It’s time for new countertops in your kitchen. It’s a big decision and one that you’ll have to be happy with for a number of years to come. So it’s important to consider all the different factors and be sure you’re making the right decisions. Here are a few important factors to look at when shopping for countertops.

1. Cost. Countertops are a significant purchase, but there are a number of things that can make them more or less expensive, depending on your budget. Marble, for instance, is very expensive, while granite tends to be slightly cheaper. If you want to save money, you can get solid-surface material, which is a slightly cheaper alternative to stone. You can also get laminate, which is much cheaper, though it also won’t last as long. You can also use a more expensive material on the areas of the countertop that are most visible, but switch to a less expensive alternative around some of the edges, to keep yourself on budget.

2. Warranty. How long will these countertops last? If there’s damage or other problems within the first few years of installation, will you be able to get them fixed, or just have to deal with them? Always ask how long of a warranty your countertops come with and what it covers and doesn’t cover.

3. Durability and Maintenance. This goes hand in hand with both cost and warranty. Will the material you choose stand up well to wear and tear? In particular, how does it fare against water? Marble and granite countertops are more expensive, but will also last longer, are easy to clean, don’t damage easily, and are water-resistant. Wood and laminate countertops can be water damaged more easily, and often need special sealants, which may need to be redone periodically to keep water out.

4. Samples. Your countertop dealer will likely have material samples you can look at, to choose the look you want, much like looking at paint chips to choose a wall color. However, unlike paint, most countertop materials aren’t a single, uniform color or pattern. You may like the way a particular sample looks on a tiny little square, but it could look very different covering an entire counter. Make sure the samples are large enough that you can get a realistic idea of what it will look like.

5. Décor. Are you getting new flooring at the same time? If so, it’s easy to make sure they go well together. You might decide to have your floor and countertops be the same color and material, or you might get two different types that complement one another. However, if you’re only replacing your countertops, you need to make sure you choose something that will go well with your existing flooring and other décor. This is another reason why it’s important to get decent sized samples. Look at them in conjunction with the rest of the kitchen: the floor, the walls, the cupboards, etc. Make sure your decorative choices work well together.

When it comes to new countertops, you have a lot of decisions to make, and a lot of factors to consider. Talk to an expert who can help you find the best countertops for your home and your lifestyle, which will fit within your budget and be a great addition to your décor.