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Originally published Friday, March 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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Add quartz to trendy countertop options | HomeWork

Before you consider your options, ask yourself what it is you expect to do on your new countertops.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Vetrazzo is now made in Georgia. Try Novustone in Seattle or Fuez in Portland for... MORE



Q. What are the most popular countertop solutions today?

A. New countertops can be a cost-effective way to provide a fresh look to your kitchen. While granite and marble remain the most popular choices, new, trendy alternatives can offer a clean, sleek and sometimes industrial look.

Before you consider your options, ask yourself what it is you expect to do on your new countertops.

Do you have a hardworking kitchen that will need durable, easy to maintain countertops? Manufactured stone or quartz countertops may be the right solution for you. Quartz countertops are a mix of natural stone and resin, which makes them durable, as well as stain and scratch resistant. Quartz needs no sealing and retains its good looks for years.

Another reason many homeowners like quartz is because the pattern and colors are consistent, unlike the variations in natural stone and is available in several different colors including red, orange and cobalt blue.

If you are looking for a surface you can set hot pots on and you like the look of a unique grain pattern and the color of natural stone, granite, the hardest and most durable of the natural-stone options, is a good choice to consider.

Other natural-stone options include marble, travertine and limestone. The color and pattern of limestone can be beautiful but requires a mineral-oil treatment twice a year and you need to be careful not to let lemon juice or red-wine spills sit on limestone. Marble and travertine are also more porous than granite and also need to be treated.

Another important question you’ll want to answer is, do you want an under-mount or top-mount sink? With an under-mount sink there is no sink lip over the countertop where crumbs and little bits of food get caught and crumbs can be swept right into the sink.

Laminate and tile countertops cannot use an under-mount sink because of the way the edge needs to be finished and because it will not hold up over a sink area. The advantage of a top-mount sink is that the colors and patterns available for laminate have come a long way in the last 20 years and the pricing for laminates can’t be beat.

Acrylic, paperstone and butcher block are fun alternatives to stone. They come in varying thickness and are suitable for under-mount sinks. They can be less expensive than the stone alternatives and come in several colors. Acrylics also come in many colors and patterns.

Butcher block is elegant, casual and environmentally friendly but requires monthly sealing and oiling to prevent drying or cracking. The relative softness of its surface will require that you use cutting boards but cleanup is simple with a mild dish detergent and a light cloth or sponge.

If you are looking for material that is locally manufactured and environmentally friendly, there are several to choose from. Custom butcher block made of recycled wood is manufactured in Olympia. Squak Mountain is made from a mix of recycled paper, recycled glass and concrete and is made in Seattle. A product called Richlite is made of compressed paper in Tacoma and Vetrazzo is made from recycled glass in Richmond, Calif.

No matter which material best fits your lifestyle and budget, before you make plans to install your new countertops, be sure to evaluate your lower cabinets. Are they in good condition or do they replacing? You don’t want to spend the money on new countertops and then a year later have to tear them out to get to the cabinets that you are replacing.

Sara Henry of Gaspar’s Construction & Handyman is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council and provided the information contained in this article. If you would like more information or have questions about home improvement send them to Sorry no personal replies. Always consult local codes and contractors.