Worktops and Countertops for Kitchens – Buyers Guide to Materials

The worktop or countertop is not only necessary for a kitchen it is also an integral part of its design. Food preparation can deliver a large amount of wear and tear to the surfaces in the kitchen. Within this article we look at the various materials used for countertops and discuss the reasons for choosing them for your kitchen. Whether its durability, hygiene or cost, you can find both the advantages and disadvantages of each material below.

Laminate Worktops

This in expensive option is a very popular choice for kitchen countertops and it comes in a variety of colors and textures. It isn’t that hard wearing and can get scratched or burned, and gets dirty very easily. It is not built to last. If you do choose laminate you can protect your surfaces with trivets and chopping boards.


Fairly Inexpensive.

A wide range of colours and patterns to choose from.

Easy to apply fancy edges.

Stain resistant.


Not wise to use as a cutting surface or to place hot pans upon. Cannot be repaired if it gets damaged. It must get replaced. Noticeable seams because of a dark backing sheet. This is most apparent with light colours.

Granite Worktops

Granite is the most common type of stone used for a countertop. Granite is quarried worldwide, with colors and patterns that reveal the region and the geological conditions that created it. Each slab is unique, with random and inconsistent patterns for a great character and look. It is highly durable, it doesn’t scratch or burn, and it keeps its color. Unfortunately Granite is a very expensive material though the finished look is often well worth the cost.


A variety of colours of natural stone.
Extremely durable.
Heat resistant and hard to scratch.


Expensive To prevent staining it will need to be resealed.

Stainless Steel Worktops

Often associated with professional kitchens, stainless steel is stylish and contemporary. Steel is highly durable and can be shaped in many ways to fit your kitchen. The backsplash and the sink can be made out of the same piece of steel, ensuring that there are no awkward corners or gaps for food to get lost in. Stainless steel is hygienic and is the only surface that can be safely bleached.


The only surface that can be safely bleached.
Corrosion proof.
Very durable.
Sinks, draining boards and backsplashes can all be fabricated into the counter top.
Heat proof.
All the joints can be polished for a seamless effect (may cost extra).


Can scratch and dent (though newer designs can include textured finishes that can hide the scratches). A high maintenance option. Expensive.

Wood and Butcher Block Worktops

Wood will always give a eat look and add character to your kitchen. On the countertop, however, it is highly susceptible to scratching and cutting. Hot pans will burn it or leave marks, and it can be unhygienic if meat or poultry is prepared on it. However, it is one of the only surfaces that will not damage your knives. Oak, maple, cherry, red beech, walnut, teak, and mahogany are all hardwoods favored for countertop applications.


Ideal for cutting on.
Only surface that will not damage your knives.
Very attractive.


Deep cuts will show but can be sanded out. Hot pans will burn it or leave marks. High maintenance. Use mineral oil to renew surface.

Quartz Surfaces: Zodiaq, Cambria and Silestone Worktops

Quartz delivers a great natural look to any kitchen. It is highly durable being resistant to scratches, stains and heat. However this flexibility comes at a price and you can sometimes encounter prices up to 10% higher than that of granite. Quartz surfaces are hygienic because the material is non-porous and so bacteria and mould have nowhere to hide. Three brands to note of are Zodiaq, Cambria and Silestone. Zodiaq comes in 26 colors and has a 10-year warranty. Cambria is made in the USA and is available in 34 colors which are all the same price. Silestone is made by the Spanish company Consentino and is available in 46 colors.


Scratch resistant.
Stain resistant.
Heat Resistant.
Looks great.
Does not need to be resealed every few years (unlike granite).


Expensive (about 10% more than granite). Set on backsplashes only.

Corian, Avonite and Other Solid Surfaces Worktops

A countertop that consists of a solid plastic all the way through is said to be a solid surface countertop (as opposed to those built up in layers i.e. laminate). They are similar to quartz in that they’re also hardwearing. They are resistant to scratches, scorching and heat. If you do manage to do damage to the countertop you can easily repair it. You can expect to spend about three times more than you would for laminate, and twice as much for wood. A wide range of colors and styles are available to choose from and most suppliers will give you a good guarantee. Corian is the most famous brand (has been around for 30 years) Avonite has unique color choices.


Large variety of colors and edge styles.

You can create your own design on the deck.

Backsplashes can be any height and coved to deck for a very clean look.

Seams are virtually invisible.

The material is renewable and repairable.

Most all brands offer a full, transferable, 10-year warranty.


Cost is high when all available options are used.

Colorful Kitchen Walls

Do your kitchen walls have the blahs? Are they still builders beige? Of course, you know that adding color to the walls is the best way to improve the look of your kitchen, yet you are afraid to take the plunge. Perhaps you fear the color will be too bright? Maybe you are afraid it won’t match that new table? Or perhaps the thought of preparing the kitchen for painting has you tired already?

While you’re debating the work involved you are missing out on one of the basic elements of design that can change the entire look of your room for under $50. Your tired furniture can become new again and a mismatched room can have designer flare! So, how do you choose the right color?

