Long-lasting, stain-resistant and beautiful, granite is the Rolls-Royce of countertops. It is the most durable and easiest to care for of any of the natural stone materials. While relatively expensive, it provides an elegant look that is incomparable.
TIP Compare prices at local stone shops. You'll save even more if you can use leftovers from another homeowner's project.
MAINTENANCE Granite countertops need to be sealed every six months to a year. Clean countertops with warm water and a liquid detergent. Avoid abrasive cleaners; they'll scratch and dull the finish. Small chips and scratches can be polished down.
COST From $75 to $200 a linear foot, installed
Manufactured quartz imitates the look of limestone, granite or marble, but is more resistant to scratches and stains. Made up of 90 percent quartz particles, this synthetic composite comes in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses.
MAINTENANCE Practical for the bathroom, quartz is durable, easy to clean and doesn't require sealing.
COST From $110 to $250 a linear foot, installed
Tile has always been a popular material for bathroom countertops, but homeowners often complain about the need to clean the grout. These days, however, tiles are coming out in much larger sizes, which eliminates the need for so many grout lines. Through-body (unglazed) porcelain tiles are stronger than granite and about a third of the price.
MAINTENANCE Grout lines need regular maintenance and cleaning. The tiles can be easily cleaned with any household detergent.
COST For plain-colored tiles, $2 to $40 a tile; for hand-painted tiles, $5 to $75 a tile
Designed to look like natural stone, solid-surface is one of the most popular countertop options available. Known by brand names such as Corian, Staron, Gibraltar and Avonite, this easy-to-maintain synthetic product can be molded to fit any design specification.
MAINTENANCE Its nonporous, so it's easy to clean.
COST $75 to $150 a linear foot, installed