Available Alternatives to Granite Countertops

Granite has proven a popular choice for kitchen renovations over the last several years. But concern about the potential health implications of granite, not to mention cost and maintenance, is causing many homeowners to reconsider granite for countertops and backsplashes.

It's hard to deny the appeal of granite's appearance. It can be beautiful and complement many design styles. However, it tends to be porous, and the Food and Drug Adminstration has said that it may harbor potentially dangerous bacteria if not properly cleaned. Furthermore, there is evidence that granite may give off high levels of radon depending on where the stone was harvested.

Fortunately for homeowners who like the look of granite but want something that's more affordable and easier to maintain, there are many alternatives available that mimic the look of granite without the health concerns.

Solid surface products that are made with composite materials are growing in popularity. Many contain quartz or other stone mixed with plastic and glass binders. These products tend to be easier to maintain than granite, and many come backed with manufacturer warranties.

Due to the solid surface materials of the past, these types of materials have garnered a bad name. But new innovations are so high-quality, that many consumers have difficulty deciphering between real granite and look-alikes.

Engineered stone is another option for homeowners. These products are made from bits of natural stone mixed with fillers and offer the same scratch- and heat-resistance as granite.

Depending on the material, solid surface products and engineered stone can cost anywhere from $35 to $125 per square foot. These surfaces are more cost-efficient than granite, which can start at around $50 per square foot.

If cost is not a factor and durability the chief concern, homeowners can consider another material -- concrete. Concrete can be tinted or patterned in adherence to a homeowner's desired design style. Because it can be labor-intensive to install, the price of concrete will likely rival granite.

Homeowners who want to buck tradition and consider a countertop material other than granite have plenty of attractive and durable options from which to choose.