The first recommendation is to choose a tinted neutral. Why is that? Instead of choosing rich, deep colors for your first project, you will likely feel more comfortable with a neutral such as beige or gray which will not date the room or create a jarring palate that you will easily tire of.

However, when you go to your local home improvement store you will be faced with a sea of color swatches – hundreds of versions of basic beige and gray to choose from. So before you go, consider these steps to choosing the right color for you.

If you like the feel of a warm and cozy room – think of fireplaces, brown leather and sunsets – then you’ll want to start with a beige tone.

Now, consider your furniture and accessories. What colors do you see? If you have a lot of black or navy you may wish to choose a beige with orange or pink undertones to keep the look warm. If you have browns or reds in your furniture, select a cooler beige with ashy tones to avoid ‘overheating’ your room.

If you prefer a cooler, airy look – chrome, glass and shades of icy blue – then select gray tones. Some stores will have a ‘true gray’ color swatch which you can use to compare with their designer selections. On comparison you will notice that each gray has undertones. Some will have blue or lavender tones, others may have green or even a hint of pink.

Using the same guide as stated above, identify the main colors of furniture and accessories in the room. Use green or pink toned greys with cool toned furnishings to avoid it from feeling like an ice box. Use blue or lavender undertones in rooms with warmer colored furnishings.

If you are really torn between beige or gray, than the easiest color to work with is green. Keeping it in a muted tone will make it very easy to live with, and will work with most color palates.

Painting rooms with color will bring the finishing touch to your home – don’t you deserve it?

10 Spring Cleaning Tips For Your Kitchen

The words “spring cleaning” can make the neatest person cringe. They mean more work. As if cleaning all year long wasn’t enough. Spring cleaning is more than just cleaning…it is deep cleaning. Something that most people do not have time for all year long. Since my expertise is cooking, I have decided to focus on spring cleaning and dirt build up prevention tips for the kitchen….

Baking soda or club soda will clean and shine stainless steel sinks easily. Simply apply directly to surface and scrub a dub dub.

To Remove stubborn water spots from a stainless sink scrub with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol or vinegar.

To freshen up your “white” porcelain sinks, place paper towels across the bottom of your sink and saturate with bleach. Let sit over night and rinse.

After you’ve cleaned your refrigerator and freezer place an open box of baking soda in the back of each to help absorb odors for about a month.

A few drops vanilla extract on a piece of cotton placed in the refrigerator will also help eliminate odors.

Wipe refrigerator with vinegar after cleaning to help prevent mildew.

Change your refrigerator light bulbs…that way you never have to worry about them burning out during the year.

To clean baked-on food from a cooking pan, put a dryer sheet in the pan, fill with water, let sit overnight then sponge clean. The anti-static agents help weaken the bond between the food and the pan and the fabric softeners will soften the baked-on food.

To clean burnt or scorched pans, sprinkle pans liberally with baking soda, adding just enough water to moisten. Let stand over night.

To get those stubborn stains off of the inside of you microwave; spray liberally with two parts water and one part bleach, heat on high for 20 seconds and let stand for about an hour. The stains should come right off. For really stubborn stains heat for 30 seconds and let sit for 2 – 3 hours.

Choosing The Best Kitchen Floor Plan For Your Family

Probably the most important aspect of a kitchen remodel is choosing the floor plan. When deciding on how to lay out your kitchen, you should really take the time to think about how your family uses the space and pick a plan that will be most functional for you.

The floor plan in a kitchen consists mainly of the cabinets and island and perhaps a separate eat in area. There’s basically 5 different ?shapes? in which you can configure your cabinets.

Cabinets Along One Wall

In the simplest of kitchen you might find cabinets along one wall only. This could be practical if you have a long narrow kitchen. This is the least functional type of kitchen. If you have to have this type of plan, make sure the sink is in the center with the oven and fridge close by so the cook can easily prepare the food. Also make sure you have enough counter space between appliances ‘ a common mistake is to put only 8’ to a foot between appliances and there is not much you can do with that little space. This type of layout is not conducive to family gatherings in the kitchen unless you have a larger area where you can put a table and chairs ‘ even then, your back will be to everyone as you are preparing the food.

Galley Kitchen

This style of kitchen is often seen in apartments and smaller homes and consists of a somewhat narrow kitchen with cabinets along 2 opposing walls. While this plan is efficient on space it can be difficult to work in as the traffic pattern is right in the middle of where you are trying to prepare food. The configuration makes it a little easier to prepare food in than the once wall configuration, but it does not leave any room for family or friends to join in the fun. The typical galley kitchen is narrow with walls on either side. In this style kitchen, it is best to place the sink and stove on one side of the galley and the fridge on the other.

L Shaped Kitchen

An L shaped cabinet arrangement can make good use of space and be a lot easier to work in. Try to locate the appliances close to the middle of the L, but leave plenty of counter space in between each appliance so the cook has space to work on. If one end of the L is open to another room, you can add bar stools and make it a counter – this type of kitchen is great for having family and friends gather while you are preparing the food.

