Compare Countertop Materials: Pros, Cons, and Costs

By Amanda Lutz Updated May 13, 2024

Choosing the right kitchen countertop material is a major decision to make as part of your kitchen remodel. It’s an investment that will potentially last for decades, as most homeowners change countertops only once every decade or two.

In the guide below, we’ll sort through materials, patterns, and colors as they pertain to five of the most popular countertop materials: granite, laminate, marble, quartz, and solid surface. We’ll also offer tips on picking the right material for your home, ways to maintain your countertop, and how to manage installation requirements.

Granite Countertops

Granite is a tough, beautiful countertop material that homeowners typically use in kitchens and bathrooms.

Granite Appearance and Feel

Granite countertops are smooth, luxurious, and cool to the touch. They’re available in a variety of colors and patterns that range from lightly speckled stone to granite with dramatic veins of color. Granite can either be dark to add glamor to a large space or bright and light to make small kitchens feel bigger.

Make sure to seal and polish granite countertops to give them extra-smooth sheens and to lock out moisture.

Granite Installation Process

While tile and preformed countertops can be put in as do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, granite countertops usually require professional installation. Experts can measure your kitchen and create precise, seamless cutouts for plumbing and stovetops. Professionals will cut and shape the granite to size and bevel the edges according to your preferred design. They’ll also remove your old countertops, attach granite to the cabinets, and finish countertops with a sealing coat.

Granite Cost

The cost of granite countertops is $2,000 to $4,500*, with an average price tag of $3,000 including materials and labor. The size of your kitchen, thickness of the granite, and rareness of the type will likely affect the price.

*All cost data in this article sourced from Angi and HomeGuide.

Granite Maintenance and Durability

Granite countertops are very durable and can resist stains, moisture damage, and heat. Thinner models could crack or chip if you drop something on them, though. Keep your granite in top shape by reapplying a sealing product every year since the stone is naturally porous.

Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops are a cost-effective, synthetic option for kitchens and bathrooms. Fabricators build laminate countertops by layering plastic over particle board to create a durable, solid, and water-resistant surface. Laminate was once extremely popular but has become less common than stone.

Laminate Appearance and Feel

Laminate countertops are lightweight, easy to install, and have a smooth surface, but they can dent and scratch over time. These countertops are available in various colors, patterns, and glossiness levels.

Older and more budget-friendly laminate styles have visible edges that feature seams between two sheets that form a right angle. There are also laminate countertops that feature beveled and intricate edges to offer a more stonelike appearance.

Laminate Installation Process

Homeowners can either hire professionals to install laminate countertops or may install them as part of a DIY project. Manufacturers provide a wide array of panel sizes and shapes to accommodate virtually any kitchen layout and some make laminate countertop panels to order.

To install laminate yourself, simply remove your old countertops, add a bead of adhesive along the top seams of your cabinets, and set the new countertops in place. You can also anchor the countertops in place using fastening hardware.

Laminate Cost

Laminate is a budget-friendly alternative to stone countertops, with an average cost of $1,240. Homeowners with DIY experience can further reduce the cost of their kitchen update by installing laminate countertops themselves.

Laminate Maintenance and Durability

Laminate countertops are easy to maintain and don’t require sealing or resealing. Cleaning requires only a mild detergent. Be careful not to use abrasive cleaning tools which could scratch its surface.

While laminate countertops are fairly durable, heat can damage them. Moisture could also strip the surface of the countertops and make them peel up. Small scratches in laminate can easily be covered up using resin paint.

Marble Countertops

Marble is a luxury stone material that’s popular in high-end homes due to its natural luminosity. It’s an excellent choice for kitchens or bathrooms but requires extra care and maintenance in areas that get wet. Marble is also pricier and tougher to maintain than other countertop options.

Marble Appearance and Feel

Marble feels soft, smooth, and cool to the touch. It features unique patterns that can include various tones, undertones, and dramatic veins of color.

Marble Installation Process

Marble is an incredibly soft stone that first became popular because artists could carve and sculpt it. It’s heavy and easy to dent or crack during installation. Because of this, we recommend that homeowners seek professional installation for marble remodeling projects.

Professional marble installation teams can remove your old countertops, cut custom marble to the right size and shape, and install and seal marble properly. They can also make sure that your cabinets have the proper bracing for marble’s weight.

Marble Cost

The average cost of a marble countertop installation project is $3,000, but that price can reach $15,000 in certain cases. Labor, materials, thickness of the marble, edge design, and how rare the marble is could all raise the final price. For this reason, many people pick stones that look like marble but are more affordable and simpler to maintain.

Marble Maintenance and Durability

Marble requires plenty of maintenance. The stone is long-lasting but vulnerable to heat damage, water damage, and issues caused by chemical stains. Homeowners with marble countertops need to keep them properly sealed against moisture.

Don’t store cleaners or caustic chemicals on a marble countertop’s surface as they can cause permanent stains or even etch the surface.

Quartz Countertops

Quartz is a natural stone that’s permanently sealed in resin and remains scratch-resistant, moisture-resistant, and durable. It’s a solid choice for moist and wet environments such as bathrooms and kitchens. Engineered quartz is currently the most popular countertop material for home remodels.

Quartz Appearance and Feel

Quartz is very glossy and has a beautiful luster thanks to a crystalline structure that runs throughout the stone. It feels cool to the touch and has a completely smooth surface that won’t chip or crack.

