Press-Republican

Home & Garden

June 2, 2014

Creative countertops

Concrete is growing in popularity, as are wood and recycled glass

The concrete countertops in Eleanor Zuckerman’s San Francisco kitchen are hand-crafted works of art.

Custom-designed by Fu-Tun Cheng of the Berkeley, California-based Cheng Concrete, they feature colors like brick, flowing lines and pictures of nautilus shells.

“With concrete there is a lot of room for creativity, to say nothing of color,” says Zuckerman, a retired psychologist. “It gives you flexibility.”

Homeowners looking to spice up their kitchens can install a variety of countertops that go beyond the traditional laminate and tile. Today’s options include concrete and butcher-block-style wood, and a range of custom-designed colors and shapes. IceStone countertops use recycled glass from broken bottles.

“So many different materials are used in countertops these days,” says Tony Izzo, Curtis Lumber’s corporate kitchen and bath manager in Albany, New York. Until about 25 years ago, he says, roughly 90 percent of countertops in U.S. homes were laminate, and the rest tile.

Then DuPont’s Corian hit the market, followed by granite and quartz, which are current favorites, he says. Today, just half of countertops are laminate, Izzo says.

The burgeoning interest in alternative countertops is the natural extension of that trend. And they are becoming more affordable.

“Slowly, over the years, the market has really grown,” says Mike Heidebrink, president of Cheng Concrete. When the company opened in 2002, it catered mostly to well-heeled dot-commers willing to spend more to bring an artisan’s touch to their kitchens.

Today, Heidebrink says, Cheng also serves a growing number of skilled do-it-yourselfers who want to shape, mold and install countertops themselves. They can choose the color and lines of their countertops, he says. Once installed and sealed, he says, concrete countertops are as durable as limestone and marble.

“They can have that for $10 a square foot,” he says.

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