An overnight sensation.

Want instant "Wow!" in your kitchen? Upgrade your countertops. "We can put new countertops in during the morning and when you come home from work 'Wow, it looks like you have a new kitchen,'" says Karin Buechler, an owner along with her husband, Tim, of afm Countertops. "You don't have to do a $30,000 kitchen remodel if it's not in your budget right now. You can do the countertops and still have money left for that big screen TV you want."

In fact, one of the first things to go in any kitchen remodel is the countertops. Particularly laminates. "People are replacing their tired, old laminate countertops at almost a record pace," Buechler says.
"They're finding that statistically, if they do replace their countertops, they'll recoup 110 percent of their investment when they sell their house. It's almost like a necessity any more - a necessity that pays you back." And if you're not planning to sell anytime soon? "You'll reap the rewards by having a more enjoyable countertop," Buechler says.

The big question, of course, is material to replace your countertop with. Some of the main options to consider include:

Granite. With its sleek, glossy look, granite continues to remain a popular favorite. Granite's many price tiers means it's also more affordable than you may realize. Benefits of granite are that it's very hard, making it difficult to scratch. On the other hand, you usually can feel and see seams. It' also very porous, which means liquids may seep in, and it must be regularly resealed. Buechler recommends soap and water for cleanup.

Quartz. Another favorite, quartz generally offers a radiant, polished look like granite but with a nonporous surface. Both DuPont Zodiaq and Silestone are manufactured composite quartz surfaces. Zodiaq also offers a matte finish. As with granite, you can feel and see seams. But it's stain resistant and doesn't require resealing. Silestone contains Microban Anti-microbial protection to help banish germs. Cambria is pure, natural quartz - mined right here in Minnesota. Buechler recommends soap and water for cleanup. Even mild abrasives can dull the finish.

Corian. This solid-surface countertop with a matte finish offers the most design versatility, Buechler says. It offers the best fit and finish of all premium countertop products, she says. Although it's stain resistant and seams are nearly invisible, Corian does show wear faster than quartz or granite. Buechler recommends Soft Scrub and a sponge for cleanup.

Other countertop options include concrete and a new recycled paper product that while appealing to those who want to go green, still must prove its mettle over time, Buechler says.

Can't decide on a surface? Consider one of the hottest trends: Blending two different surfaces, such as a neutral matte Corian edged with a wavy pattern of dark, glossy granite. This custom, upgraded feature will cost more, of course, but it adds both unusual beauty and - surprisingly - safety to your kitchen. That's because many countertops are similar in color to kitchen flooring, and for aging Baby Boomers, it can be hard to see where one ends and the other begins. Edging your countertop in a contrasting material can prevent bumps and spills alike, Buechler notes.

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If you have questions about building or remodeling, call Rochester Area Builders at (507) 282-7698.

Copyright 2007 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Remodel It Right Handbook articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders, 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone (507) 282-7698.

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Tips From The Pros

Many countertop manufacturers produce materials with recycled content.