Bathroom Vanity Countertops

Vanity tops must play the dual role of being durable and capable of standing up to water, soap, cosmetics while serving as an ample work surface for morning rush hour in the bathroom. This is no place for delicate, porous (read: easy-to-stain) surfaces. At the same time, the vanity top can be a focal point and a connecting point, where wood cabinets below meet tile wall above, for instance.

By: Kristen Hampshire

COUNTERTOP ECO SUSTAINABILITY: The How To Guide

Creating Eco Sustainability In Countertop Fabrication

When it comes to construction of any kind, environmental concerns are more important than ever. This is why The Top Shop Inc (AC&F) partnering with VT Industries, is committed to providing sustainable products and using environmentally friendly manufacturing methods.

Our production facility located in Denver, Colorado works hard to keep emissions and waste to a minimum, conserve natural resources, and protect local ecosystems. This strategically located facility, allows The Top Shop Inc. (AC&F) to provide the shortest lead times available but more importantly, reduce harmful vehicle emissions that contribute to air pollution and ozone depletion.

Every post form countertop we offer is GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®. The Top Shop Inc. (AC&F) partnering with VT Industries, is the first and only laminate countertop product to receive this low-emitting certification, ensuring our product will contribute to healthy indoor air and building occupant wellness.

With EQcountertops, The Top Shop Inc. (AC&F) takes the sustainability of our countertops to the next level. Manufactured using 100% pre-consumer recycled particleboard, water-based adhesives and GREENGUARD Certified laminate, EQcountertops meet multiple green building standards, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) and NAHB’s green building guidelines.

Best of all at The Top Shop Inc. (AC&F), we’re continually adapting our manufacturing techniques and providing innovative products to ensure environmental responsibility. All employees—from production to accounting—are involved and encouraged to find innovative ways to make our business efficient and effective.

Bathroom Backsplashes Make a Style Statement

Article by: Meera Innes

The functional nature of sinks might not always inspire style, but the backsplash can be a bathroom centerpiece. Backsplashes help to protect the wall from water damage, but the myriad materials, colors and finishes also make this a small feature that can transform the feel of a bathroom and add drama, polish or character.

Create a centerpiece. Extending the backsplash over an entire wall — or, as here, a column — creates a feature wall that showcases the sink area. The use of white subway tiles throughout a large bathroom might appear too sterile, so choosing the same tiles in a different color with contrasting grout is a fresh idea that gives a pristine bathroom some much-needed zing.

Go for glamour. If opulence is your style, then it doesn’t get much more gorgeous than this custom inlaid wood backsplash. Polished natural wood inlaid with floral motifs isn’t your everyday sink backdrop and will require maintenance to keep it in perfect condition, but why not choose stunning artwork to gaze at first thing in the morning and last thing at night?

Contrast with polish. Give distressed furniture a twist by combining it with a clean, contemporary backdrop. The backsplash used here is made simply from two large, distinctly modern concrete tiles that quietly showcase the understated sink. 

Leaving the wall behind the sink bare could have rendered this area wanting in the style stakes, but the tiles make it a focal point, tying everything together with their smooth and rough finish that’s midway between the sleek sink and the Shabby Chic–style washstand.

Give it character. The vintage feel of the materials in this bathroom, from the stools to the mirrors, calls for a backsplash in a similarly antique style. The small cut and colorful pattern of the tiles used here make them an appropriate contrast to the stark white subway tiles. 

If you’re feeling bold, choosing slightly mismatched tiles in the same size and shape for each sink could also work in a bathroom aiming for this sort of bohemian charm.

Don’t be scared of brights. A backsplash is an easy way to add punchy color to bathroom decor, which often errs on the neutral side. This backsplash’s smooth, modern finish and long lines are in keeping with the overall style of this contemporary bathroom. Aim for cohesion, not clashing, in a space as streamlined as this.

Define your sink area. Backsplashes aren’t just for the wall — your floor could use the love, too. The way this backsplash rolls down into the floor tiles gives this sink the red-carpet treatment. The Moroccan design is a quirky choice that lends the contemporary feel of this bathroom a pleasing bohemian twist.

