So it’s time to stop telling yourself you’re okay with your old countertops, that they’re fiiiiiine, there’s nothing wrong with them, really. Because, truth be told, you just can’t stand to look at them one more minute. Maybe you tried an interim measure, a quick budget fix, but that reached its expiration point. The time has come and you couldn’t be more excited. But, before you get too giddy, there’s some bad news.
Kitchen counter sticker shock is up there with cabinets. You’re often talking thousands—actual thousands of dollars—for a few square feet of something on which to prep your meals. I’m in the throes of kitchen renovation, and keep asking myself this every day: How can it cost so much and why is that ok? I’ve purchased or ordered everything at this point, except the island counter, because I keep hoping for a last minute miracle.
So, like we recently did with finding cheap kitchen cabinets, I’m scouring the land looking for the best places to get cheap kitchen countertops, and am here to share those findings with you.
Architectural Salvage Stores
Most cities have at least one of these treasure troves where you can find untold goodies pulled from old houses. Keep your eye on Facebook pages for these kind of places near you and you can find some serious steals. I outfitted a big chunk of our Detroit house with finds from Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit. Once, I saw a notice that they were giving away all their granite counters before moving to a new location. Since I didn’t have a truck at the time, I almost wept while browsing the dozens of slabs of granite up for grabs. The salvage place in my city of Louisville also has a once-a-year big sale where prices on everything are slashed.
Of course the drawback to going this route is you’ll have to contend with the cut-outs in place, but, hey, if you have to buy a sink to fit an existing hole for your FREE counter, well, I can think of worse things.
Now, the old IKEA standby isn’t automatically the least expensive material– some butcher block costs as much as granite—but, if you do go the IKEA route, butcher block can be among the cheapest options. Amanda from Our Storied Home DIYed hers for $300, which is a definite bargain (though she does have some qualms). Based on some reviews, I opted for John Boos maple butcherblock for the prep area in our new kitchen. For a 42-inch by 25-inch top, it was $266 and we plan to install it ourselves on base cabinets that we got for $100 from a Facebook Marketplace ad (they were “practice” cabinets for a new paint color they let employees take home and sell). It took a couple weeks for our Boos top to arrive. If you want something faster and don’t live near IKEA, the big box stores also sell butcher block counters.
It’s a cliché, but for good reason. Is there anything you can’t find on Craigslist and reseller sites like Facebook Marketplace? You never know what people need to sell, stat, which translates to cheap. Especially if it’s someone renovating, they just need it gone. It can take some sifting, and be sure to use general terms too, as brand names might be misspelled. A local search for me, for instance, turned up a “Corion” counter for $200 with the compelling ad:
I HAVE A KITCHEN COUNTER TOP WITH BUILT IN SINK AND VANITY TOPS
LOOK AT PICTURES AND CALL ME
DIY Stainless Steel (or Other Metal)
If you’re handy and have access to a good tool collection (or know a metal worker), why not go industrial with a stainless steel top, or zinc (which was our first take on a DIY counter)? You can buy sheet metal online for a fraction of the cost of a new counter, and it boils down to cutting it to the size you need and wrapping it around and gluing to your substrate (i.e. plywood). This may not be the best project for the beginner, but, if you’re up to the task, it can save some serious change. Linn from The Home Project only spent $20 per square foot on her stainless steel countertop. We spent about the same for the zinc and plywood for our top.
Before you quickly skip this section, hold up. Laminate has come a long way from the dated Formica you’re picturing. Here are Apartment Therapy, we recently broke it down, with the welcome news that you can get your hands on a nice-looking countertop for $20 to $30 per linear foot—as opposed to the hundred bucks (or more) you’re looking at with the solid surface stuff. Depending on your budget, and home values in your neighborhood, it might make more sense to take this route than to splurge on something that would price your house out of the neighborhood.
You hear a lot about remnants in budget how-to articles. But what does that even mean? I’ve been calling my local Granite America shop weekly to see if the style of quartz slab (white with gray marbling and just a touch of gold) I’m lusting for is in, and the last time I called I grilled the salesperson about remnants. Sarah Bouhl gave me the scoop. There are what people call remnants, and then there are true remnants, she said.
Here’s how it works: When someone makes an order, staff cut a slab to size. If there’s a piece leftover, people will call that a remnant. BUT: If they still have slabs to match (they call it a bundle) the price stays the same, so there’s no savings. Now if they cut a slab and there’s a piece left that doesn’t have a mate, “That’s a true remnant,” she explained, and that’s when the price goes down by $5 to $20 per foot. So there’s a savings, but it’s not as dramatic as you might like to think. The drawback to remnants, Bouhl said, is you may feel like you’re settling for a pattern that’s not quite your favorite. But if you happen to love a remnant? You’re in luck!
One of my favorite places to find awesome discount goods is Habitat ReStore. These Habitat for Humanity-affiliated shops accept donated building materials and other household fittings, then sell them at really low prices to raise funds for their work building homes. Not only do these places keep renovation cast-offs out of landfills, you can sometimes find perfectly decent countertops at a great price. ReStore isn’t the only game in town; many cities have their own spin on the concept, even if it’s not affiliated with Habitat. I just found this place in a town an hour away from me selling marble for $15 per square foot.
Bonus tip: If you have your heart set on one of the expensive counters and are willing to splurge, you should still shop around. While looking around for a Silestone quartz countertop for my kitchen island, I received a range of quotes, with a $3,500 difference between the lowest and highest of them. It pays to get multiple quotes.