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Kitchen remodeler's question: which counter surface?

Chop on it, knead on it, serve from it: you ask a lot, every day, of your kitchen counter. Selecting a counter surface is an important decision, whether you're building a new kitchen or remodeling. No one material is best for all purposes, but each of the six described on these pages has specific advantages. Each looks great, too. See what your choices are

Any one of these six materials can be installed throughout the kitchen. But you might want to consider a combination, placing heat-resistant materials near the stove, easy-cleanup surfaces near the sink, perhaps a cool stone insert where it's handy for dough preparation.

The problem is that you probably won't be able to findall the materials in the same place. Some dealers with showrooms are listed in the yellow pages under Kitchen Cabinets & Equipment; they'l probably have tile, plastic laminate, synthetic marble (Corian), and maybe wod. Larger building supply centers and lumber-yeards usually carry plastic laminate and wood. For the appropriate dealer or fabricator, check listings in the categories Marble--Natural, Plastics, Restaurant Equipment, Sheet Metal Work, and Tile.

Kitchen designers and architects can also supply samples of counter materials. What experts say

Chefs, designers, and architects we spoke with did not agree on any single surface.

Chefs preferred stainless steel, granite or marble, and--if it could be kept sanitary--wood. Designers and architects agreed with them--to a point. Restaurant kitchens are decidedly different in three ways: they aren't designed to be esthetically pleasing; they put far greater demands on each work surface; and they're not usually places to economize, given the need for extreme durability.

Residential designers take a more realistic approach. "It would be wonderful to do nothing but granite counters, but the cost is prohibitive for most home remodelers," one designer told us. "But you can combine materials to make a little piece of a really choice one go a long way--perhaps spend a lot on a small section of marble, but make up for it with a large section of less expensive laminate--and still get the benefits of both surfaces." Considering the expense

Though counters are just a fraction of the overall cost of a kitchen remodel, they're often one of the first items to yield to budget streamlining. One reason is the great range in their prices: see our comparisons on the next pages.

It's easier--and cheaper--to have a single subcontractor do all your counters at once, rather than have different specialists come in at different times. But if you're reasonably handy, you can install some types of counters yourself, saving the $25- to $75-per-hour cost of professional installation. Some basic proportions

Standard depth for kitchen counters is 24 inches, but they can vary from 18 to 30 inches. Work islands can get much deeper, with 36 to 42 inches being common widths.

Standard counter height is 36 inches. But there can be some variation to allow for your height. You might consider setting up a temporary surface at 36 inches, then varying the height to see what is most comfortable for you.
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Date:Mar 1, 1985
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