Keep it quiet. If your bathroom is a haven where you like to unwind and escape the chaos of life, then a muted palette might just hit the right tone. The gray-blue of this backsplash doesn’t fight with the striking Victorian-style ceramic floor tiles, yet quietly enhances the gray tones of the vanity unit and paneling.

Choose white in a small space. Even the simplest backsplash can make all the difference to a sparsely decorated bathroom. Here, the humble subway tile adds plenty of interest to a run-of-the-mill white suite. All-over white was the best choice for keeping the decor clean and enhancing a sense of space in this mini loft bathroom, while wooden details in the door, window and accessories add a warm edge.

Play with color and texture. It could have been tempting to follow through on the reflective theme here by creating a mirrored backsplash, but these colorful iridescent tiles provide a refreshing contrast with enough shine for consistency. The hint of art deco about the tiles complements the style of the mirror and cabinet while keeping the overall look modern.

Work a neat repeat. If you’ve used tiles elsewhere in the bathroom and you have some left over, it makes perfect sense to use the remainder on the backsplash. It’s a less adventurous choice, but it ensures that your theme is consistent, and you can be certain it’ll match the decor.

How to Hide the Toilet

Article by: Royston Wilson

What is the one item that no one wants to be the star attraction in the bathroom? Yes, you guessed it — the toilet! Camouflaging a toilet in a bathroom is surprisingly easy. If you have the space for the toilet to be separate, then it is very easy; however, most of us do not have the luxury of an abundance of space. This is when the trick of distraction comes in handy. 

But just how do we employ the art of distraction to our advantage? Put simply, it’s all about clever design. Installing an interesting bath, vanity, feature wall or shower, or championing an outside view, can help make the toilet practically disappear from the foreground. It will still be there — but won’t be what you remember when you depart from the space. Let’s take a closer look.

Create a Separation 

Low wall. This bathroom has been designed to maximize the view (not the toilet!). A sense of calm and contentment is present as you soak in the bath, with shelves and a seat conveniently close by for magazines and maybe a bottle of bubbly. The low wall, while seemingly insignificant, underpins the experience and ensures that at no point in your bathing experience will you notice the toilet.

Angled wall. With a tiled angled wall creating a dramatic backdrop, the toilet was never going to be the first thing you notice here. Not only is the angled wall a shield for the toilet and shower at the other end, but it also creates the feeling of more space. A stepped vanity (one that has different levels) and a beautiful freestanding back-to-wall bath keep your attention as you continue your journey through the bathroom.

Nib wall. A nib wall is a very handy addition to a bathroom. In this case it has created a logical place for the vanity to run into and has partially blocked the toilet from view. Two birds with one stone! Interesting light fixtures, handles and wallpaper combine with the various textures of the stone and timber to ensure that a feast for the senses is the primary experience.

Wow factor. This is a real case of stating the obvious. Toilet paper is used to create a divider and storage point between toilet and basin here. This is one powder room that will never be short of a roll or two!

Layout

T-shape. By planning a T-shaped bathroom, you allow the vanity to be the hero. Here, the toilet sits neatly behind one wing and the shower behind the other. Function is taken care of, while form is delivered in full.

Defined areas. Depending on your entry point in this two-door bathroom, the toilet can be seen or not seen at all. Within the layout it is essentially treated as a room within a room. The cabinet that divides the space creates extra storage and is a great alternative to a wall, cleverly giving privacy to the toilet area.

Distraction

Central focus. This bathroom is a perfect example of distraction. It instantly draws your eye to another place — the pool. Originally there was a brick wall here, but with the pool in view, a new focus was delivered. Both the vanity and the toilet have become secondary in importance, so that while walking into this bathroom, you find yourself thinking, “What toilet?”

Eyes up. Generally, a built-in bath will not take center stage in a bathroom. In its place, the vanity can be highlighted. The designer of this bathroom has made the wall-hung toilet part of the vanity, with the striking green feature tile drawing the eye to the harmonious pairing with the timber.

Feature walls. A feature shower with mosaic wall in this bathroom is enough to draw your attention past the toilet. With the toilet kept off the floor, a feeling of light and space has been created. What’s more, the timber flooring gives the room lineal interest.

