To Corian or Not to Corian, That is the Question.
January 27, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Kitchen Renovation Question. Do we buy countertops like we're gonna maybe get stuck here, or do we buy countertops like we wanna spend significantly less money?

We're getting ready to (try to) sell our house. We are going to have to repaint practically every room in the house, including our kitchen, and the cabinets are going to be painted. The countertops are tile and because of how much we cook, they are thrashed, and must be replaced. The backsplashes are tile as well, and are in good condition. We were going to leave them as is.

The countertops are presenting a conundrum. We have priced Corian, and it's coming in at about $1800 and a free sink. I'm not entirely sure we want to spend $1800 on countertops. We've looked at laminate, which nowadays has a bunch more options and can look pretty snazzy. It would obviously be A LOT cheaper to go with laminate, even if we have to pay for a sink.

However. However. There is always the chance we'll get stuck with the house, and if we do I'm pretty sure we don't want laminate, and I'm pretty sure we'd trash it anyway because we cook all the time. I'm also not sure about which option will be the best for selling the house. FWIW, we want to sell for about $165,000.

So, what should we do? Will the Corian help sell the house over (nice, attractive) laminate? My mother has Corian counters, and I really like them, so no problem with buyer's remorse. Are there other options I'm not considering?

(Other information: mixed hardwood and carpet, carpet is 4 years old and looks fine. Newly renovated master bath, second bath is going to get a facelift as well. We have the house painted the way we like it but we're fine with repainting into more neutral colors. We're going to get help with staging, etc.)
posted by Medieval Maven to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered Ikea butcher block?? I love it. Super cheap and I think looks great.
posted by beccaj at 9:30 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can you look at some comps in your area and see if houses for $165K typically have laminate? (And I mean nice, new laminate, not out-of-date.) Kitchens are important, and if a person can get another house with Corian or granite for $165K-ish, they may choose the other house instead. But if your comps have out-of-date or worn laminate in the kitchens, then a modern-looking laminate is good enough.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:32 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Contemporary laminates can be pretty darned durable. And I've seen Corian countertops get trashed fairly easily. Personally, I'd go with the laminate.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:32 AM on January 27, 2011

I'm pretty sure we don't want laminate, and I'm pretty sure we'd trash it anyway because we cook all the time.

Reconsider this. Laminate is not easily trashed. It's not pretty and it's not going to sell your house for you, but it's not fragile.
posted by jon1270 at 9:34 AM on January 27, 2011

I wouldn't get the expensive Corian unless I were planning to stay a long time. Any new countertop (especially anything but the cheapest-looking laminate) will do something for the presentation and resale, and I think there's a point of diminishing returns well below solid Corian. Tile counters can give you a high-end look for much less — take a look at 12" or 16" granite tiles, or nice ceramic ones.
posted by RogerB at 9:35 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at comp houses in your area? Do they have laminate, granite, or corian countertops? What can you expect to recover from the remo based on those comps? If having something as simple as $1800 counters is going to mean you don't have to cover an $1800 mortgage for another month while your house sits in a stale market, then yeah, go for the corian.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:35 AM on January 27, 2011

Our real estate agent good friends contend that Corian, granite, etc. counter tops have become about like cup holders in automobiles; although they may be almost trivial features in the grand scheme of the overall home, everybody wants them.

They say non-laminate counter tops make a statement, and it's a positive one.

We have nice thick vintage butcher block counters, but if I had to replace them I'd go with something like Corian, regardless of whether or not I planned to stay in the house.
posted by imjustsaying at 9:44 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go with the solid countertops, and if in the end you don't feel like you got the money back, consider it a gift to the house. (I agree with imjustsaying, though, that good counters mean a lot to a buyer.)

I know, it's not my $1800. But if you are going to redo the countertops anyway, do it in with something super-durable.
posted by torticat at 9:56 AM on January 27, 2011

What about not replacing the countertops just yet, and offering the buyer their choice: new countertop, to be installed after the contract is signed but before they move in, OR the house price reduced by (countertop cost)?
That way you're not out of pocket until you know the place is sold and they get the counter that they want.

While modern laminate tops might be durable, they're not as durable as stone, engineered or otherwise, especially when it comes to heat.

