Recycled Glass Countertops
These Eco-Friendly Counters Are Also Strong and Stylish
Homeowners who want a contemporary countertop these days are often funneled toward solid stone, faux stone, or metal. And while these materials are attractive and durable, they can be a bit commonplace, as just about every design magazine and sales rep seems to be pushing them. In addition, most modern countertops are made from unsustainable materials, making them a poor choice for customers pursuing a “Green” lifestyle. If you’re looking for a countertop material that’s both stylish and sustainable, recycled glass countertops could be the answer.
How Recycled Glass Counters are Made
Using glass for a high-traffic surface might seem like an invitation to disaster. Recycled countertop glass, however, which is reclaimed from sources that include curbside recycling programs, decommissioned traffic lights, windows, and demolished buildings, has a binder and color pigments added to it. These ingredients are mixed together and baked at a very high temperature, creating a hard and dense final product. So despite containing around 75 to 90 percent post-consumer glass, recycled glass countertops are specially engineered to be strong and durable. In fact, counters made from recycled glass are comparable in strength and performance to granite.
Recycled Glass Countertop Considerations
Although your home already contains a good amount of glass, glass countertops are an altogether different product than windows and stemware. Here are some things to keep in mind before introducing recycled glass countertops to your home:
- Appearance: There are two basic glass countertop styles. The first, which contains glass shards (the size of the shards used depends on the manufacturer), has a three-dimensional effect and provides a contemporary look. These counters may even prove to be a conversation piece as you and your guests try to figure out what the bits of glass were originally used for. A second type of recycled glass countertop contains finely ground glass and is more similar in appearance to solid surfacing.
- Binder Material: Homeowners who are particularly interested in Going Green with a glass countertop should pay close attention to the binder material. Different manufacturers use either a polymer (petroleum-based) or cement binder in their glass counters, with the latter being more eco-friendly. There is, however, a bit of a tradeoff in regards to maintenance between polymer and cement binders. While countertops with a cement binder are somewhat porous and require sealing, those with a polymer-based binder do not need sealing. Polish or wax is recommended for added protection.
- Performance: Recycled glass is generally a high-performance countertop that resists heat, cuts, stains, and scratches. But as noted above, if the countertop has a concrete binder, it should be sealed once or twice per year for maximum stain protection. It’s possible, furthermore, for the countertop to chip, and placing a very hot pot or pan on it could cause a crack.
- Maintenance: Aside from occasional sealing (if necessary), recycled glass is a low-maintenance material. Use a damp cloth for everyday cleanup and a mild detergent to remove more stubborn spots. Certain substances, including tomato sauce, coffee, and tea, can cause staining if they’re not cleaned up right away. Acidic foods such as alcohol and lemon juice, which can cause etching, should also be cleaned immediately.
Recycled Glass Countertop Costs
- Expect to pay $75 to $150 per square foot installed for recycled glass countertops. At this price, recycled glass is hardly a bargain material, so you might consider using it in certain areas of the kitchen, such as an island or accent counter.
- Materials alone might cost $50 to $120 per square foot. Some manufacturers work only with certified fabricators and installers, so DIYers might have difficulty completing this project on their own. If you do manage to order the countertop and plan on installing it yourself, bear in mind that there will most likely be a “you break it, you buy it” policy. Not only that, but without professional installation, the countertop’s warranty may be void.