Art is a wonderful medium that evokes such varied emotional responses. This natural stone is beautiful to behold — it fills the room and is framed artfully by the doorway. The whiteness in the stone also allows the toilet to become almost obscure.

Feature cabinetry. In this tight space, everything is on display. However, as the toilet is white on a white wall, it recedes into the background, while the framed cabinets catch your attention.

Decorative items. Sometimes the toilet must be on view. When this happens, embrace it! Again, decorative items like screens and lights can work wonders to redirect attention. The white floor and accessories here also mean that the white toilet does not stand out, but rather forms a part of the overall composition.

Tricks of the Eye

Floating features. It is hard not to want to touch the floor and wall here. They are so textural and inviting. Your eye is drawn to the slim sink that complements the line of the timber perfectly. Everything appears to float. The soft mirror shape follows the internal curve of the sink as though it has been lifted out of its niche. Finally, there is the toilet — last and definitely least!

Unique. Now this is different. The toilet is bench mounted. This unusual setup might lead most people to think a toilet is missing from this bathroom altogether — but they’d be wrong. A very high sink allows the single stone bench to be at a suitable seating height for the toilet, which is discreetly mounted on top. The bonus is that the bench extends into the shower, doubling as a built-in shower seat.

Dark color. The dark, moody colors of this bathroom make the toilet stand out. A brave move, but one that works with enough detail elsewhere to draw the eye.

Light color. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the toilet that almost disappears. With the whites of the wall and floor, this wall-hung toilet can barely be seen.

Make the Most Out of Your Small Bathroom

Article by: Robert Bollinger


small bathroom

A small bathroom doesn’t have to be cramped or uncomfortable. A well-designed bathroom remodeling project can create a space that feels big on space and on luxury.

Think beyond the usual

A traditional vanity and double sink can be beautiful in a big bathroom, but even a scaled-down version can overwhelm a room that has a much smaller footprint.  Consider options like these, which will look great without taking up too much space:

  • A pedestal sink in a classic or contemporary style.
  • A wood vanity with a rounded front that takes up less space than a typical square or rectangular box.
  • A sink and vanity that fit snugly into a corner that would otherwise be wasted.
  • A wall-mounted sink with a wall-mounted faucet.
  • A porcelain sink on chrome legs with an open shelf underneath.

Take advantage of the hidden spaces.

You may not be able to knock out walls or open up a closet to create a bigger bathroom, but don’t overlook the valuable spaces behind the drywall.

  • Eliminate a hinged door that opens inward and add a pocket door that disappears behind the walls.
  • Replace a toilet that sits on the floor with a wall-mounted version. The tank and the plumbing are tucked away between the wall studs.
  • Choose a recessed vanity. You’ll get the space that you need for toiletries without having an object protruding into the room.
  • Create storage shelves for towels, toiletries and cleaning supplies in the spaces between studs. Use glass or Plexiglas for shelving for a light, airy look.

Color it beautiful

There are a few ways you can go when choosing the color scheme for your bathroom remodel. One approach is to choose a soothing, neutral color—think natural stone colors of beige and cream—and carry that throughout the entire space with slight variations in tone or with a specific accent, like a row of beautiful handmade tiles.

If you prefer a bolder approach, look for wallpaper with a big, airy print. Large, open geometric prints area a popular choice.

You can also create the illusion of more space by adding horizontal lines, such as two or three rows of accent tiles, around the perimeter of the room.  If the ceiling feels like it’s closing in, consider adding floor-to-ceiling shelving or storage (it doesn’t have to be very wide) or adding a pop of color at the top of the wall to draw the eye upwards.

Add an interesting focal point—an unusual mirror, a shelf with a candle and a picture of your favorite beach retreat—to draw attention away from the small size of the room.

Keep it bright and simple

Clutter can make even large rooms look smaller. Stow the toothpaste, the makeup and the mouthwash someplace off the counter.

The right lighting brightens the dark corners, making a room look larger.  If your window is small, consider installing a skylight or Solatube. If that’s not an option, try adding wall sconces or even a small chandelier to typical bathroom lighting.

If your bathtub and shower are dingy and dull, and replacement is out of your budget, consider a system that lines your current tub and shower surround to make them look like new. Choose clear glass shower doors or a shower curtain that can be moved to one side so that the space within the shower enclosure adds to the space in the room.

