Help w/mini makeover-? about counters
I'm usually over in the garden side so I'm sorry if this isn't an appropriate question....
I've decided that my kitchen needs a mini makeover. I've started replacing the old ugly appliances w/new stainless steel (all will be replaced). I also bought new hardware (handles, pulls and hinges) for my hardwood maple cabinets. The cabinets are pretty (a good color and they have crown molding which I like). They unfortunately had brass nobs and hinges. I am deep cleaning the wood, polishing, and doing touch ups in spots that needed it. It's looking great so far but I've realized before I can pick new light fixtures, paint and furniture that I need to pick a counter and back splash.
I have 35 square feet of counters and need one hole cut for an under mount sink (I'm replacing my cast iron sink w/- good quality stainless steel). I had tried to estimate a price by using Home Depots estimator tool. For their granite and instillation I've gotten prices ranging from 2,400-2,800 for their low end to medium granite. BUT, after reading some threads on here I've realized that I probably shouldn't go through Home Depot for granite. I'm such a newbie with home remodel that I'm a little nervous to go to an actual counter place. Maybe intimidated is a better word. As of right now I have 3G put aside for my counters. Will I be laughed at if I walk into a store and attempt to find a solid surface counter for this price? Should I wait until I have another thousand saved? I'm not looking for hi end. I just want quality that is pretty to look at. Also, is there anything I definitely need to know before I walk into a place?
I have a few more questions about counters and kitchen stuff but I'm trying to find a starting point and here it is.
Thanks for any help. Feel free to point me in the direction of sites I can read to help myself. There is so much info out there that it gets overwhelming.
Ps, the sink plumbing is not included in that price. I'm having my plumber do the sink bc he needs to lower my waste pipe (another annoying headache).