No-Fuss Materials: Countertop
Why: Stands up to the elements, won't stain as easily as marble, soapstone, or slate, and shouldn't fade in the sun.
Price: $50 to $100 per square foot for slabs installed
Why: Lends a clean, contemporary look but can be prone to cracking if not properly installed. Not DIY-friendly. Must be sealed and resealed annually.
Price: About $50 to $100 per square foot for a custom-poured slab
Outdoor-rated ceramic tile
Why: Thrifty, good for DIYers, and offers a range of styles and colors. Best in regions where freezing and thawing won't damage grout lines.
Price: $3 to $10 per square foot uninstalled