Kitchen countertops are one of the most heavily used surfaces throughout the home. The kitchen countertop is an essential part of a functional kitchen. However, over time, the regular use of a kitchen countertop can lead to scratches, dents, chips, pitted areas, scorch marks, swelling, and fading.
When the kitchen countertops no longer match your desired aesthetic, become damaged beyond repair, or are simply too difficult to maintain, it's a good idea to start looking for countertop replacements. Consider new styles that fit the look you want for your home and research the various materials to find a suitable option with acceptable maintenance requirements. Cost, ease of installation, and repairability should also be considered when you are replacing an old or worn countertop. Find out everything you need to know with this guide to replacing kitchen countertops.
Repair or Replace?
The first question to consider when the kitchen countertop has seen better days is whether it can be repaired or if replacement is the only option. Depending on the countertop material, you may be able to polish, paint, or patch the surface of the countertop to return it to a like-new state. For instance, laminate countertops can be sanded and painted for an updated look, stone chips can be patched with epoxy glues as long as you have the original piece that is missing, or you can even find color-match repair pens to fill in noticeable scratches.
However, if these options won't resolve the problem or you feel it is time for an update, then replacing the kitchen countertop is an effective method for enhancing the aesthetic of the room. Just keep in mind that the old kitchen countertop will need to be removed and the current cabinets and plumbing may need to be replaced or altered depending on the size, shape, weight, and configuration of the new countertop.
Before Replacing Kitchen Countertops
After deciding to get rid of the existing countertops and replace them with new countertops, you will need to consider the potential effect this project will have on the kitchen and the rest of the home. Large renovation projects can take multiple days to complete, so it's a good idea to set up a space outside of the kitchen where you can prepare food.
If you are hiring professionals to complete the work, determine the closest point of entry to the kitchen, lay down drop cloths between the door and the kitchen, and let the contractor know where to park. Also, keep in mind that if you have an existing backsplash, there is a chance that it could be damaged during the countertop installation. Additionally, the cabinets under the existing countertop may have hidden damage that needs to be repaired or the cabinets may need to be reinforced before the new countertop can be installed.
The sink and faucet will also need to be removed, and all plumbing, gas, or electrical connections that may impede the installation will need to be disconnected for the successful completion of the replacement project. Speak to the contractor to find out what you need to do to make the installation process as straightforward and time-effective as possible.
DIY or Professional Installation?
There are many jobs around the home that can be handled with ease by an experienced DIYer, though not every job falls within the general skills of the average amateur home repair and maintenance enthusiast. It's a good idea to assess your own skills and weigh the outcome of a DIY job against the additional cost of hiring a professional installer.
Keep in mind that kitchen countertops can weigh more than 200 pounds, so if you choose to take on this project, it's likely that you will need at least one more person to help. Replacing the kitchen countertop by yourself will save you on the cost of labor, which can range from about $10 to $30 per square foot. However, if you don't have the skills and experience necessary to properly assess the situation and complete the job, there is a significant chance that something could go wrong during the DIY installation that may lead to further spending to rectify the problem.
Once you have decided between hiring a professional or taking on the replacement of the countertop as a DIY project, you can start to think about what preparation is required prior to installation. The kitchen will need to be cleaned and all items, including utensils, cookware, dishware, food products, and appliances, will need to be moved to provide access to the countertop.
The cabinets or the floor may have settled over time, creating a slight bend in the structure. While some countertop materials can flex, if you opt for a natural stone countertop, like marble or granite, the bend in the structure could cause the new countertop to crack. Make sure the cabinets have a levelness of 1/8-inch over 10 feet to avoid this problem.
Another factor to consider is that the existing sink and faucet may need to be altered to fit the new countertop, or you may have to replace these parts of the plumbing with compatible alternatives. Either the old or the new sink and fixtures should be available for the countertop template. If this isn't possible, the measurement specifications will be needed, otherwise the project will not be able to proceed.
Kitchen Countertop Materials
With a wide variety of options to choose from, it can be difficult to make a decision about the best type of kitchen countertop material for your home. There are inexpensive options with a range of designs, colors, and styles, like solid-surface, and laminate, though these materials are not highly durable and may require semi-frequent repair to maintain the appearance.
Hard, durable options, like granite or marble, look great, but come with a high price tag. These materials are highly resistant to heat and abrasive damage, though it should be taken into consideration that you will need to reseal the countertop about once every one to two years to prevent staining due to the porous nature of stone.
Depending on the desired aesthetic, you could install stainless steel countertops, though this option may give the kitchen an industrial or commercial feel. Soapstone countertops have recently seen some popularity, though soapstone is similar to marble in that it stains easily if it isn't sealed. Nonporous quartz is a tough, stain-resistant, heat-resistant option, if you are willing to pay the higher price for this material.
Ultimately, you need to consider the durability, ease of maintenance, lifespan, costs, and personal aesthetic appeal to come to a conclusion about the right kitchen countertop material for your home.
Replacing a kitchen countertop isn't a cheap project. If you are taking on the project on your own, you will still need to pay for materials, installation supplies, any tools you need but do not currently own, and you may also need to pay for the disposal of the old countertop. It's also important to consider if there are any electrical, gas, or plumbing connections that need to be disconnected by a licensed plumber, electrician, or gas fitter before the countertop can be replaced.
Handling these expenses and tackling the countertop replacement as a DIY project can help you save about $10 to $30 per square foot on labor costs. Just note that you are taking on all the risk for the materials and the installation, so if something goes wrong, the cost and responsibility to resolve the problem will fall back to you.
If you choose to hire a professional to complete this project, it typically costs between $1,859 and $4,341 to install countertops. However, the cost for this installation can exceed $8,000, or it may be as low as $400, depending on material, square footage, custom design, and several additional factors.
Countertops are typically priced by the square foot, with an approximate range of about $10 to $70 per square foot, depending on the material. If you are putting in a large countertop, it may be best to opt for a more affordable material to ensure you don't exceed your budget.