Careful placement of mirrors will reflect light and the walls in the room, adding to the illusion of space.

Splurge a little

If you were remodeling a big bathroom you might not be able to afford radiant floor heating or beautiful glass tiles around the perimeter of the room. Since you need a smaller quantity of such materials in a small bathroom—and since their installation cost is much less than it would be in a larger space—those luxuries may now be within your budget.

When you treat yourself to something that you really want in a small bathroom, you’ll appreciate it every day—and you’ll find that you wouldn’t trade your small bathroom for a bigger space.

6 Lessons Learned From a Master Suite Remodel

Article by: Anne Higuera CGR, CAPS

Some good friends of ours just finished a master suite remodel. On the whole it went well: on time, on budget and generally to their satisfaction. Still, the process and execution were less than flawless, and as I listened to what didn’t go exactly to plan, I realized that other people could benefit from considering many of the lessons my friends learned before they embark on their own projects.


1. Have a plan. This is not just an idea in your head and some hand waving or rough sketches. A plan is dimensioned and intentional, and includes elevations showing what rooms look like from different directions. Plans are most frequently and effectively assembled by design professionals who know the amount of space required for common features in rooms, like showers and vanities, and are accustomed to working out solutions for challenging spaces.

The purpose of a plan is twofold: to show homeowners what they should expect, and to show contractors what they are expected to build. Without a plan, you have only hand waving, and that’s not much on which to base a contract, or from which to build.

Having a plan also enables homeowners to interview a short list of contractors and to evaluate their thoughts on the likely cost. Without a plan, every contractor you talk with will have a slightly different idea of what you have in mind.

Hire a design professional to create this plan. Design professionals do this all day, every day, and will put together a functional plan that 99.9 percent of the time will be better than anything you could come up with yourself. It will also have some beautiful feature or function that you never would have thought of (or would have thought impossible). Spend the money. It’s worth it. If you’re not convinced, talk with a friend or two who decided to forgo professional design and see how their project turned out.


2. Specify materials. A corollary to plans is specifications. This list of materials and methods outlines what will be installed and in what way. Specifications provide the opportunity to outline everything that will be installed and mention things like where seams will be in countertops and how many seams are acceptable. These kinds of things can have a large bearing on cost, so documenting what you expect will help contractors provide pricing for the specific things you want.

Think about cars as a comparison. Do you just ask for a 14-foot-long black car with a 6-cylinder engine? That could be a lot of different cars at different price points. Think about the kinds of details you’d consider for ordering a car, and make sure you ask for all of the features you’d like in your project, or you might end up with a base-model bath or kitchen.

As in item No. 1, hire a professional to do this. It will be money well spent.

3. Don’t be frightened. The dollar amount you will spend on your remodel can be high, particularly if the plan for the project you really want costs twice what you thought it would. It’s not unusual for homeowners to start with a wish list and then make decisions to bring the scope of work for their project back in line with their budget. Expect this to be part of the process.

The first step of budgeting for a project is to talk with your design professional about how much you are willing to spend. Make sure you account for at least a 10 percent contingency amount in that so you are aiming for a realistic number. When the first round of pricing comes back from contractors and it’s higher than your budget, it’s probably because it includes your entire wish list.

This is when value engineering (VE) comes in. When you value engineer a project, you identify parts of the scope of work (either the materials or the size of the project) that can be deleted or substituted. In most projects there’s a decent list of items that will reduce costs and allow you to bring the project into the range of your budget. 

Working with design professionals through this process will allow you to benefit from their expertise and delete or change items that won’t substantially affect the finished project.

4. See the value of CA. CA is not California. It’s construction administration, and it’s one of the key services that architects offer their clients. 

When the construction set of plans is done, the elevations and electrical plans are complete, and the project is ready to start, it is not time to bid your architect adieu. Construction administration keeps architects on through construction, usually attending weekly meetings and providing design details as needed, assisting with electrical and tile layout, and providing feedback to the contractor as they build.

Architects also provide clients with an objective and experienced eye as construction proceeds. They can scan the room and notice whether framing is installed as they designed it and whether the materials they specified are being used — particularly on the components of the house that are inside walls.

