Countertops are a big investment. They range widely in quality and price. The nicest countertops can be one of the most expensive parts of a new home or kitchen remodel. Getting them installed represents a significant cost, but so does keeping them in good shape. How much maintenance countertops need depends on the material and how they’re used. Different countertops are more porous than others, and some require more frequent sealants to keep them nice. One of the biggest issue countertops face is water damage. Granite, soapstone, quartz, marble and other countertops are usually located in bathrooms and kitchens. These places use large amounts of water, and it’s common for puddles of water to lay sitting on a countertop for hours and even days. Serious water damage to countertops can affect the way they look and work. It’s a big frustration for homeowners who spent so much getting their dream kitchen or bathroom built. There are, however, ways to avoid water damage. Here are some tips on how to keep your countertops looking terrific by avoiding water damage.
Be Honest with Yourself
Before you buy countertops, take stock of how you can be expected to treat them. Even if you have the cash to spend, don’t buy the rarest, most expensive marble if you know you or your young kids aren’t going to take care of them properly. Luckily, there are enough durable countertops that can fit any home or family situation. People should think about how often they can reasonably expect to clean the countertops. If cleanings will be rare, then don’t get a very porous material. That will just give water more time to ebb into the countertops and cause lasting damage. Know yourself before you take the plunge and buy. Making the right purchase is the best way to avoid water damage.
Consider the Different Material Options
The question every countertop buyer needs to answer is what kind of material they want. Style will usually be the main factor, but durability, upkeep and repair costs should also be considered. Extensive water damage likely means professional repair or replacement. That can drive the cost of having a kitchen renovated up even higher. Ask your installer if water damage can be spot-treated or if an entire slab will need to be taken out.
The material type will do a lot to determine how to avoid water damage. Granite, for instance, requires yearly sealants to stay in top shape. Even though it’s one of the most popular materials, it’s porous, so it’s at risk of water damage if neglected. People love granite because it looks great and comes in a variety of patterns and colors. Quartz and quartzite have manmade manufacturing processes that increase their durability. They stand up much better to heavy use, so owners can relax a bit on cleaning and upkeep. The same goes for stainless steel. Soapstone can darken because of too much sitting water, but that’s a natural effect over time that most homeowners can expect. Marble countertops look great, but they can develop water spots easily that need to be addressed promptly. Marble usually comes in lighter color shades, so water damage will stick out. Looking at a blemished slab of marble countertop and thinking about how much you paid for it just adds insult to injury.
Proper Maintenance Required
Whatever material you eventually choose, countertops all require some level of maintenance. The best thing homeowners can do to avoid water damage is regular cleaning. Even cleaning with soap and a damp cloth goes a long way. You’ll soak up any sitting water and keep it from eating into porous countertop materials. Additionally, retail countertop sealants are a great way to protect your investment. Sealants can be purchased at your neighborhood home improvement store and are typically straightforward in terms of application. Be careful, though, because some sealants are manufactured for a specific material. Make sure you don’t buy granite sealant for a soapstone countertop.
On top of those two basic steps, it’s important to make sure the edges of countertop slabs are sealed properly. Without good caulking, a leaky faucet or frequent spills can erode countertops over time and cause stains and discoloration. Caulking doesn’t last forever, so keep an eye on countertop caulking for any signs of decay.
Good plumbing is also a must to protect countertops. One of the most common causes of water damage is faulty appliances. Most of the time, when kitchens get renovated, the countertops and appliances get switched out. It’s vital to ensure that appliances fit well and are working right. Unfortunately, too many homeowners discover they’ve got a sink or fridge leak too late. By then, their countertops have endured weeks or months of constant water flow. Stay diligent and do a spot check of your kitchen and bathroom pipes every few months to makes sure there are no drips or leaks.
Finally, professional sealing is always an option. Most installation companies will apply a vapor barrier on your countertops when they’re first put in. They usually can come every year or however often to reapply commercial sealant to keep them looking fresh and fight off water damage. Different sizes of kitchens and countertop materials will dictate how often professional sealing is needed. Consult your countertop company for best practices based on your project size.
Countertop water damage isn’t just painful for homeowners who must look at them every day. Potential buyers will also spot any stains and take mental note that they’ll have to deal with it if they buy the house. They’ll either must add in future repair costs, or just deal with the annoyance of having water damaged countertops. When it comes time to sell, every owner wants to get top dollar for her or his home. Countertops are a major equity driver in homes because people spend a lot of time in kitchens. Keeping your countertops free from water damage is an easy way to increase payoff during a sale.