Quartz Installation Process

Quartz countertops weigh about 20 pounds per square foot. This means even small quartz countertops can weigh more than 100 pounds.

It’s in homeowners’ best interests to hire professional installation services for quartz. A team will test your cabinets to make sure that they can handle the weight of quartz before installation begins. They’ll also remove your old countertops, install the quartz, make sure it’s level, and adhere it to the cabinets below.

Quartz Cost

Quartz is a high-end countertop surface material, so expect to spend about $4,500 for supplies and labor. Costs can range from $1,500 for small kitchens and lower-end quartz to $8,000 for larger kitchens and higher-quality materials.

Quartz Maintenance and Durability

Quartz has a high initial price tag but can be worth the upfront cost, as it’s completely moisture-resistant, scratch-resistant, stain-resistant, and very easy to clean. You don’t need to use sealer on quartz or even use specialty cleaners to maintain it. Quartz is less heat-resistant than granite, however, so always use trivets when placing warm dishes or a hot pot on it.

Solid Surface Countertops

Solid surface countertops are synthetic materials made from resins and mineral dust, and they’re similar to quartz. Manufacturers can form the countertops to fit your kitchen’s layout so you get seamless, solid pieces.

Solid Surface Appearance and Feel

Manufacturers can customize solid surface countertops to match your color and pattern preferences. You can choose between different edges and bevels too, whether you want lightly rounded right angles or intricate patterns.

Solid surface countertops feel slightly softer than quartz but are smooth. Manufacturers frequently build out the edges or add lips to make solid surface countertops look thicker.

Solid Surface Installation Process

Advanced home project experts can install their own solid surface countertops using DIY techniques, especially if they’re cutting their own countertops. Hiring professionals is in the best interest of most homeowners, though, especially if you want seamless cuts around the stovetop and kitchen sink without visible grout lines.

Solid Surface Cost

Homeowners should expect to spend $1,500–$6,000 on solid-surface countertops, depending on a kitchen’s size and layout. The most budget-friendly countertops are very thin and approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Solid Surface Maintenance and Durability

Solid surface countertops are easy to maintain, moisture-resistant, and don’t require sealing or resealing. The material is less heat-resistant and scratch-resistant than quartz, though.

Comparing Countertop Materials

Choosing the right countertop material means carefully evaluating your remodel budget, long-term expectations for a given material based on its life span, and the material’s appearance. Refer to the countertop comparison chart below.

GraniteLaminateMarbleQuartzSolid Surface
Cost Range$2,000–$4,500$841–$1,732$2,000–$5,000$1,500–$8,000$1,500–$6,000
Benefits-Hard surface that’s resistant to scratches and chips
-Unique colors and patterns
-Good heat- and moisture-resistance
-Durable and easy to clean
-The most cost-effective countertop material
-Lots of style, color, and pattern options
-Beautiful and unique appearance
-Very long-lasting with proper care
-Natural stone material that complements most aesthetics
-Very durable surface that’s moisture-repelling and heat-resistant
-Has a wide array of color and pattern options
-Doesn’t require resealing
-Available in virtually any color and design
-The surface is nonporous and water-resistant
-Custom countertops are seamless
Drawbacks-Needs annual resealing
-Requires professional installation
-Has a basic appearance that’s no longer popular
-Susceptible to scratches and will curl after moisture exposure
-Requires diligent care and attention because of natural porosity and softness
-Can be cost-prohibitive
-High-end quartz is expensive
-The material is heavy, so DIY installation is not advised
-Less heat-resistant than quartz
-Slightly softer than natural stone, making it vulnerable to scratches
Life Span100+ yearsApproximately 15 yearsAbout 20 years without continuous care20–30 yearsUp to 20 years

Homeowners can also pick from other types of countertop materials such as ceramic tile, quartzite, Silestone, and stainless steel. Consider looking at both natural stone countertops and engineered stone models as you compare countertop materials.

Our Recommendation

Committing to a kitchen remodel is a great way to modernize your space and increase the value of your home. We recommend carefully comparing countertop materials to find the right fit for your budget, style preferences, and commitment to maintenance.

Consider backsplashes when making your countertop choice too, as the best kitchen designs are cohesive. Consider niche countertop materials such as concrete countertops, butcher block countertops, formica, and soapstone if you want to expand your search.

Countertop Material FAQ

What countertop material is best?

The best countertop material is generally considered to be quartz. It belongs in kitchens and bathrooms because it’s durable, water-resistant, and available in a wide range of styles.

What is the most durable countertop material?

The most durable countertop material is quartz. It’s made of resin and stone and is hard, chip-resistant, scratch-resistant, and water-resistant. Quartz can last a long time without significant maintenance. Keep in mind that no countertop material is fully heat-resistant or capable of being used as a cutting board.

What looks like quartz but is less expensive?

A countertop material that looks like quartz but is less expensive is Corian. Corian is a man-made solid surface countertop material that mimics the look of natural quartz.

What is the easiest countertop to maintain?

The easiest countertop material to maintain is quartz. It’s durable, low-maintenance, and doesn’t require sealant or specialty cleaners. Its smooth surface allows for easy cleaning.

Which countertop material has the best resale value?

The countertop material that has the best resale value is properly maintained marble. It may not have the best return on investment due to its initial cost and maintenance demands, though.