Question

What is the best material for green countertops that are not too expensive?

Asked by Laurie
North Richland Hills, TX

We are on a limited budget but want counter tops that will look nice, I do not want formica, I have them now. What is the best for the price.

Answer

There are several good options for eco-friendly countertops that won't break the bank.

Recycled paper countertops

Paper counters offer a highly water and chemical resistant surface that is warm to the touch and has a nice natural patina that requires minimal monthly maintenance.

  • Although they come in a limited number of colors, they do look very nice especially against light colored cabinets.
  • Like any solid surface top you should not cut with sharp knives on them but they can be easily sanded and buffed out.
  • With a good finish carpenter, these can be cut, sanded and finished in the field, although the manufacturers recommend certified fabricators.

Porcelain

Next is one of our favorites which are highly underrated: large format porcelain countertops.  

  • Check out Crossville Ceramics and American Olean.
  • Don't confuse porcelain with normal ceramic tile as they are far more durable and just as stain, scratch, and water resistant as quartz.
  • Although standard tile sizes are available (12" x 12"), we recommend the 24" x 24" as it minimizes the number of grout lines.
  • Porcelain tiles requires no sealing and are 30% harder than granite.
  • Most come in gorgeous rich colors that resemble marble and other natural stone.
  • They can be purchased with rectified edges, i.e. perfectly square, so you can install them with minimal (1/16) grout lines or without grout lines at all.
  • They range in price from $5-$9/SF for unpolished and $10-15 for polished. The polished tile cleans just like glass and the unpolished has a smooth honed finish that is also very desirable.

Installation costs more than regular tile because matching seams requires extra time and finishing bullnoses can add to the cost as well. Figure about $10/SF for installation. You can also use a wood bullnose which is much less expensive and will match your cabinets.

One drawback is that you have to use a drop in sink instead of an undermount. However, some companies such as Kohler, now make tile-in sinks that sit flush with the tile.

Bamboo

Another favorite is bamboo.  Check out Teragren

  • Teragren's material comes in slabs 30" x 96" or 36" x 72" and are 1 1/2" thick with an attractive detailing on the edge.
  • They come in horizontal and vertical grain or parquet which is an end grain ideal for chopping boards.
  • They also come in strand woven surface which is even more durable than all the others mentioned above.
  • All of Teragrens products contain no added urea formaldehyde.

Bamboo cuts, routers, sands, stains and seals just like most wood and is easily field installed by most finish carpenters. These make nice additions to eating bars, islands or cutting boards.

Pricing for bamboo counters range from $25 to $30/SF and the labor is minimal. Cutting out sinks is relatively easy for undermount or drop in sinks.

The finish needs to be carefully executed with non-toxic oil and wax from Bioshield or polyurethane from AFM Safecoat.  Read about both here

Marmoleum

And last but not least are Marmoleum countertops made by Forbo

  • These are made of natural linoleum which contain 100% natural ingredients which are sustainably harvested.
  • Marmoleum comes in over a hundred beautiful colors that will fit in with any decor.
  • Sheet goods come 79" wide by any length and can be glued (with their non-toxic adhesive) to most any surface.
  • Because Marmoleum is naturally anti-microbial and anit-static, they make for a nice clean smooth warm finish.

While these are softer than most countertops, they do work well for eating bars, islands, desks, table tops and much more. We've seen them at check out counters, restaraunts and even as wainscote at Taco Bell.

The best part is the price which starts at $4.98/SF. Glue is about $0.25/SF and can be a DIY installation.

 

Joel Hirshberg

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