When is the last time you heard somebody complain about having too much counter space or too many kitchen cabinets? Lack of space is why nearly 50 percent of homeowners say they keep frequently used kitchen items in other rooms—the food processor winds up in the laundry room, stockpots are stashed in the garage—according to the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence. If you have space, you can add an island but make sure the countertop you install can stand up to years of punishment.
About 74 percent of homeowners surveyed said they want more counter space than they currently have, even more than those coveting cabinets, according to an online survey of 1,000 homeowners conducted by RICKI. "An island makes sense and can become a design statement," says Brenda Bryan, a spokesperson for RICKI. "You can choose the material you like and if you decide to sell your home in eight years, the island isn't a problem as the new owners can change just that countertop."
When selecting countertop materials for the rest of your kitchen you do have to consider resale value, according to the realtors and kitchen designers we've talked to. You don't have to pander to buyers' expectations, but be aware of them. Tile counters, for example, are a cleaning nightmare and some prospective home buyers shun them.
So let's say you like the look of soapstone but are wondering how it will hold up over time. We stained, sliced, scratched, scorched, and nicked soapstone and 13 other countertops to find out which ones will look good year after year. In our tests, we found big differences in materials, but little variation among brands. Quartz and granite topped the rankings but advances in laminate make that a good choice too and it costs far less. To find a countertop that suits your budget and lifestyle, take a good look at our countertop Ratings.
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