You might think that the most important part of your kitchen is your appliances. When it comes to preparing food, you might be right. But when it comes to creating the vibe that attracts eyes and makes you want to spend time in your kitchen — then it’s all about your countertops.
Countertops are the most common improvement in a kitchen remodel. Nine in 10 homeowners who update their kitchen opt for new countertops, and 35 percent of them splurge on the purchase, opting to spend more to really get the look they wanted, according to the Houzz 2022 U.S. Kitchen Trends Study.
That average cost to install new countertops ranges from $1,900 to $4,300, or $25-$120 a square foot, according to Home Advisor, but can easily soar as high as $8,000, depending on the material and measurements.
Let’s go beneath the surface to see how much it costs to install or replace kitchen countertops, and what influences the prices.
What are the different types of countertops?
Countertops come in a variety of types at various prices. In general, the material represents about half the total cost of installing the countertop.
Quartz countertops are engineered out of quartz particles, bound together by resin and other materials. The result is a beautiful, uniform substance that can provide the aesthetic of marble veining, but at a substantially lower price — the reason quartz remains the most popular countertop material, according to the Houzz study. Quartz has many different color and style options available, and costs $15-$70 a square foot.
Granite countertops are the second most popular option, according to Houzz. They have a reputation of being stylish and elegant, the type of material that often stands out in a kitchen and helps add home value. They can be quite expensive, though, costing $15 to $140 a square foot for whole slabs and $10 to $35 a square foot for prefabricated pieces, HomeAdvisor says.
Concrete may sound unappealing, strictly for those who are into an industrial-chic look, but these polished slabs actually come in a variety of colors and appealing stains. They are heavy, heat resistant and nearly impossible to damage — provided you cover with a good sealant. They are also very expensive, priced about $50-$100 a square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.
Marble always connotes luxury, partially because no two slabs of the material are ever exactly the same — and partially because the upkeep on it is high. But, some swear nothing can match its elegant veining and range of hues. Some varieties cost as little as $25 a square foot, but $75 to $250 for quality stuff is quite common.
Tile countertops provide a traditional, old-fashioned-kitchen look. Usually made of porcelain or ceramic, tiles can come in many shapes, forms and colors, making them one of the most versatile materials available — and the cheapest, costing $1 to $15 a square foot (ceramic) and $3 to $28 a square foot (porcelain), according to Angi. You can also install a tile countertop yourself to save on labor expenses. But they’re fragile and tough to clean.
Wood countertops can provide a country feel to your kitchen and serve as chopping boards. These range in price from $18-$38 — though the price can climb considerably depending on the type of hardwood, its finish and how much countertop space you have.
Laminate countertops are probably the simplest and cheapest option available. You can install them yourself and have an easy-to-clean surface ready to go in your kitchen. Laminate might not provide the standout look of other options, but it gets the job done and is affordable, starting at as little as $8 a square foot and topping out at $30.
Solid surface countertops
Solid surface is a generic name for countertops made of acrylics and other artificial materials; Corian is one of the better-known and better-quality brands. Nonporous and highly durable, these countertops can mimic the look of almost any natural stone for a fraction of the cost, making them the best of both worlds for budgeteers. They run about $20 to $40 a square foot, though Corian can be as high as $75.
Countertop types at a glance
What influences countertop costs?
The biggest influence on the cost of countertop installation is material. Natural stone materials often carry the highest price tag, while synthetic materials like laminate run cheaper — though also may produce a cheaper look.
The size of the countertop matters, too, since it influences the amount of material needed. The bigger the countertop, the more you should expect to spend. Odd-shaped countertops can add additional costs. If you have to cut your countertop in an unusual shape in order to make it fit, you will need to pay more for that customization.
Labor will certainly influence the price of your countertop installation, too. Materials like concrete or granite are heavy, and slabs for large countertops can weigh more than 200 pounds. These sorts of countertops require multiple workers to install them, and sometimes specialized equipment for trimming, sanding and sealing — so you’ll need a professional to do the job. Other materials like tiles and laminates can be installed on your own, though tiles can be tricky to place accurately.
And if you’re replacing countertops, it’d be nice to have a pro remove the old ones and cart them away. All told, a contractor’s services will up the price tag by a third, at least.
The final word on installing countertops
Countertops are one part fashion and one part function, and you’ll want to pick a countertop that will fit your lifestyle and kitchen’s functionality. You’ll also need it to fit your budget, though. Consider the cost of the material, which will make up about 60-70 percent of your total costs. It will be the single biggest cost influencer in your countertop installation.
Materials in turn influence labor costs. A contractor likely will account for 30-50 percent of your overall countertop installation bill. Though you can save to some extent by installing the countertop yourself, bear in mind that natural stone materials won’t be an option if you choose the DIY route.
You might try to keep your costs down by choosing a cheaper material, but remember, that can impact the value of your home if it ever goes on the market. A snazzy kitchen can really sell a home. And though countertops tend to be only the third most expensive element of a kitchen makeover, (cabinets are No. 1) they often have an outsized impact on its visual appeal.
So installing quality countertops can be an investment, even though doing so kicks a kitchen remodel into the major leagues. Given the amount of time you’ll see them and use them, though, it is worth it to spend on a material and style that you love.