I can unequivocally say that the projects we work on where CA is part of the project go more smoothly and have more consistently excellent outcomes, because of the collaboration that is built into the process. Would you rather have your contractor work out design details, or the architect to whom you entrusted the design of your project? Let all the professionals do their jobs, and keep your team together during construction.

5. Ask how and why. If you aren’t entirely certain about how something is done or why it’s being done, ask. Construction professionals’ work is usually routine and expected. Because of that, tradespeople sometimes will install things a certain way because it’s the simplest and easiest way to do it. But sometimes the path of least resistance won’t yield the result you want.

Why does that ductwork need to go there? Probably it doesn’t. It can go in one or two other places, and having a conversation about where it will go can make a big difference in your finished space. The same thing with plumbing lines and other infrastructure.

In residential jobs, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work is almost always bidder-designed, meaning that your construction plans won’t give instructions about how to get utilities to their locations — it will just show where they need to end up. That means a deliberate discussion is needed. If you don’t ask, and your contractor is not proactive, don’t be surprised to see ductwork or plumbing in places you don’t want it.

6. Ask how long and how much. When changes are made during construction — and they inevitably will be — don’t just ask whether a change can be made, but know the cost and the impact on schedule. Change orders are supposed to detail the change made and all of its effects, but sometimes they don’t capture everything. For instance, you might like to add an outlet to an existing wall. There’s the obvious cost of the electrician, but what about the demolition where the outlet will go, patching the Sheetrock and repainting the wall at that location? Oh, and protecting the floor while the work is going on. It never hurts to ask, “Is this really all of it?”

One other thing to make sure you ask with change orders is whether the decision you’re making affects anything else. An example might be changing the size of a vanity sink base from standard to custom. There’s an obvious change in cost for the cabinet, and perhaps an adjustment to the countertop cost if the size of the cabinet makes it larger or smaller, but did you think about the sink and faucet you selected months ago for the standard cabinet? Changes to casework almost always have a cascade of effects, from countertops to tile to millwork, and can necessitate revisiting sinks and faucets to make sure they still fit.

10 Design Moves From Tricked-Out Bathrooms

Article by: Natasha Saroca

Seemingly standard cupboards with smart, unique or high-tech elements and accessories behind their doors can make a world of difference when it comes to making a bath zone more organized and user friendly.Cases in point: The 10 bathroom cabinet ideas you’ll find here. While they may look fairly basic upon first glance, take a closer look and you’ll find that the beauty (and benefits) of these bathroom storage units go well beyond the surface.

1. Bright lighting ideas. Do you often struggle to find items in your bathroom cabinet because it’s so dark inside? Built-in cabinet lighting will solve that problem. Opt for recessed downlights (use glass shelves in your cabinet or open shelving unit, rather than ones made from solid materials like wood or stainless steel, as this will allow the light to filter through to the bottom of the cabinet), or try a backlit panel that will illuminate the entire storage space, like the one shown here. 

For added functionality, rather than a switch-operated light, select a sensor light that automatically turns on and off when the cabinet door is opened or closed.

If you wish to enhance the mood of your bathroom, line the base of your vanity or medicine cabinet with LED strip lighting, which can also double as a nightlight when you need to use your bathroom late at night or early in the morning, but don’t want to turn on your bright overhead lights in case they jolt you wide awake from your sleepy state.

2. A cubby for your gadgets. Want your hair dryer, straightener, electric toothbrush or shaver to be easily accessible but don’t want them cluttering the top of your vanity? A compact nook with a lift-up door (like the one pictured) or pocket doors where you can stash your grooming gadgets may be just what you need. Position the compact cabinet on top of your vanity so that it sits at a comfortable and convenient height, and in front of an electrical outlet so the devices can remain plugged in, charged and ready to go at all times.

Alternatively, if countertop space is at a premium, you might consider incorporating a drawer with a built-in electrical outlet into your vanity or bathroom cupboard instead.

3. A slide-out step. Do you have youngsters who struggle to reach the basin — or everyday items that sit on top of the vanity, in high shelves or in tall cupboards — in your family bathroom? A pullout or fold-down step is a nifty addition for any family bathroom. (Notice how the step in this transitional space is disguised as a run-of-the-mill drawer.) Position it at the base of your vanity or other cabinetry in your bathroom that your little ones may need to access. 

