole through the stone - you don't care because you're covering it up! But an undermount requires a LOT of finish work and real pretty edges to make it look right. Also, having special edging or drain slots cut in really increases your cost.

    Hope this helps you.
  20. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    I'm in the midst of redoing countertops only, but like David said, I'm cheap...

    last year we redid the island with a 12x12 granite floor tile and it's done really well. Small, grey grout lines are barely visible. Put some brushed aluminum edging (actually cost more than the tile) and it's a nice clean modern look. The tile was $2/sq.ft, the edging wsas about $3 a linear foot, so the 3x8 island/bar cost me about $200 and a weekend all together. It was worth the risk.

    The nice thing about the floor tile is that it's annealed (or something like that) so the surface is effectively glass. Hot pans, red wine, whatever, no worries. The grout is a little trickier (about every three months we go over it quick with a toothbrush) but this new teflon grout is great. Again, no staining, but some issues with things like gravy or flour (subsequently wetted).

    Steve
  21. Hestia

    Hestia New Member

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    I really, really would like soapstone countertops. Pluses: they are acid neutral (no sealing) you can put anything on them heat wise, they are soft to touch, and have a timeless beauty - they develop a patina over time. Minuses: they can scratch, (but these can also be buffed out if you want.) You have the choice of oiling them or not (they turn dark when you oil them) and there limited colors - different vendors carry different types.

    I prefer a more natural look, and though the quartz is beautiful, I know my eyes would get sensitive to the busy grains - don't want granite because of sealing/heat issues (I want to be able to put a hot pan down and not worry about my counter cracking.)

    When we visited Woodstock Soapstone (in January) they had a gorgeous more "relaxed" soapstone countertop display. I know someone who has ones from Vermont Soapstone, and they are also stunning in a more modern, small kitchen. What I really like about soapstone is that you can cut it with wood tools. There are also excellent "how to" videos on You Tube on moving, cutting, installing etc. soapstone.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/paulsoapstone

    They are worth looking at if you think you may want to try this yourself.

    I keep checking CraigsList to see what they have, and around Boston a place called "Buy the Bundle" carries remainders, and they do have soapstone slabs at good prices. I wouldn't buy granite that way, as I couldn't fabricate it - I know I could work with soapstone.

    Hestia
  22. wallis54806

    wallis54806 New Member

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    I installed a new countertop a few years ago using 12 x 12 porcelin tiles and used epoxy grout. With this combination there is no sealing required, but the epoxy grout is much harder to work with. Two years ago we moved, and my wife wanted to take the countertops with her.
  23. Hestia

    Hestia New Member

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    Funny, I just used epoxy grout on my hearth, and I found it much easier working with than plain sanded grout. I did use a mixer, and worked quickly in small batches. It did require a bit more care with water/vinegar washing, but overall I am very happy with the results.

    Hestia
  24. grizzly2

    grizzly2 New Member

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    After much research and deliberation, I chose Corian. It requires no maintenance. The only downsides I found were that it does scratch relatively easily. The scratches are minute and won't be notices if you get a satin or flat finish when new. Varigated patterns (I got a granet look) also hide scratches, as do lighter colors. The other downside is that it can be melted by setting something realy hot on it. I have not had that happen in the 6 or 7 years that it has been in.

    After going through two formica countertops in the previous 20 years, I wanted something that will last the rest of my life with minimal maintenance. The Corian fits that bill very well. Should it get damaged, it can be easily repaired so that the repair cannot be seen.

    Another reason I chose it was because my kitchen walls do not meet at exactly 90 degrees. The countertop builder made a wooden template of the whole countertop and went back to his shop and made it a custom fit. It was expensive to the tune of about $3000. for a small kitchen. I figure a lot of people will spend that much on a vacation or options on a car. I will live with this countertop for the rest of my life ane consider it some of the best money I have ever spent. A local building suply place beat the big box store by a lot on price. The builder was his employee. I am leary of big box stores arranging fabrication and instalation by outside contractors. I am not sure either party then takes the pride and responsibility for the job that the local people do.

    I have Woodmode cabinets that were falling apart and in need of refinishing. The wood was all good. I reglued all of the loose face frames and reinforced them with screws covered with oak plugs. Then I stripped and varnished the cabinets. I needed to add one base and one upper cabinet to match the rest, as part of the remodel. I built them myself, having gotten into cabinet and furniture making in recent years.
  25. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Ideas to consider -- if you are going with an electric cooktop, you can mount this so it is "flush" with the counter top, rather than sitting on top of it. This will give you a very nice more usable space when you are not using the cooktop. Actually, it should be installed so it is about 1/16" or so above the counter top to minimize a hot pan hanging over the edge damaging a heat sensitive counter top. Then use high temp silicon to seal between the cooktop and the counter top.

    We did the same thing with a glass cutting board, inset it in the counter top, close to the sink, and right over the waste cabinet. Just slide the waste basket out, and brush the waste cuttings into the waste basket. Also works very well on which to set a hot pan taken off the cooktop.

    Rather than cupboard doors on the base cabinets, go with full drawers (no cupboard door fronts). They are far more usable than reaching into the back of a cabinet.

    For upper cabinets, do the planning as to what and where you will be placing things, and have some cabinets deeper than others to handle the bigger stuff. I made our cabinets out of solid cherry, and we have some 14" shelf depth and some 16" to handle the big platters, etc. None of ours are the stock 11" or so. Do the same things with all the drawers, some larger and some smaller, depending on what you want to put in them. I made two large drawers to fit under the cooktop. These each have 12-1/2" inside height and handle almost all of our cookware.

    Consider under-cabinet task lighting, as well as ceiling task lighting. We use this more than the general kitchen lighting

    Last, if you can, eliminate the soffit and add small upper cabinets. Gives a lot of storage of seasonal or lesser used items.
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