Alternative materials for countertops
We are in the design phase of an addition on our 50-year-old
brick Cape Cod house in Falls Church, VA. It will include a new
kitchen, master bath, and later a deck. My plan is to use Corian
countertops, but I'm wondering if there is a recycled material available
I should consider? Ideally, it should be something easy to clean
and attractive, not wildly expensive, and yet holds up well. It
doesn't have to be "natural" material—I know granite
is natural, but it's too cold to the touch for me.
When Corian first came out, I received factory training on
its installation. Corian is beautiful when installed, but it's expensive
and requires a factory-trained installer. Another (similar) product
is SwanStone by the Swan Corporation, which also requires installation
by a professional. Their price could be one-third or one-half less
than Corian according to Swan Corporation. However, complications
of installation and your choice of edging design can affect this
The new trend is exposed aggregate. It's earth-friendly because
it's the sum of "minerals and natural substance." If you
wish, you can add designs and patterns into the concrete surface.
This product is very dense; if you occasionally drop glasses, cups,
plates, etc., be prepared to replace them because they will surely
Installed, the product is either 1.5" or 2" thick. Some
companies offer up to 24 colors. Sample colors can range from $25
to $50 with custom colors running $75 and up. Prices can be around
$65 to $125 per sq. ft., which includes a beveled edge for 1.5".
These prices, of course, depend on the contractor. There will be
extra charges for an undermount sink cutout, drainboards, edge details,
patterns, backsplashes, and a concrete single-basin sink. Installation
of the countertop can run between $40 and $50 per hour, per person.
Countertops are either pre-cast or built on site. They also can
develop hairline cracks, the result of natural shrinkage of the
concrete. These cracks tend to be non-structural. However, these
imperfections are the appeal and character that customers are looking
for—the aged appearance that naturally occurs is preferred
over Corian or plastic laminate countertops. Of course, this is all based
on personal taste.
A third option would be to install glass tiles made from recycled
windshields. TerraGreen Ceramics created their product using a sophisticated
system called "glass fusion." This process combines recycled
glass and minerals to create an entirely new ceramics material with
a distinctive look and feel. The body of the tile contains over
55 to 58 percent waste glass, e.g., windows, mirrors, and post-consumer
glass (bottles, jars, container glass). The remaining tile body
is composed of select nonmetallic minerals, such as special clays,
feldspar, sand, and silica. The manufacturing process is designed
to have zero negative impact on the environment while providing
a non-toxic environment for employees and the surrounding community.
Because of the handwork involved during different phases of the
manufacturing process, these tiles exhibit their own personality
in the sense of color, texture, and shape—no two tiles are
exactly alike. This is even more noticeable in the TerraClassic
line due to the hand-rubbing technique applied to the surface of
each individual tile before firing. They make a great product for
countertop applications. Field tiles run about $7 to $16 sq. ft.,
depending on color. Bull-nose and outside corners run about $5 each.
The only way to really appreciate the beauty of these tiles is to
see and handle them yourself. This product not only helps our environment
but it gives you some unique handmade tiles with real character.
Good luck with your remodeling project! You've got your work cut
out for you as you research earth-friendly countertops. Contact
the manufacturers and ask for samples of their products so you can
get a feel for the product.
More information on SwanStone and TerraGreen Ceramics can be found
in my book Build Smarter with Alternative Materials. To order your copy, click here or click the purchase button below!
2002 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette. This question originated from greenhomebuilding.com.
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