Problem Countertops: Replace or Refinish?

Fancy Kitchen

If you’re a homeowner with problem countertops, you have two decisions to make. The first is whether to refinish or replace your existing countertops. The second is whether you should tackle the project yourself or leave it to a professional. Here are some tips to help you decide.

What You Should Know About Replacement

If you opt to replace your countertops, it’s important to be aware of the problems and costs associated with a project of that magnitude, including hidden expenses like disposal fees, sink cut-out charges and labor cost overruns. You should also consider the time and mess involved. Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, replacement is a time-consuming, disruptive process that involves substantial demolition work. In addition, the demolition and replacement process can be very messy and dusty.

Things to Keep In Mind About Refinishing

Refinishing can provide savings of up to 30 to 75 percent over replacement costs, depending on what type of new countertop you install. Refinishing can address a variety of countertop issues, including repairs of cuts, burn marks, chips and cracks. Refinishing can also update color schemes and permanently seal tile grout lines, which eliminates the need for constant scrubbing. With the right refinishing solution, there are no hidden costs, and the work can be done in just two to three days.

The Types of Countertop Materials That Can Be Refinished

Many kinds of countertop surfaces are excellent candidates for refinishing, including Formica, and other laminated surfaces, ceramic tile and grout, Corian, and other manufactured, solid stone surfaces including manufactured cultured marble. Most surfaces can be refinished, with the exception of 100 percent real marble surfaces, and in most instances, refinishing is the most affordable option unless the counters have extreme damage or delamination. In which case replacement may be the best option.

Project Pricing Factors to Consider

Countertop refinishing projects are typically priced by square feet of surface to be refinished. The average cost is $25 to $30 per square foot. If the existing countertop requires repair prior to refinishing, the homeowner usually incurs a nominal charge for that work as well. For replacement, the price can vary considerably, with laminate averaging out to approximately $40 per square foot, $50 for solid surface replacement, and $60 for granite and stone replacement. Homeowners should also keep in mind that replacement projects typically add on costs for installation, disposal fees, sink cutouts, edge choices, and leveling.

Factors to Consider About DIY

Professional refinishers report that a significant portion of their work, about 20 percent, involves redoing failed DIY refinishing problems. Experts warn that it is virtually impossible for DIY refinishing work to match the strength and aesthetic standards of a professional refinishing job. That’s because the techniques involved in modern refinishing require considerable training as well as access to special materials. DIY kits offer limited color options and typically do not include the safety equipment required for the job.

What to Look For in a Refinishing Professional

Should you decide to hire a professional refinisher, it’s important to choose the right company. Make sure your refinisher offers an all-inclusive price with no hidden fees. Also, ask about turnaround time because you’ll want to get your project done quickly so you can get back to using your countertops. And make sure your refinisher has experience with transforming countertop colors, addressing grout issues, and repairing cracks, chips, and burn marks.