5 Top Budget-Friendly Countertop Materials
Whether for the kitchen or bathroom, countertops tend to be a hefty investment. If your budget is tight, here are a few of the best discount materials to consider.
When it comes to countertop materials, one of the best discount options is laminate. It’s true, there are premium, high-end laminates out there, but overall laminate tends to be a good value. One reason for this is because laminate countertops are created by gluing a thin layer of laminate material onto medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which means most of the countertop material is low cost. Essentially, you’re only paying for that thin top layer. Also, there are a multitude of local shops that can produce laminate countertops.
▪️Pre-Laminated Countertop Slabs: Often found in home improvement stores, pre-laminated countertop slabs are typically located in the back of the store. They are inexpensive and if you buy the slabs early in the day, it’s possible to have a brand new countertop by evening. That’s how easy they are to install. The downside of pre-laminated countertop slabs is that there is a limited selection of designs and colors to choose from. Even the bigger home centers usually only carry two or three different styles. If you want other types, they must be special ordered.
▪️DIY Laminate Countertops: In addition to pre-laminated slabs, big home centers also carry single laminate sheets, which offers more style options. The hard part is laminating the sheets onto MDF. However, if you are adept at running a router, this is by far the least expensive way to get a laminate countertop. Just keep in mind that you will not get those finished rolled edges that you’d have when buying pre-laminated slabs. It’s simply not possible to duplicate them at home.
▪️Bathroom Vanity Tops: When included as part of a bathroom vanity, laminate countertops are reasonably priced, plus you don’t have to worry about cutting out the sink insert. These bathroom vanity tops are available in a huge range of styles and colors.
2. Ceramic Tile
A longtime favorite for DIY homeowners, ceramic tile usually provides an attractive result. Ceramic is much more cost-effective than granite tile. Simply include some corners, bullnoses, and a backsplash, and you’ve created something special.
One issue with ceramic tile counters is the seams. Homeowners who like to cook aren’t always the biggest fans of ceramic tile countertops because they’re a bit harder to clean. Plus, ceramic tile does not provide a smooth surface for food prep. You’ll have to get a cutting board.
3. Stone or Granite
If the look and feel of stone countertops is something you prefer, but money is a constraint, then stone tile might make a good option. Stone tiles, including granite, come in 12-inch or 16-inch squares. Because they are a manageable size, you can handle them yourself and use a regular vehicle to transport them.
Considered a relatively simple DIY, tile granite can be installed using epoxies as opposed to mortar. The tiles can be arranged tightly so that there is no need for grout in between the tiles. Just know that any natural stone will be a more costly material than laminate or other synthetic wood products.
4. Butcher Block
A significant reason for expensive countertops is that they have to be manufactured in big factories. You’re not going to find a cottage industry that makes quartz or solid surface. In fact, that is the central issue behind low vs. high-cost countertops: Does it require a costly manufacturing process or can individuals control the process and product?
One material that is definitely more individualized is wood. The production of butcher block countertops can be as localized as a woodworker in your area who builds custom order counters. Or if you’re a skilled homeowner that happens to have some specialty woodworking tools, you might be able to make your own butcher block countertop.
To create butcher block, strips of wood (usually maple) are milled, planed, and laminated together under extreme pressure. Standard wood glue can be used for laminating the wood strips. When the block has been created, several coats of tung oil are then applied.
5. Solid Surface
Not sure what solid surface is? It’s the industry term for materials like Silestone and Corian. Out of all the more expensive types of countertops, this is the one that provides the best chance of finding an affordable option.
Originally, Corian was the sole brand of solid surface, which meant it was expensive. But when the patent expired, a whole slew of manufacturers jumped in to produce solid surface countertops. Prices started getting lower as competition increased. Much like laminate, solid surface bathroom vanity tops that are included with vanity units can be a cost-effective purchase.
Because they are easy to produce, solid surface countertops are available in a wide variety of styles. They have a hard surface, like quartz counters, but are easily resurfaced. Minor scratches and nicks can be sanded down, something easily handled by a homeowner.