Handyman: Countertops have come a long way

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

When walking into any kitchen or bathroom, the countertop is often the first thing you notice. If you are in the market for some new countertops for a remodeling project, you may be surprised by the numerous options you have in colors, styles and materials.

If you haven’t shopped for countertops in a few years, you can still find products from good old standard manufacturers like Corian,, from Dupont or Formica, But even products from these popular companies offer lots of new styles and colors you may not have seen in the past. And the more trendy choices like granite, quartz, marble have expanded options as well.

“Granite is still popular but you have to seal it to keep it from staining,” said Jill Johnson, designer and sales manager for KSI Kitchen and Bath in Ann Arbor, (734) 769-7669, “Quartz is our top seller and offers more color choices than granite and also has the advantage that it doesn’t stain and doesn’t need to be sealed.”

So when considering what type of surface to get for a kitchen, you should look for a countertop that is both durable and can be cleaned up easily, especially if you like to cook. If you use your kitchen more for entertaining than meal preparation, you can focus more on the look of the countertop and how it matches your style.

Granite counters are mined from pure stone and then sawed into slabs and polished. Quartz countertops are manufactured from crushed quartz that is mixed with pigment for coloration and resin as a binder. The advantage of quartz is that it looks like granite, but isn’t as porous, so it is much easier to maintain. Among the popular brands of quartz are Cambria,, Dupont,, and Wilsonart,

Marble is another solid surface that is a metamorphic rock containing crystallized limestone. While the appearance can be luxurious, it is also susceptible to stains and may not be the best choice for the kitchen.

The good news is that laminate products like Formica or Wilsonart now have colors and styles that imitate granite, but you get a countertop that is very low maintenance and at a lower price.

Johnson said quartz is the most expensive option these days, with granite being the next most expensive. However, the prices for granite have come down, and she said depending on the color you chose, it is possible to get granite countertops for half the price of quartz.

Along with the kitchen, many of these products can do double duty in the bathroom. While Corian is a popular choice for bathrooms, several products from Michigan-based manufacturer Marbelite,, are designed specifically for a bathroom.

Marbelite also has a separate division, Compazo Products,, which manufactures an engineered concrete countertop for bathrooms.

“We use a polyester liquid resin that quickens the cure time and the product doesn’t stain or chip,” said Bill Lubahn, sales manager for Marbelite. “The countertops are cast to order, come in 16 natural colors and weigh less than a comparable granite or quartz countertop.”

While quartz, granite, laminate or solid surface products are still among the most popular, there are also some environmentally friendly countertop products such as PaperStone,, that is manufactured from a sustainable composite material made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, phenolic resins and natural pigments.

PaperStone is dense and durable, and because of its low porosity, it is resistant to staining from food products and household cleaning products.

You can even find glass countertops such as those available from Julian Glass, These unique custom-engineered glass countertops are more colorful and translucent than granite or marble at a fraction of the cost, while having similar performance characteristics.

For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege" on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.