Countertops (Nerd Post)

This post is probably super boring for most people, so bear with me. I am mostly just including it because my countertop choice process was fraught with much confusion, and I hope to help anyone out who might otherwise run into the same issues I did. 

Replacing the countertops was one of the things I was most excited about. After reading great things about white solid surface countertops (like Corian) on Young House Love and Apartment Therapy, I decided that it made the most sense for us. They are one of the least expensive options, they don't stain (or if they do, you just buff it out with a scotch-brite pad), they are seamless, and they look great for the long haul. But of course things got complicated when I realized that there are like 4 or 5 different brands of white solid surface tops. I was originally planning to go with Corian, because it had great reviews, but I soon discovered that the price at Home Depot recently jumped from $38/sf to $45/sf. Bummer. I had 45 square feet of countertops, so it was a significant price jump. They also carried the LG version for $37/sf, but the sample looked cheap, shiny and more translucent than Corian. It was like comparing skim milk and whipping cream.

Then I went to Lowes and discovered that they recently discontinued Corian. They offered three alternate solid surface options: LG, Formica and their own brand, Allen + Roth. The price point of the Allen + Roth was super appealing at only $32/sf, but the sample on the wall felt cheaper and shinier than Corian. They didn't have any take-home samples, so I had to order one online and wait a few days for it to come in. When it came in, I was disappointed to see that it was super shiny. The Corian sample had a lovely matte finish which I wanted, so I called the Allen + Roth manufacturer to find out if the shiny finish was accurate or if I was missing something. The lady I spoke with said that the Allen + Roth finish is most definitely matte, and she didn't know why the sample would be shiny. Even so, I felt unsure about taking such a big risk, since I hadn't actually seen and felt the actual finish of the installed Allen + Roth white tops. So, naturally, I turned to the internet.

I searched Pinterest and Google inside and out to see if I could find photos and reviews of anyone who had gone with white Allen + Roth. I found a few shots here and here but it was difficult to see how matte the finish was. Finally, I stumbled upon Gabbi at Retro Ranch Renovation who recently renovated her kitchen and installed white Allen + Roth solid surface countertops. Check out her incredible transformation.

Before: 

Gabbi's Before.jpg
Gabbi's Before Stove.jpg
Before

And after:

Gabbi's Kitchen.jpg
Gabbi's Sink after.jpg
Gabbi's Stove After.jpg

Pretty amazing, right? So, I emailed her to find out if she was happy with her countertops. Guess what? She emailed me back! She was super helpful and said the countertops were, in fact, matte, and that she loved them. I still wasn't sure if I was ready to take the risk since my sample didn't seem matte at all, so I asked her if I could mail my Corian sample and my Allen + Roth sample to her and she could compare them to her actual countertop. She said yes, and sent me a super helpful video which shows her moving her light back and forth over her countertop with my samples on it, so I could see for myself how shiny or matte things looked. Her Allen + Roth counters were definitely way more matte than the sample I got, so I decided to go for it. Thanks so much, Gabbi!

I loaded up the kids and headed to Lowes to put in my order. Snacks and water are an essential part of a manageable trip to the home improvement store. That and free samples. I know the stores hate to see me coming, because E likes to horde those laminate swatches hanging on the wall. It was a little stressful, but we made it and got the counters ordered. I was able to use a 10% off coupon and take advantage a tax-free holiday sale, so the total came to just over $1500. Plus, Lowes included a free undermount sink. Way less expensive than Corian, which would have been over 2K. 

So, the moral of the story is this: solid surface countertop samples are good for discerning color, but not necessarily discerning the finish. I learned that, at least with the LG brand, the samples come straight from the manufacturer, so they do not have the same finish as the installed counters. She said that the shiny surface is actually buffed upon installation to give the desired matte finish. I wish someone had told me this at the beginning! So confusing. The good news is that this story has a wonderful outcome. Next up, the countertop installation!