Posted on: 15th December 2020
Kitchen worktops – everything you need to know to choose the right material
The workhorse of any kitchen, worktops need to be tough and practical to use, as well as stylish
While cabinetry will be the main style decision you make for your kitchen, never underestimate the impact your worktop choice will have on the overall scheme. Along with the flooring, it sits on a horizontal plane, making it highly prominent, so it’s important to give it due consideration and not to view it as an after-thought.
Here’s what you should consider before you invest in a countertop.
Worktops are available at a variety of price points – from cheaper laminates to expensive granites – and what you choose usually be driven by how much you have to spend. Cheaper options can be good idea but may not last as long more durable stones or composites.
If budgets are tight, try mixing and matching your worktops. Place panels of more expensive stone in harder working areas such as by the cooker or sink and wood or laminate
If this has already decided, it can give you a good steer towards what worktop might be best. Straight runs are cheaper and easier to fit, while seamless materials such as composites make sense if you have lots of corners.
The most popular materials for kitchen worktops – laminate, granite, solid wood, Quartz, glass, composite stone and stainless steel – have different advantages. So it’s important to look at all the factors involved, to ensure you tailor your worktop to your needs.
A traditional favourite for its natural warmth and the character that comes as it ages, hardwood is preferred over ‘soft’ woods like pine for its strength. Popular choices of hardwood include oak, walnut and iroko.
If hardwoods are properly sealed and maintained they will last for a long time, but don’t use the worktop as a chopping board, or place hot pans directly onto the wood, as it can scorch.
Wood is very easy to cut, and is suitable for use in most situations.
Hardwoods require an initial programme of sealing using oil. Apply a coat once a day for the first week, then once a week for the next month, then once a month for a year.
Wood does need a certain amount of upkeep. Avoid direct exposure to heat and prolonged soaking, especially by the sink and tap area, where you may prefer to install a wall-mounted tap.
Made from about 90% natural quartz crystals mixed with a small percentage of binders, and referred to as both ‘quartz composite’ and ‘engineered stone’, this material is very tough, virtually non-porous and resistant to scratches, stains, heat damage and impact, and often comes with a long warranty.
It also offers consistent composition, so unlike natural stone, there won’t be variation in veining and colour shading.
A very practical and beautiful choice that can be used anywhere, including next to hobs and around the sink.
Composite is very tough and more durable than many natural stones. As the colour runs right the way through the material, any scratches can be sanded out. In the very unlikely case that your composite surface is scratched, chipped or stained it can often be repaired by a specialist. However, it is easier to achieve perfect restoration with acrylic composites as scratches can be sanded out, while quartz is more likely to be filled and any polishing can leave a dull area.
This worksurface can be thermoformed into different shapes without joints to create streamlined, seamless worktop runs. Fabrication is done by specialists and usually arranged by your kitchen supplier. Templates will be taken once the base units are in place and it can be one to two weeks before the worktops are ready to install.
For some, nothing beats the beauty of natural stone, its veining and colouring unique to each slab. Marbles are classically beautiful and luxurious, tend to be rarer and therefore more expensive.
Any area of the kitchen, including around the sink and next to the hob or oven. A large expanse of glossy granite makes a striking island worktop
Granite is hard and resistant to heat and scratches, but it must be treated with respect to prevent damage. The best of all the natural materials, it can withstand high temperatures, is water resistant and impervious to most stains, but wine and citric acids must be cleaned up at once to avoid damaging the stone. and will usually need to be protected by a special sealant.
Long-considered the best budget option, laminates are non-porous, offer easy maintenance and come in lots of design and colour choices. Made by fusing multiple layers of impregnated paper under high pressure temperature, bonded to a substrate, they are resistant to impact, scratching and moisture.
Resistant to most stains and chemicals, but not to heat or steam. Not suitable as a cutting surface. Choose a thicker, high-pressure worktop for greater durability.
Laminate is one of the few materials that can be cut and fitted by a DIY enthusiast rather than a kitchen professional.
Glass has long been a favourite with interior designers for the light touch it brings to a scheme as well as its reflective sheen that really helps boost light levels. Glass is a non-porous material that can withstand moisture and spills and splashes are easily wiped clean, making it a beautiful – and practical – solution for the kitchen.
Glass for work surfaces is toughened to increase durability. Heat, acid and water resistant. Can be prone to scratches, but these can be polished smooth.
Worktops can be cut to most shapes and can include cut outs for hobs and sinks.
Needs frequent wiping to prevent water-marking, but is very hygienic due to the lack of joints and resulting dirt traps. Keep sparkling with a glass cleaner.
ade from a blend of acrylic resins, minerals and colourings, solid surfaces are warm to the touch with a natural lustre; they can be totally seamless too with one- piece, moulded sinks and splashbacks.
Designs are often pioneering and the material can be thermoformed into fabulous, organic curves, slick, cantilevered breakfast bars and seamless wrap-around surfaces on islands. The material can be engraved, back-lit with LEDs and even fitted with built-in wireless charging for smart phones.
Solid surfaces are stain and water resistant. They’re also heat-resistant to 250°C, but it’s still best to use a trivet. As it is a solid surface material, like hardwood, scratches can be sanded out.
Durable, heat resistant, hygienic and impervious to water, stainless steel is an alloy of iron. The addition of chromium makes it resistant to rusting.
Stainless steel is the restaurant kitchen favourite and great for creating the industrial aesthetic in your home. It works best in contemporary schemes, but you can team it with other materials to soften the look.
Very strong, waterproof, heat and acid resistant. It is prone to scratching, but some say this adds to its well-worn appeal, and this won’t affect its anti-bacterial qualities.
? Easily the choice of commercial kitchens because of its hygienic properties. It is very easy to keep clean with stainless-steel cleaner. Use baby oil to keep it looking at its shiny best.
The industrial look of concrete makes it a current choice. It’s also designed to withstand plenty of heavy duty use, and comes in a range of standard concrete mix colours (from white to grey) and can be mixed with pigments for stronger colours. Polished concrete worktops are flat and smooth, but concrete is porous and can stain, and it is heavy so extra reinforcement may be required.
If food is left on for a long period of time, it can cause staining. You may need a touch-up kit to minimise the appearance if this happens.
You will need to use food-grade sealer or finishing wax to prevent water and stain absorption.
Concrete is an incredibly durable material, but is also prone to scratching.
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