Buyers Guide to Custom Glass Countertops, White Glass Countertops and Concrete Countertops.
Shopping for Custom and Luxury Countertop Materials.
For a customer that is simply looking to buy the best or unusual Modern, Contemporary or Coastal countertop for their kitchen and bath, there is a dizzying array of options. Big box retailers offer many choices, but sometimes it can lead to paralysis by analysis. I’ve been in your shoes shopping for custom countertops, and that was the initial impetus for starting Downing Designs countertop store in 1999. We figured someone needed to step in and clarify things for the high-end consumer.
Our design center was created to show off kitchen and bath displays with countertop materials that are unequalled, and often unseen, except in design magazines. Long ago, we partnered with the top company in each product category, and sold their products. Soon afterwards, we knew the market needed more a more unique and customizable product, so we developed our own glass countertop and sink products, and cut out the middlemen. Clients love touring our Tampa factory and design center and see our full-scale displays. They are fascinated by how our glass countertops are made. It’s a highly interactive process where they can direct the artistic output. No other countertop offers direct input on its creation.
We offer some of the most expensive countertops you can find anywhere in the world, but that does not mean they are unaffordable. Our displays clarify how a pairing one exceptional (high-value) design element with a simple and pure (lower-cost) material can create a dramatic kitchen or bath design. Downing Designs is not interested in the “usual suspects” that anyone can fabricate, just the best custom countertops that require craftsmen to design, create and install with careful attention to detail.
Glass Countertops Prices and Buying Guide
Cost. The average retail cost of a Glass countertop is between $150/psf and $900/psf.
How is it Made. Ultra Low Iron Float Glass is fired in kilns atop a textured sand bed.
Largest Size. Large glass countertops up to 126” in length without a seam.
Typical Thickness. 1.5” thick is typical. 1.5” thick glass weighs ~21lbs per square foot. Thicker glass adds to cost exponentially as the glass annealing time is an exponential function of thickness. E.g. 1.5” thick glass countertop will require about 10 hours to properly anneal. For a 4” thick piece, it will take ~14 days. This exponentially higher time in the glass kiln translates into a higher cost.
Design Options. Textured glass designs can take many shapes. Artistic texturing of glass countertops and high bars should enhance the flow of the space where it resides. Hand-made textures designed to flow with your room takes vision and communication with your glass countertop artist. A well-designed glass texture will have a large visual impact on the room it inhabits.
Polished edge. Polishing Glass to an optically pure quality takes 11 steps and a great amount of skill. CNC machines produce highly visible lines on the edge. “Liney but shiney” may be OK for granite, but it visibly obscures the refraction potential of the glass. Make sure you inspect the quality of your edge polish before buying glass counters.
Cutouts. Cutouts for holes for supports, sinks and faucets need to be done with a waterjet. Waterjetting glass usually runs about $100 per hour for setup and cutting.
Back Painting Glass. Textured Glass is transparent, and can be back painted any color for backsplashes and countertops. Back painting glass also adds depth to the textures.
Integral Color. Color can be added between layers of glass before firing using glass frits. This enhances the artistry of the design, and is permanently fused to the glass.
Lighting. LED’s and under lighting can add dimensional depth to textured glass countertops. LEDs can be installed at the rear edge of the countertop between the wall and countertop. For high bars, stainless steel covers can be added to finish the look. Down lighting with narrow beam LED’s highlights the textural shadows below the glass.
Brackets. Most high bars require metal support brackets and/or Low Profile Caps to secure the glass above the lower countertop or knee wall. Textured glass is tricky because it has an undulating bottom to be secured to a flat support. We recommend a custom support bracket that elegantly and securely cantilevers the glass up and over the lower countertop.
Durability. Glass has a Mohs Hardness of 6.6 Scratching, chipping are not an issue if using round over tops (vs a 45 bevel which has 2 sharp edges). Repairs in field are possible. Scratches can be buffed out.
Installation. Textured Glass Countertop installations are not for for amateurs. Please make sure that your installers are THE BEST you can find.
Most Often Purchased For: Modern, Contemporary, Transitional, Coastal, Indoor, Outdoor, Kitchen, Bath, Backsplashes, Tables, Stair Steps, Glass Shower Walls.
Summary. Textured glass countertops are are a hygienic and luxurious material that add an artistic element to your kitchen, bath or restaurant. They come alive in the evening with thoughtful lighting and can truly appear to float. Our favorite countertop combination is a Textured Glass High Bar with LED and ceiling spot lights over a White Glass countertop. It’s a top dollar splurge, but if placed in high-value areas it can pay you back every day with a WOW! Factor and a high resale value for your home.
White Glass Countertops Prices and Buying Guide
Cost. The average retail cost of a White Glass countertop is between $150/psf and $250/psf.
Color. It is the purest white countertop available. See our comparison of white countertop options.
How is it Made. White glass countertops are a fusion of glass and silica at 2700 degrees, poured into forms, cooled, polished to a gloss finish. It is as non-porous as glass.
Largest Size. Slab sizes are 61” x 111” x 1.125” Maximizing the yield per slab lowers the cost.
Typical Thickness. 1.125” thick is the standard white glass countertop thickness. Lamination of edges can provide thicker edges. 1.125” thick white glass weighs 23lbs per square foot.
