The kitchen remodel countertop advice you should NEVER take.

 
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If you are shopping at a big box home store (or cabinet shop) for your kitchen remodel you probably have a smaller budget and are overwhelmed with decisions. What should we spend on? Where should we save? Which is the best line of cabinetry for us? What kind of countertops can we afford? You're trying to maximize your budget and check as much as possible off your wish list.

In an honest attempt to be helpful the salesperson might make this suggestion: Spend the bulk of your budget to upgrade the cabinetry, install a laminate countertop and in a few years, when you have the money, replace the laminate with the granite or quartz you really want.

The only time this suggestion even remotely makes sense is if you are installing the laminate countertop yourself. In that case check which sizes they stock and make sure you can modify them to fit your layout. If not you will have to place a special order. Make sure the undertones in the laminate work with your cabinetry and flooring. In-stock laminate is typically post form and has a 4” backsplash attached so you will not be installing a tile backsplash. If you have an island or peninsula this piece will need to be special ordered to finish the exposed edges. You can also use materials such as wood or butcher block.

Source - Baer Supply

Countertop fabricators mass produce the laminate countertops you see in stock at the home stores in only a few sizes and colors. That’s why those pieces are so inexpensive. When you custom order a laminate countertop to fit your cabinetry, the price jumps up. When you select a color outside of the basic color selections, the price automatically jumps up. When you want a different edge profile, the price jumps up again. Miters, end caps, cutouts, each have a fee. Now add in delivery and installation and laminate isn’t that inexpensive anymore.

In addition to material and installation, you will pay a plumber to disconnect and reconnect your plumbing each time the tops are installed, uninstalled and installed again. If you special ordered laminate countertops without the 4" backsplash so you could install backsplash tile, no countertop installer will guarantee that the tile won’t be damaged when they remove the laminate countertops. If that happens, you are also paying to have that damaged tile replaced. I hope you have extra tile in case it’s backordered or even worse discontinued.

We haven’t even gotten to the sink yet. Laminate tops require drop in sinks that sit on top of the countertop. There are some “undermount” sinks for laminate but they are expensive and they aren’t the same sinks used in a stone or quartz installation. Since one of the main benefits of your new stone or quartz counters is an undermount sink you now have to purchase a new sink. Now you have purchased two sinks.

I think you get the picture. I'm not even going to get into the environmental ramifications and resources that go into producing and transporting a laminate countertop that will end up in a dumpster in two to three years. 

If you are installing a laminate top this is the only way I would suggest doing it. No backsplash with full height tile. This white subway tile is perfect. It's a solid so it doesn't compete with the busy laminate pattern. Notice the "undermount" solid surface sink.

Source - Floform

I am assuming you work hard for your money and don’t like throwing it away. You DO NOT need to pay for top of the line cabinetry. A knowledgeable designer will be able to explain the cabinet construction, finish process and what modifications and accessories are available in each line. From there you can narrow down the cabinet line that works best for your needs. I will go into this more in a separate post.

While the difference in price between laminate and stone or quartz may be daunting in a lump sum it’s not worth the expense or hassle to switch it out later. You are paying for countertops twice people!

An undermount stainless steel sink with a quartz countertop.

Source - Kohler

Do the math and figure out how much more it will cost for the countertop you want. Tweak your cabinet design, go with a less expensive cabinet line if it meets your criteria, scale back on in cabinet accessories (you can always add these later on). Sell some stuff on eBay, don’t eat out, cut back where you can. Wait a few more months to start your project while you save up some extra cash if you need to. 

 

There are many suggestions I will make during a remodel to save money and stay within budget. Temporarily installing laminate counters with the intention of replacing them later is never one of them.

 

That being said, laminate has come a long way over the years and has a place in the market. Part of the remodeling process is finding the right products and materials for your needs. If you like laminate and are installing it without the intention of replacing it then go forth and laminate! 

If you have a question about a specific product send it in. I will answer it.

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