Bathroom countertops get splashier

Materials favored in the kitchen are now popular in bathrooms too

Published: March 2012

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Some of the most beautiful counters are also the most practical, according to our tests of a dozen popular materials. For instance, top performing quartz and granite are both stylish and strong, though granite typically needs periodic resealing. Laminate, the chameleon of countertop materials, is easier on the wallet and proved remarkably stain and heat resistant in our simulation of everyday abuse.

Though bathroom counters typically see less wear and tear than kitchen counters, you might want to limit low-scoring materials to powder rooms or lightly-used guest bathrooms. We spent weeks staining, scratching, scorching and pounding materials from trendy stone to classic laminate to find the ones that will hold up best in your bathroom. We found few differences among brands, which is why our Ratings are by material. But as you’ll see, some materials are far less forgiving than others. Here’s what to think about.

Start with the sink. Most counters work with most sinks, but under-mount sinks require waterproof materials such as stone, quartz or solid surfacing. Stainless steel, solid surfacing and concrete are best for seamless installations where the sink and counter are made of the same material. Just don’t expect lots of durability or a low price with trendy concrete.

Know your stone. Engineered stone, recycled glass, laminate, and solid surfacing are likely to match the samples you see in the store. But with granite, marble, limestone and soapstone, color, veining and grain vary from slab to slab and even within a single slab. So visit the stone yard and if you see a piece you love, put a deposit on it; otherwise it may not be there when you return.

Reap the savings. Be on the lookout for sales. And since bathroom counters are typically smaller than the ones in kitchens, you can cut costs by using less-expensive stone or quartz remnants—essentially leftover pieces from other jobs. Also consider skipping fancy edge treatments, which add cost, and choosing less-expensive, ¾-inch thick stone instead of thicker stone.

Let the fabricator do the measuring. All measurements and templates should be made by the fabricator or installer, including cut-outs for the sink and faucet. That way, any errors are the pro’s responsibility, not yours.

For seven bathroom upgrades that'll make you happy and seven you may regret, check our "Bathroom Remodeling Guide: Dos and Don'ts."

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