Your Complete Guide to Countertops: What to Consider from Cost to Quality

In the midst of a kitchen remodel, countertop installation can feel like that monumental moment where your kitchen design really starts to take shape. The right material will beautifully complement your cabinetry and backsplash selections and is the icing on the cake that is your new beautiful, dream kitchen.

Your countertop material decision will ultimately come down to the style, quality, and price point that works best for you. In this guide, we will compare some of the most popular materials used for countertops: quartz, granite, marble, and butcher block.

What is your look or style preference?

The style of your kitchen is in many ways defined by the combination of colors and textures you choose. An important element in capturing your style preference is, of course, your countertop selection. While most countertops are versatile enough that they can fit with any style, each option does lean into a specific style category.

Granite

For a more traditional look, using granite for kitchen countertops is your best bet. Granite is a natural stone available in a wide variety of patterns and earth tone colors such as browns, greens, and whites.

Quartz

Quartz for kitchen countertops has become a widely popular choice. Quartz is a manufactured material available in shades of white, grey, and black and is known for its flecked appearance. For a smoother look, opt for a material consisting of more finely ground quartz. The neutral color options make quartz a great option for most styles including modern, contemporary, rustic, and transitional.

Marble

Marble countertops are common in high-end kitchen projects. The beautiful white and grey veining of the natural stone is luxurious and pairs well with modern and contemporary designs. It is also common for homeowners to choose marble countertops and continue the marble up the wall as a backsplash material for a dramatic statement feature.

Butcher Block

To add some warmth to your space, consider opting for butcher block countertops. Butcher block countertops are fabricated with glued together strips of wood. This offers a variation in wood tone between each strip and depends on your choice of stain color. Butcher block countertops lean eclectic or Scandinavian, but can certainly find a home in rustic and traditional designs.

Kitchen design rendering featuring butcher block countertops in a dark walnut stain.
To add a warmer element to your kitchen, consider opting for butcher block countertops. Note that your choice of stain color will have a big impact on the final look of your space.

What else?

Beyond just material, there are style choices to be made when it comes to the depth of kitchen countertops, the thickness, and the edge profile.

The standard depth of kitchen countertops is 25-½ inches. This accounts for a 24 inch cabinet depth and a 1-½ inch overhang. To make a statement, you can opt for a flush, no-overhang countertop.

The standard thickness of kitchen countertops is between 1 and 1-¼ inches. Some designers will opt for slimmer or wider than standard countertops in order to create a unique design feature in the space.

Finally, don’t forget about the edge profile of your kitchen countertops. There are plenty of options besides the standard flat or eased edge including beveled, bullnose, pencil, and ogee edge to name a few.

Modern Luxe kitchen design by Jeremy Gleiberman featuring marble countertops
Do consider the depth, thickness, and edge profile of your kitchen countertops, as these choices will have a big impact on the look and style of your space.

What level of durability do you need?

Countertop materials can be categorized by their scratch and stain resistance. If your kitchen will get a lot of use or if you have kids that are a little more carefree, you will want to choose a countertop that is more resistant to staining or scratching. If the look of your countertops is very important to you, you might compromise and choose a material with less resistance.

Granite

Granite is a hard natural stone meaning it is difficult, but not impossible, to scratch. Granite for kitchen countertops requires a routine sealant application to lock out liquids and prevent stains. You will want to apply a sealant typically once a year.

Quartz

Engineered quartz is manufactured specifically for its resistance to stains, scratches, and heat. This is why manufactured quartz for kitchen countertops has become such a popular choice. It is virtually maintenance-free and will give you peace of mind while using your kitchen.

Marble

Marble is a natural stone, however, it is softer and more porous than granite. This means marble is prone to scratching and staining and requires more care than other countertop options. If you choose marble countertops for your kitchen for that distinctive, high-end look, you will have to regularly seal and take care of the surface.

Butcher Block

Wood is a very porous material, therefore the stain resistance of butcher block countertops relies on the sealant you choose to apply. Butcher block countertops require a lot of upkeep including applying a sealant such as mineral oil on a monthly basis. These countertops will scratch if you use the surface for cutting so it is best to prep your food on a cutting board surface.

The Contemporary Coastal Kitchen Design from Ashley Fitch features granite slab material
This Contemporary Coastal kitchen design from Ashley Fitch features a contrasting combination of countertop materials, including a bold granite slab on the kitchen island.

How much do you want to spend?

The cost of countertops varies drastically from material to material. Depending on the size of your kitchen, the cost for new countertops including installation could range from $15 per square foot to more than $200 per square foot.

Granite

Granite for kitchen countertops will cost anywhere from $45 to $200 per square foot. This is a pretty wide range that depends on a few factors such as the grade of your material, and the complexity of your project – cuts, seams, etc. Granite tile is a less expensive alternative to a slab.

Quartz

The manufacturing of engineered quartz has become more efficient throughout the years, ultimately reducing the cost and driving its increasing popularity as a material for kitchen countertops. Quartz for kitchen countertops will cost anywhere between $55 and $155 per square foot.

Marble

Marble is considered a higher-end material. This natural stone is rarer and less widely available than granite and so the cost will be a little higher, ranging from $75 to $250 per square foot. When investing in a high-end material such as marble, we do recommend visiting a local provider in person as each slab is unique.  

Butcher Block

This is one of the most inexpensive options for kitchen countertop material. Butcher block countertops can be manufactured from scrap pieces of wood bringing the cost down to between $40 and $95 per square foot.

What are the environmental considerations?

If it is important to you to choose sustainable materials for your kitchen, you should definitely be aware of the environmental impact of your countertops. Choosing natural materials may seem like the most responsible choice, but some are more resource-intensive than others to produce.

Wood or butcher block countertops are more or less a sustainable choice due to the limited processing wood requires. Natural stones such as granite or marble will be harvested from a quarry which has an energy and carbon impact. Engineered stone like quartz has adopted more efficient and environmentally friendly manufacturing practices throughout the years.

In this guide, we have narrowed in on some of the most popular materials for kitchen countertops available today. But keep in mind there are other options on the market such as slate or soapstone, large format porcelain, concrete, laminate, and more.

Feeling overwhelmed by all your options? Get guidance on materials and more – match with a dedicated design partner from the Beam community today.