For most people starting any new construction or home improvement project, setting a budget is usually the first and most important step in the long and decision-filled process. Determining and adhering to a budget for kitchens and bathrooms is especially important, as the costs can vary wildly depending on the quality of materials chosen. Plus the choices are almost limitless.
So where do you start? There are so many factors that come into play. Certainly the choice of flooring, cabinetry and appliances are all extremely important as they are the foundation of any kitchen. Once these important choices have been made, the next step is selecting the right countertops. Again, the choices can be overwhelming. Fortunately there is something for almost every budget. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular and widely used countertop surfaces to help you decide what’s right for your budget and, just as importantly, your lifestyle.
Today, the most popular high-end countertop surfaces are divided into two main categories: natural stone (like marble and granite) and quartz (an engineered composite of approximately 93% ground quartz and other natural minerals, and 7% resin). The good news is you really can’t go wrong with either choice. The good “bad” news—there are SO many choices! Both natural stone and quartz countertops offer an incredible amount of versatility, beauty, and variety in color and visual texture.
In the not-too-distant past, many design professionals would typically choose natural stone because of its inherent beauty, durability, uniqueness and cost. However, due to the many advances in manufacturing technology over the last 2 decades, the variety in color and pattern in quartz countertops in the market today surpasses that of natural stone. And quartz countertops are virtually indistinguishable in look and feel from natural stone and are almost the same price.
Yes, quartz countertops are slightly more expensive on average than natural stone on a cost-per-square-foot basis—from $70-$130 on average vs. $15-$140 for granite and $15-$190 for marble. This doesn’t tell the complete story though. As you can see, the range of pricing for natural stone is VERY wide—much wider than for engineered quartz. The lower end of natural stone is certainly less expensive than quartz, but it simply cannot compare with the beauty of most quartz counters. A more accurate comparison is to look at the higher end of the price range of natural stone. And that’s just the material cost. A closer look at installation costs reveals a larger gap between natural stone and quartz. Because marble and granite are natural stone, more complex countertop installations (like waterfall countertops or bookmatching) require custom cutting, which drastically increases costs. Quartz can be molded to suit virtually any application or design imaginable, reducing costs significantly. This makes it a much more effective material for keeping up with countertop trends.
So let’s talk numbers. The average kitchen in the US today is close to 350 square feet with a countertop surface area of approximately 50 square feet. If we compare marble, granite and quartz countertop pricing at the higher end of the price range, which is a more accurate comparison, then the cost value of quartz countertops becomes much clearer:
Granite$15-140 / square feet X 50 square feet = $750-7,000
Marble$15-190 / square feet X 50 square feet = $750-9,500
Quartz$70-130 / square feet X 50 square feet = $3,500-6,500
Additionally, quartz countertops require almost $0 in maintenance costs over the lifetime of the product. Natural stone must be maintained with a minimum of twice-annual application of sealants to protect the porous surface from staining and discoloration. For those who have a busy lifestyle and are looking for a beautiful, durable and low-maintenance kitchen countertop surface, quartz countertops are the right choice for you.