I cook a lot and spend a good bit of time in the kitchen. If I was looking at a place with laminate countertops, I would basically consider them a giant neon sign that said "I WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED"
posted by dubold at 10:09 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you putting lipstick on a pig? Painted cabinets and keeping the old tile backsplash and then new Hi-end countertops? I see a problem here. Unless the cabinets are really nice and the paint job is done to a professional standard the Corian may be overkill.
posted by Gungho at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW I've heard that some granites (e.g. Uba Tuba) are often cheaper than Corian. And that granite is considered very desirable/upscale (more so than Corian)

I agree though that the only way to judge is to see what the competition have in their kitchen. In particular, new builds in the same price range as your house will probably have the 'right' countertop for the bracket.
posted by plonkee at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2011

I see Corian listed as a selling point for houses all the time. I think it's a big plus. Granite countertops, in my opinion, are the hallmark of someone looking to cheaply impress potential sellers with a quick fix. I don't like them. But there is plenty of middle ground between Corian and laminate. Check out some of the engineered solid surfaces.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:30 AM on January 27, 2011

If you go with a more modern style of laminate counter (without the 4" high backsplash bit) it should look pretty sleek and clean and might look nice longer than a light-coloured corian.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2011

I'm a renter and not a buyer, but I will say this.

My roommate saw a craigslist ad for an apartment in our neighborhood that was still in our ballpark in terms of rent, but that listed granite countertops and had photos of a gorgeous very recently renovated kitchen. Our curiosity was piqued, so we went to look at the place. It was a shithole, but it definitely had a granite counters.

We knew we couldn't move there, but as we left, my brain was whining, "...but! Granite Countertops! Want! Want!" It's entirely possible that, despite it not being a great apartment in general, if even one or two other total dealbreakers (windows in the bedrooms, perhaps) were different I would have taken that apartment. I still kind of want that apartment.

I am a lowly renter in a crap neighborhood in a part of the country where apartments come with very few amenities, and even I hate my laminate counters.

Get the better counters. People who care about kitchens will know.
posted by Sara C. at 10:54 AM on January 27, 2011

The "Corian is a plus" is factored by "is the rest of your kitchen up to date?" plus "What is appropriate for a house of your price point in your area?"

In my situation -- Corian, marble, or other surfaces (like recycled paper resin) would've cost me around $2000 installed and would've been part of a kitchen renovation that was already nearing $7500 if I settled with laminate and installed it myself. The possible increase in the value of the house though was maybe $5000. Making a $10,000 investment in a house to gain $5,000 in value? Probably not worth it.

You can always rip it out and replace it later, but you can't get the money back once you've spent it.

There are other things you can do to dress up laminate, like putting a wood edge (this month's Fine Homebuilding had a great how-to on that) that acts as an accent to your cabinet, among other things.

And if you've managed to trash tile, then I'd make sure you invest in some good "landing surfaces" for pots -- or maybe look into stainless steel countertops instead. *grin*
posted by SpecialK at 10:55 AM on January 27, 2011

Our laminate is peeling from the baseboard. There are a few "bubbles" where the laminate has popped up. We can't wait to get rid of it and put in a real countertop. YMMV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: My real estate agent friend says that houses with upscale amenities sell FASTER than ones without, but they don't necessarily sell for a lot MORE. If you are anxious to sell your house quickly, the Corian might be a good investment.

You might also consider those companies like Granite Transformations that just put a granite veneer over existing countertops.
posted by Ostara at 11:35 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far, guys.

1. Cabinets - they are in good condition, but due to replacing the dishwasher, and the fact that some screws broke in the process, there are some problems that need fixing. A good, clean paintjob will allow us to do this, as matching the stain is not going to happen (tried to do that, it's a weird color). The floor is terra cotta, and IMHO, the cabinets have a weird orange cast to them anyway (particularly next to the floor), and I've wanted to paint them for a long time.

2. Backsplashes are in excellent condition, and I prefer the look of that to the Corian backsplashes my mom has in her house. That decision was made based on that particular observation.

So, I don't think we're putting lipstick on a pig. I think we're making it into a show pig. :)

As for wooden edging on laminate - our tile has wooden edges now, and I loathe it. It's handsdown the grodiest looking thing in this place.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:10 PM on January 27, 2011

What does $165k buy in your area? If it is a starter home, then buyers shouldn't be expecting Corian, they just want a kitchen that is in reasonable shape.

If buyers at this price point expect better fixtures then you might have to pay more, but be sure whatever you pick fits with the decor of the kitchen (and the rest of the house).

We got our 50 year old kitchen upgraded, meaning I kept the cabinets but had them refinished; everything else was mostly paper and paint. I stayed with laminate because it fits with the theme of the kitchen and the style of the house.

