Doug & Patty,
We just redid our kitchen this year. I had the same quandry as you
about counter tops and explored everything from concrete to stone to
stainless to man made stone (Silestone, Caeserstone, Technistone &
Zodiaq, which are all the same thing made under license from the patent
holder). Ultimately, we went with Silestone, as the variety of colors
surpassed what was available in nature.
We initially though about a cobalt blue, but found a fire engine red
that we love.
It sounds llike your pricing is exceptional. I went through a half
dozen bids and none locally were less than about $110 per square foot
when everything was included. We finally went with e-counters.com and
were very pleased. For our "tier" of Silestone, it worked out to $65
per square foot, plus things like cutouts ($300 for undermount sink,
$20 per hole for the faucet, $40 each for outlets), and bullnose edging
($29 per lineal foot).
What I found is that counters are a lot like a base price car - the
initial advertised price is about 60-70% of the real cost.
Disclaimer - I have on financial or other interest in e-counters.com,
I'm just really cheap and want to get a good value. The weird thing
about e-counters and Home Depot, Lowes etc, is that they all use the
same "factory authorized fabricators" as listed on the products web
sites. They then mark up their bids to make a profit and everybody is
happy. When I had the local guys bid the project they were higher than
HD and everybody else.
I really wanted to deal direct with the local guy, but they were all
$2,000-3,000 higher. Go figure.