Cost of Countertops: Here's Everything You Need to Know Before Buying

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There are ​so many​ things to think about when designing a new kitchen: the cabinets, the appliances, the flooring, and the backsplash are just a few of the essential items to consider. And then there are the counters, which really only come down to one key aspect: the countertop material.

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If you're sticking to a tight budget for your kitchen remodel, or perhaps the sky's the limit, you'll want to educate yourself on the various types of countertop materials and how they compare in price before you make your purchase.

How Much Do Different Countertops Cost?

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There's a surprising amount of stuff that goes into buying a new work surface for your kitchen. With things to think about like removing the existing countertop, installing plumbing fixtures, preparing cabinets, and polishing and sealing, HomeAdvisor reports that currently, the average cost of countertop installation is $2,973, with a typical range of $1,858 to $4,168. The report also shares that homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $70 per square foot for the material itself and the labor costs typically run between $10 to $30 per square foot.

Currently, on the market, there are popular kitchen countertop materials for every budget, ranging from the least expensive to the most expensive. Right now, laminate, a synthetic material made up of layers of plastic attached to particleboard or kraft paper, is widely considered to be the least expensive type of countertop. Time and time again, and unsurprisingly, high-end options such as marble are listed as the most expensive.

So how do you decide how much of your home improvement budget you should spend? Well, there are a few different factors to ponder. For example, if the kitchen countertop material is a somewhat expensive option but it's scratch-resistant, it may pay off in the long-run when compared to a less-costly material that can be scratched easily. Also, is that big-ticket countertop material you're eyeing heat-resistant? Easy to clean? In that case, it may last longer and fit better with your lifestyle, making the investment well worth the hefty countertop price tag. In other words? It pays to do your research and homework when it comes to the pros and cons of various materials.

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Lastly, you may want to throw eco-friendly options into the mix as well. For example, recycled (composite) paper kitchen countertops can range from $65 to $100 per square foot ​installed​, according to Greenhome Solutions, making it a budget-minded, and environmentally conscious, choice. Or you can go with recycled glass countertops, which can cost between $50 to $80 per square foot, not including installation.

Cost of Marble Countertops

Cost: $40 to $100 per square foot

As mentioned, marble is one of the costliest kitchen countertop materials around. While it is an elegant option, it's relatively soft and porous, requiring special care and periodic maintenance. Marble worktops are not generally recommended for high-traffic use. HomeAdvisor says that for a kitchen with 50 square feet of counter space, the total cost can fluctuate between $1,050 and $9,650 (depending on the grade of marble chosen), with an average cost coming in around $3,000.

Cost of Granite Countertops

Cost: $40 to $60 per square foot

A less expensive natural stone option, but still pleasing to the eye, granite is harder and more durable than marble but no less porous. Like marble, granite must be sealed and then occasionally resealed to prevent staining and the possibility of mold growth. As with marble, certain colors and veining patterns are more or less desirable. HomeAdvisor reports that granite countertops cost between $40 to $60 per square foot, with the average cost of labor ranging between $35 to $85 per hour.

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Cost of Quartz Countertops

Cost: $40 to $200 per square foot

Since it's an engineered stone as opposed to real, natural stone like marble and granite, quartz is a bit more on the budget-friendly side of things. The website CounterTop Guides reports that a DIY quartz countertop using clearance material can cost around $40 to $80 per square foot, but when hiring a specialist and using premium materials, you can expect to pay anywhere from $165 to $200 per square foot.

Cost of Solid Surface Countertops

Cost: $52 to $120 per square foot

Like engineered stone, solid surface countertops are non-porous and resist staining and contamination while needing minimal maintenance. Cast from solid acrylic with small amounts of minerals and other particulates for patterning, solid surface countertops are attractive and durable, though less heat-resistant than engineered quartz. When it comes to cost, solid surface is comparable to engineered stone.

Superficial damage to solid surfacing can usually be removed with fine sandpaper. Familiarly known by the names of leading brands like Corian® and Wilsonart, solid surface countertops are a more economical alternative than natural stone.