It may also prove useful when cleaning, as it will allow you to dust and wipe down hard-to-reach spots, like the top of your mirror or medicine cabinet.

4. Drawer organizers. Bring order to messy drawers with inserts that divide the storage space into separate, easy-to-manage (and easy-to-navigate) sections for different bath-time and grooming essentials, like razors, brushes, combs and skincare products. This clever, clutter-free setup shows how it’s done. A deep, roomy drawer conceals two smaller drawers, each of which boasts removable organizers that can be taken out when in use and reconfigured when the need arises.

5. Innovative drawer runners and door hinges. It’s not pleasant waking up to the sound of someone slamming bathroom drawers and cupboard doors early in the morning while hurriedly trying to get ready and race out the door. Nor is the sharp, shooting pain you feel after slamming your fingers in these cabinet fronts. That’s why innovative drawer systems and door hinges (like push-touch drawers and soft-close drawer runners and doors) are a solid investment for any bathroom, especially one for families with young kids or people with motor or mobility challenges. Not only do they offer smooth and silent function, but they’re also safer, extremely durable and ergonomic.

6. Mirrors inside and out. While mirrored doors are a standard inclusion on most medicine cabinets, when you’re shopping around for one for your bath zone or talking custom bathroom storage options with your designer, we suggest opting for one that boasts a mirrored interior, too. Why? As you can see looking at this sleek cabinet, a mirrored back panel will allow you to see items that are hidden at the back of your cabinet, which means you’ll be able to find and access whatever you’re looking for quickly and with ease. This particular design also features an adjustable built-in magnifying mirror that slides up or down for users of different heights.

7. Hidden washer-dryer. When closed, this vanity appears to have six roomy drawers, but pull on any handle on the right hand side and that side’s “trio of drawers” (actually a cleverly disguised cupboard door made from three drawer fronts that have been attached together) opens to reveal a washer-dryer inside. Genius!

8. Cabinet doors that stay out of the way. Hands up if you’ve almost taken yourself out when opening a medicine cabinet door that opens outward (or is it just me?). Or perhaps you simply find side-swinging cabinet doors annoying because they block your view and get in your way when open? Either way, whether your bathroom storage woes are centered around safety or convenience, you may like to reconsider regular doors in favor of ones that lift or slide up, like the lift-up mirrored panel pictured here. Some pull-up door systems are also semiautomatic for added functionality and user-friendly appeal.

9. Space makers. In bathrooms where space is at a premium, it’s important that the storage solutions you incorporate are smart and use every last inch of room available. Take this clever bathroom cabinet, for example. Rather than the tall, deep, narrow cupboard’s being fitted with basic shelving, a pullout storage system has been used instead to maximize space and ensure that the cabinet’s contents are always visible and easy to access.

Corner drawers, rotating carousels for awkward nooks and built-in compartments on the backs of cupboard doors are other crafty storage solutions you might like to consider.

A hideaway hamper that looks like an ordinary drawer or cupboard is another neat idea that will enhance the look and functionality of your bathroom, as it will free up floor space and hide your dirty laundry.

10. Go high tech. For those who wish they could watch the news while getting ready in the bathroom every morning, or an episode of a favorite TV show while soaking in the tub at night, you might be keen to get a medicine cabinet that features a mirrored door with an integrated LCD TV screen. Alternatively, you might like to kit out your cabinetry with built-in speakers so you can listen to the radio or mood-enhancing music while preparing for the day or night ahead.

If your style is more practical, consider incorporating a mirrored medicine cabinet with built-in dimmable lights or an electric defogger.

Bathroom Countertops 101: The Top Surface Materials

Article by: Lisa Kahn

Choosing the perfect material for one’s bathroom countertops can be a bit of a brain teaser, thanks to the abundant — and quite attractive — options available at nearly every price level. But because bathroom surfaces typically don’t face the same abuse as those in the kitchen (think hot frying pans, sharp carving knives and spilled Bordeaux), the decisions most buyers wrestle with are usually more about style and cost than Herculean strength. Fortunately, the top bathroom countertop materials on the market combine beauty and brawn in equal measure. Here’s a closer look at some of the most sought-after bathroom surfaces among today’s buyers.

