Choosing Bathroom Countertops

Get tips on how to find the right surfaces for your bath remodel.

Vanity tops must play the dual role of being durable and capable of standing up to water, soap, cosmetics while serving as an ample work surface for morning rush hour in the bathroom. This is no place for delicate, porous (read: easy-to-stain) surfaces. At the same time, the vanity top can be a focal point and a connecting point, where wood cabinets below meet tile wall above, for instance.

The surface you choose for that countertop depends largely on your budget and taste.

Here are some of the options:

Granite and marble. In a master bath, it pays to install granite or marble, which attract buyers at resale and give the vanity top a rich, sleek look. And with affordable “grades” of granite available on the market today, you don’t have to empty your wallet for this feature. You will, of course, spend more on granite than laminate, but the result is a surface that can handle heat and wear. Be advised: granite must be sealed to repel grease (which you could run into in hair products and such). Marble stains easily, while granite stands up to most stains.

Solid surface. Quartzite materials are incredibly durable and low-maintenance. Scratches are easily buffed out with fine-grade sandpaper, and the surface can handle high heat (curling irons and all). The cost is comparable to granite and marble.

Laminate. Economical and available in a range of finishes (including those that look like solid surface or granite), laminate is a go-to vanity top material because of its versatility. It stands up to water and is relatively stain-proof, but it will burn, dull and dent.

Tile. The downside of tile countertops is the maintenance: Grout lines inevitably trap gunk. But tile can be laid in a pattern, it comes in a vast array of colors (ceramic) and finishes (natural), and the artistic detail that can be applied makes this a surface worth considering.

Wood. Wood vanity tops must be well sealed because these porous surfaces are susceptible to water damage—rot, that is. This is mainly a concern in seams where sinks and faucet fixtures are installed. However, wood offers a warm, inviting feel and an organic look if a butcher-block type counter is used. Keep in mind this is thicker in width and, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), you might need to modify plumbing connections.

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