Living Smart: How much does it cost to install countertops?

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

While looking for new countertops, you find an amazing deal on granite for $29.99 per square foot.

Yes, score!

That sounds super-affordable, and once you measure your current countertops and calculate the square footage, youíll have the price for installing new countertops, right?

Not so fast, say countertop installers.

PRICING FACTORS FOR COUNTERTOPS

"Some people charge for an edge and some donít, depending on what you select," says Gary Rogers, owner of AGS Stone & Tampa Bay Kitchen and Bath of Tampa, Florida. "Edge selection is going to impact price of the countertop. In our price, we include five standard edge detail options; some companies, each edge has its own price."

The real countertop installation cost not only includes the price of the material, but also the price for the tear out, modifications, edging and sealing, as well as cutouts for outlets, sinks and plumbing. Depending on the contractor, these costs may or may not be included in the per-square-foot cost of materials.

Troy Hansen, owner of Hansenís Custom Countertop Services of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, says itís extremely important to ask whatís included in the square-foot price. "Thatís the No. 1 question you have to know."

GRANITE COUNTERTOPS AND QUARTZ COUNTERTOPS

Material costs also vary depending on the quality and color. Granite, a natural stone, and quartz, an engineered stone, include two of the most popular countertop types.

Countertop installers say cheap granite could signal the product has blemishes and may crack over time.

"Thereís only three things that make up the cost of granite ó the supply and demand, the part of the world it comes from and how hard it is to excavate from the earth," says Dave Carver of Jim Carver & Sons of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Carver says his entry-level granite countertops cost $50 to $55 per square foot, while basic quartz countertops typically cost $75 to $85 per square foot.

Hansen says his basic granite countertops start around $60 to $65 per square foot, while entry-level quartz runs in the high $70 range. He says homeowners need to know the origin of the granite they plan to purchase. Highly discounted granite countertops may come from a warehouse with a huge stockpile of inferior product.

"You need to know the origin of the granite," Hansen warns. "Because it says Brazil in the name doesnít mean it came from Brazil. You need to see the paper work. If they donít have the paper work, you donít want it."

Both Hansen and Rogers say the best way to calculate the cost of installing kitchen countertops is to draw a sketch of your kitchen, include all the features you want, such as backsplash, type of edging and material thickness and take the measurements to a countertop contractor.

"Shop that," Hansen says. "Donít worry about the square foot cost because thatís such a small part of it. Unless you know whatís included in the square foot, itís so irrelevant."