Personally I'd go with 50's era boomerang print laminate with a chrome edging, much cooler than anything else out there. (I wanted to do this but got such a deal on the laminate I purchased, I gave up the boomerangs- I do have 50's era wallpaper though).

Laminate is also durable if you always use a cutting board and don't put hot pans directly on it. It also cleans up easily.

Stay away from granite. Someone here described it best- the avocado green of the new millennium. In the future archeologists will wonder why they are finding chunks of green granite amongst the remains of particle board.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2011

I second RogerB. It's reasonably easy and cheap to re-do a countertop in tile, whether granite, porcelain, or ceramic, and you can get it to look nearly as high-end as Corian for much less. At least consult someone good with tile before you shell out for Corian or settle for laminate.

Besides, I think Corian is overkill for this remodel. You're painting the cabinets, not replacing them, you have four-year-old carpet which looks fine, and you're keeping the old backsplash -- why are you considering spending $1800 on a countertop?
posted by vorfeed at 12:21 PM on January 27, 2011

I like laminate countertops. Just make sure you use PLYWOOD as the substrate and not particleboard!

My dad put granite in his kitchen but did not otherwise upgrade the 1950s era plywood cabinets with wrought iron hinges/pulls. It looked really really awkward to me. He sold it a few years ago without the weirdness hurting his asking price. But I suspect that like many older homes in his area, the new owner plans to do extensive remodeling so the state of the kitchen was a smaller factor than the schools or prestige of the area.
posted by vespabelle at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2011

Re the cabinets (forgive me mods if this is off topic) - could you refinish instead of paint? Painted cabinets say "quick fix" to me, and if the buyers don't like the color you choose they'll have to replace the cabinets. If you refinish all the cabinets, that at least gives them options. You can't really un-paint wood easily.
posted by Sara C. at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2011

A concrete counter top, diy
posted by hortense at 12:44 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: We are looking at houses and every time I see laminate, I think "crap, I need to replace counters". Our current house has corian, and I love it. So, I think that something other than laminate is a selling point, but it doesn't necessarily have to be corian.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:47 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Lots of food for thought here.

1. This is a "starter house" in our area, but we have good schools and the 'hood is pretty stable. FWIW we want to move in order to be closer to work and our theater, and we also need not necessarily MORE but different space (we've picked up some pretty space-consumptive hobbies).

2. I took a look at comps and for houses of a similar age, similar 'hood, etc, it's all over the map from laminate to granite. I'm tempted to try to find a cheap source of granite (it seems like on home improvement shows they find it all the time, much like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow), but I'm also just tempted to go with the Corian (interestingly Corian proper is on par price wise locally with all the Corian-knock offs (Hi-MACS, etc) at around $37/sq foot.

I'll check back on this thread so any late-breaking wisdom is surely welcome.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:21 PM on January 27, 2011

The laminate needs to be impeccable. When the husband and I were looking for a house, laminate automatically meant that we had to consider remodeling the kitchen at a minimum but a lot of the laminate we were looking at were kind of shoddy. We ended up buying a house with laminate but the house's location could not be beat and we simply factored in having to do a kitchen remodel.

Granite, surprisingly, can be inexpensive in comparison to Corian. When I was remodeling both my bathroom and kitchen I was surprised that the Corian people would give me no serious discounting whereas granite was well within reach.

I bake a lot and having a stone countertop was nice to work pastries. Now a butcher block countertop can be quite nice and that is what I am planning with my kitchen peninsula.
posted by jadepearl at 7:23 AM on January 28, 2011

Another thought...If you do granite go to the stone/granite yard and ask about remainders or cut-offs. They are leftovers from other jobs and are much cheaper.
posted by Gungho at 9:54 AM on January 30, 2011

> The countertops are tile and because of how much we cook, they are thrashed, and must be replaced. The backsplashes are tile as well, and are in good condition. We were going to leave them as is.

Do the counters match the backsplash? Why do they have to be replaced? I'm having trouble imagining how a tile countertop can be trashed beyond the point of clean-up from doing a lot of cooking.

If you hate the countertops and want to replace them for yourselves, go ahead and put in what you like.

When I was looking at houses, I was really irritated by obviously brand-new countertops installed just for "saleability." Because it meant that I was going to be expected to pay at least $5000 more for the privilege of either ripping out brand-new countertops, or living with the former owner's cost-benefit analysis gamble.
posted by desuetude at 4:38 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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