US demand for countertops is driven by increases in housing completions and commercial building construction, as well as rising homeowner investment in kitchen and bath remodeling, by far the dominant application for countertops, and one of the most dynamic.
As consumer preferences and design trends continue to evolve, manufacturers are working to broaden and improve their product selection and inspire homeowners with novel color concepts, patterns, and textures that may have been prohibitively expensive to achieve just years ago. And as remodeling projects often focus on raising home values, countertop demand is benefitting from trends favoring more bathrooms, larger kitchens, and higher value countertop materials to boost the return on investment.
However, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic is causing substantial short-term market disruption, with the resulting economic weakness, losses in consumer incomes, and supply issues among the most significant growth restraints. As a result of these impacts, the Freedonia Group predicts slower demand growth through 2024 than initially predicted in its recent Countertops study. Nevertheless, anticipated market rebounds during the forecast period once the crisis abates will mitigate the initial damage inflicted by the economic downturn.
Below are four key trends in kitchen and bath remodeling that are expected to help fuel that rebound.
Homeowners going bigger on projects to maximize ROI
Demand for countertops in residential remodeling applications is forecast to hit 653 million square feet in 2024 and account for the large majority of total residential market gains in volume terms. A major driver of many remodeling projects is to increase home values, and to that end homeowners are adding more (and larger) bathrooms and expanding their kitchens. With countertop replacement being the most popular kitchen and bath remodeling project, prospects are strong in volume and especially value terms, as homeowners increasingly opt for higher end materials to boost the return on their investment.
High-end materials increasingly preferred for long-term benefits
As homeowners look to trade up from laminates and solid surface to more natural-looking and aesthetically pleasing surface materials, countertops with high performance characteristics – such as resistance to chipping, discoloration, and scratches – will support robust market growth in value terms. Among the materials to see the best opportunities are wood (e.g., for a butcher-block aesthetic) and granite (e.g., for a clean, modern look).
In addition, niche materials are rapidly growing in popularity. For example, the popularity of porcelain slab has grown immensely over the past decade due to its performance and aesthetic properties, such as:
- stain resistance in both indoor and outdoor settings, as well as being heat and frost resistant, which makes them a top choice for outdoor kitchens
- greater strength and durability when compared to granite
- absence of discoloration or color change issues
- wide variety of finishes, patterns, and colors available from manufacturers
- ability to be used as backsplashes
- easy-to-clean, hygienic surface
Design trends favor wide-ranging aesthetic options
Homeowners starting a remodeling project want countertop options that reflect their vision, or can inspire a new one. Advances in product development have led to lower prices and wider availability of engineered stone products that support wide-ranging customization options, allowing homeowners to play more with their design decisions:
- Despite steep tariffs on imports from China and India – and the worker health and safety risks associated with production – engineered stone is forecast to see the fastest growth of any major countertop material through 2024.
- Engineered stone countertops have made rapid inroads in the market since 2014, as the availability of low-cost materials in popular colors has increased at a robust pace.
- However, an even faster rate of growth will be prevented by the trade tensions with China and India, as other low-cost sources of quartz slab have been unable to meet surging US demand for these products.
Laminates continues losing relevance – and market share
Despite being the dominant countertop surface material in the US for decades, laminates will continue to lose market share as other more aesthetically pleasing materials – such as granite and engineered stone – become more popular. Laminates will continue to face intense competition from these alternative materials due to their increasing affordability, superior performance, and the fact that laminates often lack the more natural appearance current design trends favor. As a result, many laminate manufacturers are expanding into other product areas, like engineered stone, to stay in step with evolving consumer preferences and market trends.
Nevertheless, use of laminates will remain widespread – particularly among budget-conscious consumers and in commercial applications – due to their relatively low price points and minimal maintenance requirements.
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About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.