The kitchen worktop or workbench is getting a lot more attention today. One of the reasons why benchtops weren’t on the radar of discerning homeowners was the lack of choice.
We don’t need to go back as far as the early 1900s to realise how sploit we are today for materials, textures and colours.
At the turn of the last century, our ancestors in modern homes were delighted they could stop cooking on an open wood or coal fire and instead use a gas range. The cooking got better, but there wasn’t a lot of bench space, and kitchens were not the size they are today.
In many ways, less choice makes it easier to choose, so if you’re putting off replacing your kitchen work surfaces, many homeowners will emphasise with you. The good news is you don’t have to replace your entire kitchen, i.e. you can keep your kitchen cabinetry, appliances and flooring and update the benchtops. 🙂
Avoid making an impulse decision on your kitchen worktops. The kitchen is the most visited area, and the benches will get a lot of attention.
Start your research by observing how you and your family or household residents use the kitchen benchtops. This action may seem excessive; however, intelligence can give you vital insights into what materials will and won’t work for your benchtops.
For example, cutting directly on the bench is not ideal. It blunts knives and can leave lasting scratches and cuts. Some materials are not as hardy, and the knife marks will show up. Also, the cuts are now indentations that will capture food, so now the benchtop is a breeding area for bacteria.
Dark colours are more likely to show the cuts too. So now you’re not only thinking of the material but the colour too. Do you go for a plain colour or a light colour and pattern? So many decisions to make!
There are 10 materials commonly used materials in kitchen worktops, and they can be groups into four categories:
- Natural and Engineered Stone
- Laminates, Resins
- Glass, Porcelain, Corian
Natural or Engineered Stone
Granite worktops are one of the most popular kitchen worktop materials in the UK these days, largely because it looks attractive, is hard wearing and because large sections of it are available so there will be fewer seams – where two pieces meet.
Quartz worktops are often more expensive than granite, but they finish better, the joins barely detectable.
Overall, natural stone like granite and quartz provides a unique visual i.e. a one-of-a-kind look. That said, natural stone is not easy to repair if it is damaged, so it’s worth getting information on repair costs. For household members who cut directly on the bench – this is the best option as it’s the most hardwearing.
Laminates and Resins
If cost is your priority, then laminates and resins will fit the bill. With so many styles to choose from, this option will suit any kitchen design.
Laminates look good if you have a return in the worktop because the seam is usually barely noticeable with this configuration. However, the seams tend to stand out a little more when you have a long worktop where two sections of laminate will adjoin one another. Easy to clean and keep hygienic, lower quality options will be susceptible to warping when exposed to high temperatures, so buy the best quality laminates or resins.
Natural wood will mark if you drop a knife or a hard object on them, so if you’ve spied your family cutting on the kitchen bench, avoid wood. Wood looks superb, but it’s not so hardy as it can also stain if you spill something like red wine or tomato sauce on it without cleaning the surface straightaway. What’s more, you need to waterproof the wood and repeat this process every few years to keep it in good condition. However, for lovers of wood, the benchtop will show it off. Plus, for some kitchen themes or designs, nothing beats a nice wood worktop.
Other Man-Made Materials
There are other human-made materials worth considering, such as Tristone glass, Corian or porcelain. These products are all scratch-resistant and come in many colours, often with a more uniform appearance than you’ll get with natural alternatives.
Recycled glass kitchen worktops are a good choice if you want something environmentally friendly.
Made from a blend of polymer and natural minerals, Corian worktops are non-porous, unlike wood or most natural stone, so you won’t have to treat them once they are installed. This makes them good for bathrooms as well as kitchens, of course.
If you are looking for a durable and stain-resistant kitchen work surface, then Tristone worktops make a good choice. These are made from acrylic and look perfect in modern kitchen designs. What’s more, they’ll withstand exposure to heat and come in glossy, matte and satin finishes.
More choice can make it harder, if not nearly impossible, to make a quick decision. Do your research and use the results in your decision making so really, your options will come down to just one or two materials. Visit showrooms and get tactile with the materials, too, so the hardest decision left to make is the colour.