Design Options. White glass countertops can be fabricated into many shapes. Arced shapes vs Linear shapes take longer to polish and will add to cost. Waterjetting glass usually runs about $100 per hour. The unbelievable strength of white glass allows you to create designs with MUCH wider cantilevers, and overhangs, without bracing.
Edge. Polishing White Glass takes many steps and a great amount of skill and effort. Make sure you inspect the quality of polish before signing a contract. Square polished edge with a roundover is standard.
Cutouts. Waterjet cutting sinks and faucets is recommended.
Lighting. White Glass is opaque and cannot be underlit.
Durability. White Glass has a Mohs Hardness of 7.0 Scratching, chipping are not an issue when using roundover tops. Repairs in field are possible. It is non-porous and you do NOT need to use sealers.
Staining. White Glass Countertops aka Nanoglass countertops are by far the whitest, strongest, most stain-proof, UV-proof, cigarette and hot pan-proof, hair dye-proof, solvent-proof acid-proof material we have ever tested. For outdoor kitchens, it is the perfect material because it is 100% inorganic…and unlike quartz, whose plastic resin binder will yellow in the outdoor light. It also stays very cool to the touch (96 degrees on a 93 degree day) in direct Florida sunlight…amazing!
Installation. White Glass Countertop installations are performed with care, and is not for for amateurs. Pure white is the hardest to match seam color. We offer custom colored seam kits for our customers Please make sure that your installers are THE BEST you can find.
Often Used For: Modern, Contemporary, Transitional, Coastal, Indoor, Outdoor, Kitchen, Bath, Tables.
Summary. White Glass Countertops are a pure white, non-porous, hygienic and luxurious material. They make the apparent size of each room they inhabit appear 25% larger. In an era where we purchase countertops and homes by the square foot, adding 25% to the visual volume of your home adds tremendous value.They are also a very contemporary and modern countertop option that is great for outdoor countertops. When combined with stone or reclaimed wood paneling, white glass gives a very pure and interesting Jetsons-Flintstones juxtaposition.
Concrete Countertops Prices and Buying Guide
Cost. The average retail cost of a Concrete Countertop is between $149/psf and $300/psf.
How is it Made. Concrete countertops are created from sand, aggregates, cement, fibers. Poured into custom forms, cured, and then polished to the matte or gloss finish. Terrazzo countertops are ground to reveal aggregates. Concrete needs to be sealed as it is porous.
Largest Size. Concrete countertops can be fabricated to lengths in excess of 12’. Expect to pay a premium when big pieces over 300lbs are installed. 1.5” concrete countertops weigh 20lbs per square foot which is about the same as granite.
Typical Thickness. 1.5” thick is the standard minimum concrete countertop thickness but 2” thick concrete is the most popular. Any thickness can be specified without lamination resulting in a beautiful one-piece look.
Design Options. Any shape can be created with a skillful fabricator.
Polishing. Polishing concrete to a matte finish is a multi-step process. Gloss concrete requires more effort. Matte concrete feels like a worn shell, and is very comfortable to touch. 90% of orders are matte.
Cutouts. Cutouts for holes, sinks can be moulded into the concrete or cut with standard diamond tools.
Color. The base color of white concrete is similar to canvas. Pigments can be added to the concrete mix to match any color. Expect to pay more for expensive pigments, and color matching services.
Terrazzo. Terrazzo is a matrix of concrete, pigments and aggregates. Aggregates can be recycled glass, SeaShells, Mother-of-Pearl, Agates, etc. “Vetrazzo” is a prefab slab with a high recycled glass content. All terrazzo needs to be sealed periodically just like concrete.
Lighting. Concrete is opaque. However, clever mating of concrete with glass and fiber optics can create very interesting effects.
Sealer. Sealing concrete is a must. Many topical “plastic” sealers are available, but they will yellow and/or peel over time. Plastic sealers hide the very popular tactile nature of concrete with a barrier. Penetrating sealers do an excellent job of preventing stains except from long-term food acid spills. They do not yellow, and leave the surface feeling soft and natural. Make sure you inspect the sealer quality before buying.
Durability. Concrete has a Mohs Hardness of 5.5 Scratching, chipping is not an issue if using roundover edges. Repairs in the field are possible. Concrete requires attention to prevent long-term exposure to food acids which can etch the concrete. Concrete stains from organic sources can be removed with bleach.It is a 100% inorganic material it works well outdoor unlike quartz, whose plastic resin binder will yellow outdoors. Lighter concrete colors stay reasonably cool to the touch. It requires sealing every 3-5 years (wipe on wipe off) and can be refinished in the field.
Often Used For: Modern, Contemporary, Transitional, Traditional, Coastal, Indoor, Outdoor, Kitchen, Bath, Tables, Stair steps, Floors, Sinks.
Summary. Concrete Countertops are a luxurious surface and can be created in exactly any color and thickness you desire. Aggregates (such as shells and glass) included in the concrete allow for an unlimited artistic palette. They also make excellent sinks for bathrooms as they can be formed in a variety of creative designs. Concrete sinks with glass basins make for unusual, contemporary designs. Concrete can patina over time but this adds character to their perfectly imperfect nature. Concrete is a very historic material and plays well with glossy contemporary cabinets to give a very interesting “Jetsons-Flintstones” juxtaposition.