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Countertop materials range from wood to plastics to metal to stone. Manufactured quartz—formed from stone chips, resins, and pigments—is edging out natural stone materials in popularity, thanks in part to its durability and its availability in zillions of colors. (There’s also a kind of natural stone called quartzite, which is swirled gray and white but behaves more like marble or granite.) Major brands include Caesarstone, Cambria, and Silestone. Quartz and quartzite prices are on par with granite.

Other of-the-moment counter options: concrete, bamboo, and stainless steel. The last stands up to Top Chef-style cooking and provides a dose of industrial cool. Marble—classic and elegant—is a top choice in Europe and looks terrific, but it is prone to chips and—if not well-sealed—stains. Some people consider this weathered chic; others deem it shabby.

Most countertop materials are available in a range of finishes, the two most popular being polished (glossy) and honed (matte). Ask to see samples of “leathered” or “pebbled” styles, which appear earthier and more textured.

You'll also have to select a type of edge. You can get beveled, rounded, and eased or straight profiles. Eased and beveled look more modern; rounded edges appear more traditional and are less prone to chipping.

Then there's color. Thanks to improved technology, manmade materials like quartz and affordable laminates can mimic the look of hard-to-maintain marble and come in zillions of patterns and colors. Creams and whites remain hip, though black (particularly in popular-but-finicky soapstone) is also trendy.

Once you've made all these countertop calls, shop for the best price. The table below shows prices our undercover shoppers were quoted by local companies to supply and install a countertop made with Black Galaxy granite, using the exact same design. As you can see, prices varied dramatically, from $2,470 to $3,937. And Home Depot and Lowe’s did not offer the lowest prices.

Of course, quality of fabrication and installation is at least as important as price. Check the customer reviews of countertop suppliers and installers for ratings of area outfits. Also check with friends, ask to see examples of a company’s recent installations, and note how closely a company’s staff listens to you and how carefully they measure.

Ask retailers about their warranties. Do they cover repairing or replacing counters if they stain, chip, or crack? Know that it’s far easier to get a warranty on quartz or another manufactured product than on granite; since manufactured counter materials are brand-name and engineered, they usually come with a guarantee against chips, scratching, or warping for 10 to 20 years. Granite and natural stones are usually ineligible for such warranties.

Most vendors can have your new countertops cut and installed within a week to 10 days, unless your material is out of stock. Be sure your designer or countertop seller comes to measure beforehand to prevent cutting mistakes.

Lots of homeowners who buy new kitchens don’t have fond memories of the experience (to put it mildly). But there is much you can do to ensure smooth redos, starting with insisting on a solid contract. Click here for lots of advice on how to supervise and survive large remodeling projects. We also offer advice on selecting cabinets, plus ratings of local suppliers.
 

Illustrative Granite Countertop Prices*

Price (including
fabrication and installation)
Volpe Tile & Marble
1781 Wilmington Pike, Warminster, PA, 215-957-6422
$2,470
Imperial Marble & Granite
10 Industrial Hwy, Philadelphia, PA, 610-521-0130
$2,650
SolidSurface Designs
1651 Sherman Ave, Pennsauken, NJ, 856-910-7720
$2,692
Let’s Get Stone’d
414 Easton Rd, Warrington, PA, 215-491-7814
$2,746
Stone Tech Fabrication
930 New York Ave, Trenton, NJ, 609-984-8818
$2,832
McGrory Inc
576 Rosedale Rd, Kennett Square, PA, 610-444-1512
$2,895
Tile Market of Delaware
405 E Marsh Ln, Wilmington, DE, 302-636-0823
$2,896
Lowe’s
Multiple locations
$2,928
Onur Marble & Granite
225 Lincoln Hwy, Fairless Hills, PA, 215-949-2525
$3,000
Stone Masters
515 School House Rd, Kennett Square, PA, 610-444-7200
$3,053
Stone Shop
670 Deer Rd, Cherry Hill, NJ, 856-428-2424
$3,134
All Marble Granite & Tile
2157 Admiral Wilson Blvd, Pennsauken, NJ, 856-338-1966
$3,150
Master Granite Marble & Tile
470 Nutt Rd, Phoenixville, PA, 610-935-9161
$3,150
CMI Counter Tops
610 William Leigh Dr, Tullytown, PA, 215-949-8550
$3,154
MacLaren Kitchen and Bath
1135 Phoenixville Pike, West Chester, PA, 610-436-5436
$3,175
Freedom Stone Fabricators
1 Ironside Ct, Willingboro, NJ, 609-871-8888
$3,248
Planet Granite
415 Three Tun Rd, Malvern, PA, 610-344-9100
$3,249
Fedor Fabrication
207 Carter Dr #A, West Chester, PA, 610-431-7150
$3,300
Suburban Marble & Granite
1010 Pulinski Rd, Ivyland, PA, 215-734-9100
$3,476
Colonial Marble & Granite
201 W Church Rd #300, King of Prussia, PA, 610-994-2222
$3,509
Colonial Marble & Granite
475 Henderson Rd, King of Prussia, PA, 610-924-7994
$3,509
Kol Marble & Granite
3 Larwin Rd, Cherry Hill, NJ, 856-857-1430
$3,532
Ideal Tile
1316 Route 73, Mount Laurel, NJ, 856-722-9393
$3,538
Michael Addesso Marble & Granite World
252 E Main St, Norristown, PA, 610-272-3372
$3,620
AAA Hellenic Marble & Granite
301 E Market St, West Chester, PA, 610-344-7700
$3,650
Tabernacle Granite & Marble
1613 Route 206, Tabernacle, NJ, 609-268-9777
$3,850
Home Depot
Multiple locations
$3,937
* Prices are for Black Galaxy granite and include fabrication and installation for three countertop sections, each 3 centimeters thick with standard square edge, with the following measurements: (1) 77" x 24"; 79" x 24 " with a sink cutout; and 541/2" x 24". No seams (each section fabricated from the same material). Companies were provided drawings, measurements, and additional specifications and instructions.