Cost of Laminate Countertops

Cost: $10 to $40 per square foot

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Luckily, laminate has come a long way, and nowadays, it's an attractive, stylish material that's also easy on the wallet. HomeAdvisor says that the typical range of installing laminate countertops is $791 to $1,619 for a whole kitchen, something that may sound much better than the $3,000 it might cost to outfit a kitchen with marble countertops.

Cost of Wood Countertops

Cost: $20 to $70 per square foot

The cost of wood countertops can vary wildly since it really all comes down to the type and quality of the wood that's used. For instance, according to HomeAdvisor, the total material cost can be as low as $600 or as high as $12,000 for a large kitchen. Higher-end options, like butcher block, cost even more and will run you $130 to $200 per square foot.

Cost of Concrete Countertops

Cost: $65 to $135 per square foot

These days, people are turning more and more to concrete countertops for their kitchens, due to its industrial look and durability. ConcreteNetwork.com reports that the cost can vary from $65 to $135 per square foot, making it a budget-friendly choice.

Cost of Soapstone Countertops

Cost: $70 to $120 per square foot

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Soapstone is another option when considering natural stone. Less glamorous than marble or granite, soapstone countertops are, however, non-porous and naturally impervious to staining. The surface is relatively soft and prone to cuts and scratches, but since it's uniform throughout, those blemishes can be sanded away. In colors ranging from mottled white to gray to green, soapstone is less common than granite or marble, yielding costs from $70 to $120 per square foot.

Cost of Stainless Steel Countertops

Cost: $80 to $225 per square foot

The mainstay of professional restaurant kitchens, stainless steel is often the preferred choice of serious home cooks as well, thanks to its easy maintenance. Durable and simple to clean, but subject to scratches and fingerprints, stainless steel is available in several gauges and also with a choice of finishes. There is little maintenance cost incurred with stainless steel countertops, but the initial installation can range in price ranging from $80 to $225 per square foot.

Cost of Tile Countertops

Image Credit: Paul Anderson for Hunker

Cost: $1 to $28 per square foot

One of the most economical choices for a countertop treatment, ceramic or porcelain tiles are available in just about any style and color you might desire. Tile worktops are also one of the most accessible do-it-yourself projects, making it possible to keep costs even lower. Tile is supremely heat- and stain-resistant, although the grout will stain if it's not carefully sealed.

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Cost of Terrazzo Countertops

Cost: $50 to $100 per square foot

Terrazzo, the oh-so-trendy material that's popping up in tons of kitchen designs these days, is a composite material featuring chips of marble, quartz, or glass. Part of the appeal, no doubt, lies in the fun range of colors available to choose from. The website Marble.com reports that terrazzo countertops can cost between $50 to $100 per square foot, and according to the article, runs at about the same price as marble.

Cost of Slate Countertops

Cost: $77 to $100 per square foot

Slate is another type of natural stone that can be used for countertops. It's best known for its cool, gray hue, as seen in this charming kitchen by Andrew Flesher. It probably comes as no surprise that this luxe option doesn't come cheap. HomeAdvisor shares that you can expect to pay anywhere from $77 to $100 per square foot for the material.

Self-Installation Prices vs. Professional Installation Prices

There are some things to keep in mind if you're weighing the pros and cons of installing kitchen countertops yourself. While professional countertop installation means that the cost per square foot instantly goes up, it also saves you the time and the potential headaches later if you don't install them correctly, something that can result in more money spent if you need to fix the countertops.

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It also comes down to which type of material you choose. Some materials, like marble and granite, are harder to manipulate, not to mention costly to fix if you make a mistake — in this case, it might be worth the extra cost to go with a pro. On the other hand, options such as laminate or tile are easier to work with and less expensive, so going the DIY route won't be as much pressure. But be forewarned that you won't be able to install heavy materials (like a 200-pound marble slab) by yourself and you'll need to hire professionals.

HomeAdvisor says that the installation cost can range between $10 to $30 per square foot just for the labor, but you also need to be aware that it can cost $350 on average to repair a faulty install that may be done at your own hands.

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Shelby Deering is a lifestyle writer who contributes to national magazines and websites, including Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Well+Good, and more. When she's not writing, you'll find her shopping flea markets, hiking, and going for walks with her corgi.