authors Janice Costa | February 8, 2018
Countertops have long been a mainstay of kitchen design, whether offering a dramatic focal point, a splash of color, a bit of textural interest, a sense of warmth, a note of visual contrast, or a calming oasis of cool or warm tones that blend seamlessly into the kitchen. Likewise, the growing role of the kitchen has expanded the functional role of countertops from durable food prep surfaces to multifunctional places for cooking, eating, entertaining, doing homework, charging electronics and more.
So it’s no surprise that, in a recent survey of kitchen dealers and designers, countertops were highly rated for their importance, both visually and functionally. Additionally, the majority of designers and dealers polled said they sell or specify multiple countertop materials to meet their clients’ needs.
The Kitchen & Bath Design News survey, which polled more than 540 kitchen dealers and designers across the U.S. and Canada, looked at material trends, including most desired surfacing traits, views on the importance of surfacing in regards to design and functionality of the kitchen, and what percentage of their kitchen remodeling budgets dealers’ and designers’ clients devote to surfacing.
With the growing interest in personalizing the kitchen and the mix-and-match trend remaining strong, the majority of dealers and designers surveyed said they sell or specify multiple surfacing materials to meet client demand.
The most popular surfacing choices included natural stone such as granite/marble/concrete/soapstone, sold or specified by more than 90% of those polled, and quartz or quartzite, sold or specified by 89.2% of survey respondents (see Graph 1).
Solid surface also remains a perennial favorite, with more than 70% of dealers and designers saying they sell or specify the material, while 53.6% sell or specify laminate and 47.3% sell or specify wood surfacing.
While sintered stone and ultra-compact surfacing are relatively new to the market, they are already making strong inroads, with 22.6% of those polled selling or specifying this material.
Other options sold or specified by dealers and designers included metal (16%), glass (15.4%), recycled materials (15.4%), tile (15%), paper composite (3.7%) and other materials (4.3%).
While cabinetry traditionally takes the lion’s share of a kitchen remodeling budget, countertops are increasingly being viewed as a worthwhile investment, according to survey respondents, particularly if they are seen not only as beautiful but also durable and long lasting.
When asked what percentage of the kitchen remodeling budget their clients spend on countertops, just over half (52%) said 10-20%, but another third (32.4%) said their clients spend 21-40% of their budget on countertops (see Graph 2). Only 10.4% saw clients spending less than 10% of their kitchen remodeling budget on countertops, while 4.4% said clients spend 41-60% of their remodeling budget on their countertops.
While material choices and budgets may vary, dealers and designers were united in their belief that countertops play a key role in the kitchen, both aesthetically and functionally. Indeed, more than 98% of those polled said they view the countertop material as “extremely important” (77.6%) or “important” (20.9%) to the overall look of the kitchen, while only a fraction (1.5%) said countertops are “somewhat important” (see Graph 3).
Functionally speaking, the numbers are also strong: some 92% of survey respondents view countertop materials as “extremely important” (58.3%) or “important” (33.6%) to how the kitchen functions (see Graph 4), while 6.7% see this as “somewhat important” and only 1.4% view this as “not very important.”
What adds value to a countertop? According to surveyed dealers and designers, the top three desired aspects are durability, beauty and ease of maintenance (see Graph 5). Affordability ranked lower, down the list in the fourth spot, suggesting that consumers may be less concerned about price as long as they feel it’s a good investment with lasting value. Other desired countertop qualities cited by kitchen dealers and designers included fits with overall design, color/pattern options and a classic look that won’t get dated too quickly.
As far as their clients’ greatest concerns with choosing countertops, dealers and designers cited price, damage from stains/scratching/heat/wear and tear, and maintenance requirements as their top three worries (see Graph 6). The color or pattern going out of style too quickly was fourth on their list of concerns, while other concerns included not getting something that looks unique or personalized, not looking “real,” imperfections in natural materials and fabrication concerns. ▪