Granite

If your heart is set on granite, count yourself among an enduring majority. Despite encroaching competition from quartz (see below), granite remains the premier choice among the varieties of natural stone, due to its dramatic beauty and seemingly endless variety of colors and patterns.

Pros:

  • A profusion of options: With patterns from subtle to bold and a rainbow of hues, you’re sure to find a slab that speaks your language.
  • Granite is hard and scratch resistant, and requires minimal upkeep when properly sealed.
  • It’s impervious to humidity or damage from a hot curling iron.
  • It lasts just about forever.
  • Because granite is so desirable, it’s likely to add resale value to your home.

Cons:

  • Granite is still one of the most expensive countertop choices.
  • Because there’s a real chance of damaging the slab if it isn’t handled properly, it’s best to hire a professional to do the job.
  • Though granite is recyclable, its transport and mining require extensive energy resources.

 

Price range: $50 to $100 per square foot, depending on the size and thickness

Quartz

Quartz is one of nature’s hardest and most abundant minerals. In fact, nearly every type of stone contains some percentage of this ubiquitous material. Manufacturers of quartz countertops (familiar brand names include Caesarstone, Cambria, Zodiaq and Silestone) add pigments, resins and, occasionally, recycled content, to a base that is about 95 percent natural stone. 

Pros:

  • Quartz is tougher than granite and doesn’t require sealing.
  • It’s naturally resistant to moisture, stains and bacteria.
  • It has a variety of edge treatments and installation options

Cons:

  • Quartz can rival high-end granite and marble in cost.
  • Honed and textured finishes will show fingerprints and smudges, so frequent wipe-downs may be necessary.

Price range: $60 to $100 per square foot

Solid Surface

Solid-surface materials are made of acrylic resin and crushed stone. Top brands include Corian, Gibraltar, Formica Solid Surfacing and Staron. You’ll find a wide range of solid colors and subtle patterns that pair especially well with contemporary decor.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable and naturally resistant to water, bacteria and stains.
  • Realistic flecked or streaked styles can rival natural stone.
  • Virtually seamless.
  • Minor damage can be buffed out.
  • Available with integral sink and backsplash options, as well as custom color inlays and lighting effects.

Cons:

  • Requires professional installation.
  • Wear and scratches are more visible on darker colors.
  • Can be damaged by intense heat or dropped objects.

Price range: $40 to $100 per linear foot

Marble

For centuries marble’s cool elegance has been synonymous with wealth and privilege. But thanks to improvements in its production, this rare beauty has become a bit more affordable. A hard, crystalline form of limestone, marble is often white with streaks of grays, although there are many color variations.

Pros:

  • Long lasting and strong enough to resist most chips or dents.
  • Can be polished for a high shine or honed for a casual, matte finish.
  • Adaptable to nearly every style.

Cons:

  • It’s expensive.
  • Marble’s porous nature makes it prone to stains, scratches and etching from acidic substances.
  • Requires periodic sealing to maintain the finish.
  • Price range: $125 to $150 per square foot, depending on thickness and installation

Concrete

No longer exclusively an industrial material, concrete has miraculous shape-shifting abilities that allow an endless array of looks. Most concrete countertops are manufactured offsite for maximum quality control.

Pros:

  • It’s an appealing organic material that can mimic the look of natural stone.
  • Vast range of customized colors, textures and decorative inlays.
  • Can be cast in the exact shape, dimensions and edge style desired.
  • Extremely durable.
  • Reasonably ecofriendly, especially when recycled content is added.

Cons:

  • Professional design and installation are recommended.
  • Because concrete is naturally porous, countertops need to be waxed and sealed regularly.
  • Visible seam lines, although their appearance can be minimized with a colored filler.

Price range: $65 to $135 per square foot, not including installation

 

Laminate

Laminate has come a long way since the garish pastels and visible seams many of us remember from the ’60s and ’70s. Most commonly known as Formica, this easy-care product is composed of a thin plastic surface that’s pressure bonded to a particleboard or plywood base. The latest printing technologies are used for modern laminates to produce amazingly realistic stone- and wood-like finishes, as well as a plethora of solid and graphic patterns.

