High-End Countertops Go Mainstream

High-End Countertops Go Mainstream

Just 10 years ago, basic countertop materials used in residences around the world were just that -- basic. 

Laminates accounted for over one-quarter of the global market, and were often the residential default in the United States, Canada, and Europe.  Similarly, in the Asia/Pacific region, solid surface materials -- mainly available in a few simple colors -- were the low-cost material of choice, supported by large local production in countries such as South Korea and China. 

While these materials are still globally significant, both have lost market share in recent years, as style trends moved upscale and higher-end materials became increasingly available.  Now, the countertop market has shifted towards natural and engineered stone.

Granite as the Go-To Material

In the early 2000s, granite gained share, especially in North America, buoyed by the desire for upscale kitchen spaces with materials that reflected a natural, old-world aesthetic.  The boom in construction of large single-family homes supported this inclination, and durable and attractive granite quickly became material of choice for a stylish home, a trend that remained even through the housing collapse that began in 2006. 

Additionally, homeowners who remodeled kitchens and bathrooms were frequently motivated by a desire to upgrade their countertops to granite.  Through the 2000s and 2010s, low-end basic granite slabs became more accessible to consumers, increasing the presence of natural stone countertops and keeping prices obtainable for many consumers.

Engineered Stone - The New Trend

While natural stone countertops formerly held the position of honor, homeowners are increasingly faced with a choice: granite or engineered quartz.  And engineered quartz might be winning.  Until the last decade, engineered stone was a high-end, niche product, owing to the limited amount that was produced globally and thus, its high price. 

However, in recent years, global production has increased, causing the price to fall.  Thus, engineered stone has seen its market share grow from less than 5% in North America and Australia, and just 7% in Western Europe to become a major player the residential countertops markets.  Engineered quartz now outranks granite in residential installations in North America and is the leading material in the Australian market

The popularity of engineered stone has been boosted by falling prices, as well as increasing consumer awareness of its excellent stain resistance and low maintenance requirements (the material does not require sealing, unlike many natural stone varieties). 

Style trends that favor a clean, contemporary look, often featuring white and soft shades of gray, also suit with engineered quartz.  Engineered quartz typically has a smoother look with a consistent appearance throughout, while natural stone slabs typically have heavy veining.

Granite and Quartz Both Remain Strong at the Expense of Laminates

Although engineered quartz now outranks granite in many major countertops markets, granite remains a popular choice and holds a steady share of the residential market.  However, laminate countertops have seen the steepest loss of market share in recent years as homeowners select either natural or engineered stone over the basic material. 

Want to Learn More?

To find out more about this and other trends in the global countertops market, check out the new report Global Countertops Market, from The Freedonia Group.  This report offers analysis on:

  • Materials trends
  • Markets (residential and nonresidential, new and remodeling)
  • Types (kitchen, bathroom)
  • 6 world regions and 18 major country markets
  • Industry composition and market share

About the Author:

Mariel Behnke is an Industry Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where she covers the US and global construction and consumer products industries.