Duo Ventures

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Choosing Countertops

Finally!  Some changes are underway in our kitchen!

With the exception of some new track lighting, our kitchen is one area of our home
that we haven't worked on since we moved in 5 years ago...
It still had the same laminate countertop & tumbled travertine tile backsplash:
It's not terrible, it's just not our cup of tea (check out Mel's Kitchen Board to see what's more our style).

While we certainly could paint the cabinets, it doesn't seem worth it to us since they are only 6 years old & are in good condition.  Oh, and it would be a lot of work.  But we digress...

For now, we are going to work with our medium wood tone maple cabinets (at least we think they are maple) and update the countertops & backsplash only.  The trick was going to be finding something that would coordinate with the color of our cabinets.

While searching online, we found one kitchen that had similar colored cabinetry to ours, with light quartz counters, & a white subway tile backsplash - check it out here.  Even though she eventually painted her cabinets, we thought the light counters & subway tile paired well with the original wood tone.
It was the visual inspiration that we needed to move forward...

We began our search by visiting a couple of granite & stone warehouses.
Our first stop was @ Granite Direct Warehouse:

After we looked through rows & rows of granite, we quickly realized that granite was going to be too dark & busy for the look we were trying to achieve.  The slabs we did like turned out to be marble - which was not the material we wanted to use in our kitchen.

So we turned our focus to quartz - so many choices!

So what exactly are quartz counters made of & how are they different from granite?  Honestly, we didn't really know much of anything at first.  We quickly learned that quartz countertops are an engineered stone product - they are comprised of a combination of natural quartz, resin, & pigments (about 93% quartz).  The result is a super durable, stain & scratch resistant surface - that never needs to be sealed.  There are several different manufactures (or brands) of quartz countertops.  Some of the major companies are Ceasarstone, Silestone, Cambria, Zodiac, HanStone, & Viatera.

Although we were initially leaning towards quartz for more aesthetic/color reasons, it was nice to know that it was more durable & required less maintenance than granite (btw, we still think granite is a durable & beautiful natural material - it just didn't fit our needs for this project).
Here's a comparison chart we referenced from one of our brochures:

With the help of our salesperson Melissa, we pulled out a few quartz samples that caught our eye:

It's difficult to get 100% accurate representations of the colors under the indoor lighting - 
but you can get a general idea.

After a process of elimination, we narrowed it down to a couple different colors (Cirrus, Frosty Carrina, & Organic White) and got some price quotes.  Melissa gave us some small samples to take home as well.  Although we had already found some quartz samples we liked at our very first stop, we thought we should at least check out a few more granite warehouses...explore all of our options, you know?

By the end of the day, we had physically visited 3 different warehouses & continued to run into the same issue with the granite - took dark & busy.  We kept revisiting quartz & gravitating towards the same samples.

Once we were done shopping around for the day, we tried out our favorite sample at home (the warehouses did have several cabinets doors on hand to reference, but none of them were the exact color of our cabinets - we should have just brought our own from the start):

At this point, we were 99% sure we were going to go with Frosty Carrina by Caesarstone.  We felt the Organic White was a bit too stark and we preferred the veining of the Frosty Carrina over the Cirrus (by LG) sample.  Frosty Carrina felt like the perfect shade of white with subtle grey veining - it definitely had a 'marble' look to it that we really liked.

Now that we were fairly certain of what we wanted, Nader called around to about 8 other companies to get some more quotes.  All of the quotes were within about $500 of each other - with the exception of the first location we visited, which was significantly lower than all of the other quotes.  We thought it was a bit odd, so Nader called Melissa to inquire about the price difference.

That's when we learned that, based on our counter top square footage, companies would need to order 2 slabs (which some of the other companies did mention in their quote explanation).  Apparently, many companies pass the cost of the extra slab onto the customer - even though they don't use it.  Melissa explained that they didn't need to charge us for the extra remnants due to their sales volume & storage warehouse.  Essentially, they had to room to store it & the ability to sell the remnant quickly.

Also, throughout the shopping process we learned that some companies charge an additional fee to cut the hole for the sink & install it - so just a heads up on that.  Luckily, Melissa's proposal did not include an additional charge to install the sink.  

It was pretty obvious for us that we were going to move forward with the first company we visited - Granite Direct Warehouse.  We have included the link for anyone in the Atlanta area who might be countertop shopping.  (Also, we think it's important to mention that our counters were not comped nor are we getting any sort of compensation for using Granite Direct.  We simply wanted to share our real life experience & any info that might be helpful to others.)

A few days later we stopped by Granite Direct & brought one of our cabinet doors
with us so we could see it with a larger sample of the quartz.  Even though we liked how the smaller sample looked at home, we wanted to be 100% sure:
So far, so good - it worked for us!  The next step was confirming some details.

