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oakley fives It’s tax refund time and one very smart thing to do with a refund is some needed home improvement. Countertops is one improvement that you won’t regret. New counters can give your kitchen a whole new look and feel—almost like a new kitchen. What type of countertops you choose depends on what you can afford and your lifestyle. Granite is still the number one countertop material in terms of sales, beauty, and durability. The price of granite has been going down due to the popularity of solid surface. Granite is almost indestructible, it’s available in dozens of colors and it has a rich natural beauty that nothing can top. On the other hand, it does need to be sealed every 3 years. This is not a big job but it should usually be done by a professional so sometimes that’s a deal-breaer for some homeowners. Marble is an option and has about the same perks as granite. Marble is a bit softer than granite so having it properly sealed is a must or it can become damaged. Both granite and marble can become pitted or eroded from acids like vinegar and wine, so care has to be taken to protect your stone countertops from things like salad dressing, pickle juice, and countertop cleaners that contain vinegar like Windex® Multi-Surface with vinegar. The possibility of radon emitted from stone countertops have been a topic open to debate for a while now. The fact is, all natural materials emit gasses—stone, wood and soil—your whole house emits a certain amount of gas. Granite and marble are not very porous and very little radon is likely to escape from these, unlike something like sandstone which is very soft. Much more radon is emitted from the soil beneath our homes and this is a much greater health hazard than granite or marble building materials. Any radon that is present from stone is extremely diluted in the typical home. In short, don’t worry about your countertops, they will not make you sick. The most popular countertop material other than stone is the solid surface types. There’s good reason for this; they come in a huge array of colors and patterns and they are extremely durable and won’t scratch, burn, melt, or stain easily. If in time they do, a pro can sand the mark out because the material and color are solid through and through. These are generally in the mid-range as far as cost. Wood has always been an option and it’s still a good option particularly for a kitchen island or other food prep area. These countertops can be pricey but will last for many years and is worth it. Tile is a lower cost option and is a good option for some. Tile does stain and it can scratch and sometimes burn or scorch so care must be taken to wipe up fruit and vegetable juices, coffee, tea—anything that can stain—immediately. If you drop something heavy on tile it can crack or break. Always use a cutting board and never set anything hot directly on the tile. Formica has improved immensely over the years. The good Formica can be a lower cost option to solid surface, the drawbacks are the same as tile. The older, cheaper, badly made Formica is a nightmare and should be avoided especially around the sink area. Water seeps under the hard top layer into the paper fibers underneath and causes swelling and bubbling. It also melts, stains and scratches very easily. So before you spend your hard earned tax refund take care to research and learn about your options so that your new countertops will give you years of beauty and service and will be well worth the cost.