Pros:

  • One of the most affordable countertop surfaces.
  • Durable, water resistant and easy to clean.
  • Warm to the touch.
  • Presized products are widely available at home supply stores.
  • Relatively easy to install without a professional.

Cons:

  • Laminate tends to thin or dull over time.
  • Damages can’t be repaired; the entire counter usually needs to be replaced.

Price range: $24 to $50 per linear foot

Tile

Ceramic tile can be a charming and informal surface material, especially in a Spanish colonial– or beach cottage–style bath. Boldly patterned tiles also make wonderful backsplashes and tub surrounds.

Pros:

  • Glazed ceramic tiles are resistant to heat, stains, scratches and moisture.
  • Tile is affordable, and individual tiles can be replaced if damaged.
  • The installation and pattern can be customized.

Cons:

  • Grout can attract stains and mildew and may be difficult to keep clean.
  • Tiles can crack or chip.

Price range: $10 to $50 per square foot. 

Bathroom Workbook: 7 Natural Stones With Enduring Beauty

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There’s no other material quite like natural stone. No two pieces are exactly alike, and nothing else adds the same organic warmth and texture to a bathroom. Not to mention the longevity. If they’re well maintained, your stone surfaces can last a lifetime. 

Marble, of course, has been a popular stone choice for luxurious interiors for centuries based on its inherent beauty. But while Carrara and Calacatta remain classics, they have their downsides, and they aren’t your only options. Here are seven other natural stone varieties, each with its own unique characteristics and strengths, worth considering for your bathroom floors, countertops and walls.

The price of natural stones can vary greatly, so do your research. But don’t let a high price deter you from incorporating a stone you absolutely love. Larger-format tiles are usually less expensive than smaller tiles, and you can try to find remnant slabs at your local stone yard. Also, consider using natural stone for just one wall or a small niche area to work it into your budget.

Soapstone. Surprisingly underused in bathrooms, soapstone is actually a great option because it’s so low maintenance. No sealers are necessary; just periodically rub a little mineral oil on the surface. Over time this stone oxidizes and gets darker and richer in color. 

Cost: Comparable to marble; you’ll find slabs from $90 to $200 per square foot. But take a look at this pretty soapstone countertop paired with a gray vanity and you might be like, “Marble who?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limestone. In its natural state, this stone is highly porous and needs to be sealed to avoid stains. But it’s a popular choice for its soft and uniform look and warm, neutral color. It lends itself to both traditional designs and modern ones, like this vast bathroom covered top to bottom in the material.

Cost: Limestone tile starts at around $5 per square foot.

Travertine. This is actually a type of limestone with natural markings in a range of warm hues. The deep pores in the stone are often filled with a similar-colored grout or epoxy to create a smoother surface. 

Cost: Travertine tile starts at around $5 per square foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belgian bluestone. This is also a limestone, but with a dark gray or black background and gray, white and tan markings. It looks especially great with a contrasting grout, like in this photo. This material will get lightly scratched over time, but the patina makes it even more beautiful. And a little olive oil will bring back its sheen. 

Cost: Similar to soapstone ($90 to $200 per square foot), but to save a little cash, consider using 12-inch by 12-inch bluestone tiles on your counter instead of a slab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onyx. This stone has a unique look with striations in a wide range of colors. Since it has a translucent quality, designers often backlight surfaces or walls to showcase the veining and make the space glow. It’s important to know that this stone is delicate and needs to be sealed. 

Cost: Because large slabs like the gorgeous one featured here are rarer, they can set you back $200 to $500 per square foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slate. This stone is usually associated with rustic interiors, but it can work in any space. This photo depicts a mosaic of slate tiles in a rainbow of hues, including blue, green, red and purple. Slate is especially great for floors, because it is naturally slip resistant. To clean slate, just use a mild cleanser that isn’t abrasive. 

Cost: You can find tiles that cost less than $10 per square foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandstone. Created by layers of densely packed sand, the material has a wavy desert-landscape-like appearance and comes in a variety of colors. It’s essential to seal it regularly (like twice a year), because the highly porous surface will soak up water or any other liquids, causing stains or potentially even warping. 

Cost: Similar to limestone and travertine, around $5 per square foot.