First up - edge choices.  There were several different choices - some of which were standard & some which costed extra (see the full selection here).  We decided on the standard Eased Edge because it felt simple, modern, & classic all at the same time.

Second - we had to decide how much of an overhang we wanted on the peninsula:
We debated over these potential ideas:
1.  add a full 12" overhang to create a seating area for bar stools
2.  add 6"-8" of overhang to simply create more working countertop space

Option 1 was the ideal choice for us.  Unfortunately, our dining table & chairs would have been a bit too close to the countertop edge & stools.  It might have worked, but it would have been a tight squeeze.  In the end, we decided to add an extra 6" of overhang to simply increase our overall work surface.

Lastly, we signed the paperwork & scheduled a time for them come out & measure the template.  That concludes Part 1 of our countertop shopping experience.  With our countertop choice finalized, we are on to the next step - picking out a sink & faucet so they can cut out the openings once our slabs arrive!
Updates coming soon...

Mel & Nader

This was not a sponsored post.  We simply wanted to share our experience with other homeowners.


  1. Thanks for all the helpful tips. We will need new counter-tops in our condo in the future. I pinned this post for future reference.

    1. No problem! We are glad to hear that it could help someone out! Thanks for reading Joy!
      Mel & Nader

  2. Nice!!
    Great Suggestions!!
    It will be help..
    Counter tops are so useful in the major areas of the house..It is important too.
    Thanks for sharing:)

    Indian Limestone

  3. Nice post.A valuable information here.Thanks for sharing with us.
    Granite fabrication Shop

  4. Hi,
    This post is really nice and informative. The explanation given is really comprehensive and informative. I am feeling happy to comment on this post.All wood Cabinets

  5. Hey great work.. I loved this post..Thanks for sharing this information. Kitchen contractor

  6. It's nice to know that finally able to do changes in your kitchen after 5 years of living there. Seems like choosing between quartz and granite materials was easy for you since you already knew the pros and cons of each, and that you know what you really need for that project. I hope the rest of the renovation went smoothly for you. Thanks for sharing with us! :)

    Debra Newman @ UCS Granite

  7. Hi Mel, I was wondering if you'd share your experience with the Caesarstone kitchen countertop after living with it for several years? For instance, does it stain with daily use, are the strawberries still staining it, are water stains overly visible, does it require special maintenance? I have read some very bad reviews online, however, after our initial research for new countertops, I am IN LOVE with the same color that you chose and can't find another that is comparable in subtlety in veining color. Trying to determine if some extra maintenance is worth the perfect aesthetics. Another question would be -did you purchase the gloss finish, or honed finish? I would appreciate any information that you could provide. Thanks! Amy

    1. Hi there! I don't really notice any staining with daily use. I'm trying to think if we've had any more issues with strawberries, but nothing comes to mind. I did get some ink from a pen on the counter last week, but some soft scrub with bleach took it out right away. The counter top company also recommended acetone to get any stubborn stains out. It is bizarre that it even temporarily "stains", considering quartz is supposed to be stain proof.

      One thing I did notice is that bleach products will definitely lighten the counters (I guess I initially assumed quartz would not be affected by bleach?). It's not necessarily a bad thing if you're cleaning the entire counters equally well - but if you only spray it down in one concentrated area (or don't wipe with water after), it will definitely be a more bright white & stand out at certain angles. I honestly couldn't tell you if it's actually bleaching the counter color or if my counters were actually that discolored/dirty all over? I can't imagine they were that dirty, but who knows? Hope that makes sense.

      I just looked through our paperwork & there is no mention of a finish choice, but I'm guessing it is the polished option. I can't honestly say anything negative other than the bleaching issue. We haven't noticed any scratches or anything either. Please let me know if you have any other questions though!


    2. Hi Mel

      Two years later and I have the same question... We're looking at the polished 'organic white' for a kitchen island waterfall style (if that's the correct term in English :p ). We like to cook, have friends over and will start on kids in a few years... The kitchen island will have sun on it for a couple of hours in the morning. Are you still happy with your frosty carrina? Do you have an undermount sink and would you choose that again?

    3. Hello! First of all, I apologize for the delayed response. I'm not getting notifications when there is a comment & I'm not on the blog that often anymore.

      I would say I feel the same - I do notice temporary staining (from strawberries sometimes for example). It always comes out with bleach, but it is still bizarre to me that this product stains at all in the first place. Still haven't noticed any scratches. Overall I like it, but I would probably get a quartz with a more defined veining in our next home, just because the veining in the Frosty Carrina is so subtle you hardly notice it.

      I LOVE the single basin under-mount sink. Would never go back to a double basin!

      Hope that helps :)