Once upon a time — back in the 90's, to be exact — granite countertops were a trophy item attainable only by the privileged few. But over the ensuing decades, granite somehow shape-shifted into a mandatory upgrade for homeowners like us in the remaining 99 percent. The problem? Even though granite's cost has come down a bit, it can still put a serious dent in your remodeling budget.
"It's not just about the materials," says home renovations expert Lee Wallender.... "You've got fabrication and installation to think about, too."
It goes without saying that the work involved in wrangling a massive granite slab can send prices into the stratosphere. Fortunately, there are a number of great options for getting the luxurious look of granite in your bathroom without breaking the bank.
01 of 07
Why pay for a whole granite slab when you only need a small piece? Most bathroom countertops are much smaller than the average granite slab, which is about 130" x 70", says Montclair, NJ kitchen and bath designer Tracey Stephens. She recommends purchasing a remnant — an unused piece of stone left over from another installation — from a fabricator or stone yard.
Pay a pro to cut and install your countertops, or (if you're handy) save even more on your bath upgrade by doing the work... yourself. Other good sources for granite remnants include Diggers List and Habitat for Humanity ReStores.
Using granite remnants is a great way to reduce the amount of stone left unused, which is great for the environment too!
02 of 07
Buying a ready-to-install countertop is another way to save money on granite, and you can do it without stepping into a showroom.
Online retailers such Vanity Counters.com buy their stone direct and do all the fabrication in-house, passing the savings on to customers. You create your own design from a selection of stone colors, dimensions, faucets and sink styles, and in a couple of weeks, the finished product is delivered to your home.
The choices are not huge, and you'll need to install the... counter and sink yourself. But what you'll save vs. buying a slab and having it professionally installed can be considerable.
03 of 07
Neither slab granite nor tile, a granite veneer or overlay is a combination of granite, manmade materials and adhesives that is engineered to fit directly over an existing countertop.
One of the biggest national manufacturers, Granite Transformations, uses an eco-friendly mix of granite and recycled vodka bottles to produce a surface that is one-third as thick as a traditional slab, which translates into further savings on raw materials and energy. The product is permanently sealed, stain and... scratch resistant and comes in more than 50 color options.
While each project varies depending on the size of the space, installation generally takes one to two days.
04 of 07
No granite is truly "cheap." But if you're set on getting the genuine article for the lowest possible price, consider granite tile.
Because you can easily find this product at your local home store, you'll eliminate shipping charges. You'll save even more by installing the tile yourself. Standard sizes include 12", 16" and 18" squares in a reasonable selection of colors.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Also known as engineered stone, stone composite, quartz stone and perhaps a dozen other variations, engineered quartz's popularity has exploded over the past decade, and with good reason. "Engineered quartz is the style chameleon of countertops," says Portland, Ore., interior designer Michelle Jeresek. "(It's) easy to maintain, nontoxic and nonallergenic — there's not much to dislike about this stunning man-made material."
Sold under brand names including Caesarstone, Z...odiaq, Cambria and Silestone, engineered quartz is composed of about 90 to 95 percent ground quartz mixed with resins and colorants. You'll find an enormous range of options from solid colors in a rainbow of brights and neutrals to styles that mimic the veining and tonal variations of real stone.
Engineered quartz is less costly than a granite slab and can be customized into integrated sinks and backsplashes in just about any hue and pattern you desire.
06 of 07
Bold, beautiful and surprisingly durable, a recycled glass slab costs about the same as mid-priced granite. However, along with the stunning patterns and color choices, the satisfaction you'll gain from telling guests that your vanity top is made from old beer bottles can be well worth the extra investment.
Recycled glass countertops are manufactured from jars, bottles, windows, seashells and other natural materials that are crushed and combined with pigments and resins or cement. The results... can be subtle or eye-popping depending upon the mix. Look for brand names like IceStone, Vetrazzo and Curava.
07 of 07
If laminate is an option you think you'd never consider, take another look. Companies like Formica and Wilsonart have made huge improvements to this pressure-treated synthetic product that include amazingly realistic stone and wood-like surfaces, integrated sinks and beveled edge treatments.
And at $12 to $15 per square foot, choosing laminate over granite can leave room in the budget to splurge on a pricey new faucet set.
Lots of low-cost options
If you absolutely want the look of granite but dread its price, there are lots of low-cost options, using real granite or not. A lot of these options are environment-friendly, can be installed by non-professionals, and some of them, like laminate, are downright cheap.