U Shaped Kitchen

A U shaped kitchen requires plenty of space ‘ 8 feet by 8 feet at the bare minimum. This type of layout maximizes storage but can be difficult for more than one cook. Putting a table at the opening to the U can add seating for family to gather. Another option is to open up one side of the U and put bar stools on the other side of the counter. In a U shaped kitchen, the major appliances (sink, fridge, stove) should each be placed each on one leg of the U.


Islands are great additions to any style kitchen as long as you have the room. An island can be incorporated into any of the kitchen floor plans above and can add to the ease of cooking in kitchens that are rather large as you can locate a sink or stove on the island and have it near the other appliances for ease of use in cooking and preparing food. In order to incorporate an island into our kitchen you need to have 42′ of aisle space on all sides. If your kitchen is too small to allow for this, try a portable island that you can move in and out as needed. Islands are great places to have an extra appliance or add an eating counter.

Prepare Your Home for Sale: Kitchen Makeover Ideas

Money spent updating your kitchen rewards you better than money spent on any other upgrades to your home. When it comes to kitchens, buyers continue to demand improvement in efficiency and style, and they love remodeled kitchens and new appliances.

Even if you home costs less than the newer homes in your area, buyers view the model homes and hold the ideal in mind while home shopping.

Newer homes place kitchens open to the family room and often have wide views of the outside. Newer homes also boast larger kitchens with more than one preparation area because cooking has become a social activity, and new homes often include a bar or buffet for entertaining. Cooks want to be in the middle of family activities so they can enjoy companionship.

Buyers look for a kitchen with large open areas that allow guests enough room to mingle, along with workspace for kids doing homework or even a small kitchen workspace for paying bills or making phone calls.

Present your kitchen as an organized, clutter-free, versatile space that will help your buyers feel they could be productive and happy working and interacting in the heart of their new home.


You don’t need to completely makeover your kitchen to sell your home. Packing and storing extra kitchen pots, pans, and utensils generates a more spacious presentation. You may also wish to invest in an attractive portable kitchen island to use as a prop for a kitchen with an open center and insufficient counter space.

Consider easy, low-cost changes that instantly upgrade a kitchen without major remodeling. These include the following ideas:

1.) Replace your faucet with a fancier model.

2.) Change your cabinet hardware.

3.) Paint cabinet faces.

4.) Replace or paint ugly laminate countertops. (Use Marine-grade paint.)

5.) Add warmth during cold seasons with a gorgeous rug next to the sink counter.

No matter your makeover budget, prepare your home for sale with little changes like clearing the countertops, adding new dish towels, and a bowl of fruit. Make your kitchen entice a buyer to say, “This is my new home.”

Designing Your Kitchen for Your Budget

“How come it costs that much?” That must be one of the questions that I hear the most often when I submit price quotations for kitchen cabinetry to homeowners. Although it is true that cabinetry can be designed to be low-budget, middle-range, or high-end, there are so many factors involved that can easily push an intended low-budget project into a higher price range.

The place to start when designing kitchen cabinets for a specific budget is doors. There are more door options available than most people realize, and each option will affect your over-all budget. From least expensive to costliest, door styles are available as follows:

1)Melamine. These are flush doors (no panels or profile details), and are available in a wide range of colours and patterns, from solid colours to imitation wood, and countless others. The newer “thermo-fused melamine” doors have a very thin layer of melamine paper applied to a substrate panel-style door. They are inexpensive and not very durable. These should not be used near sources of water or heat, or where frequent washing will be required.

2)Wood veneer. These are flush doors made with a thin layer of wood over a substrate material. Birch, maple, oak, and ash are all in the same price range, while any exotic or more rare woods (mahogany, cherry, walnut) will increase the cost. These are often found in modern style kitchens.

3)Wood frame with veneered panels. These doors have frames made of solid wood, and recessed flush panels made of a veneered substrate. A common style among this type of door is Shaker. The wood species chosen will affect the price.

4)Plastic laminate. Looks much like melamine doors, but of higher quality, and much more durable. Wider range of patterns and colours available. Laminates have a dark brown core, so depending on the colour of the laminate chosen, you may see dark brown lines at all the joints ‘ at each edge of each door, and so on.

5)Wood frame with wood panels. These have frames and panels made of solid wood. The panel usually has a raised detailing. These are often found in traditional style kitchens. Again, the choice of wood affects the price.

6)Wood or lacquer painted frame with panels of another material. These doors have wood, or lacquer painted, frames and another material used for the panel. The other material can be anything, and it is this other material that will greatly affect the cost. Common panel materials include glass, painted finishes, plastic laminates, metal (perforated, brushed, hammered, etc.), cork, and even wall coverings (such as grass-cloth) applied to a substrate.

7)Thermoplastic. These doors are not manufactured by the average cabinetmaker; they are factory-made. Thermoplastics come in a variety of colours and finishes, but the most common are still the glossy white, and the imitation wood. More durable and more attractive than melamine. About the same price range as wood doors. Some manufacturers are now advertising “thermo-fused melamine” ‘ be careful because the two are not the same at all.

8)Lacquer painted. These doors are usually lacquer painted MDF, but it is the lacquering work that increases the cost because more labour and specialized painting equipment is involved. These are not “painted” cabinets. Lacquer is applied in the form of a spray, over a sprayed-on primer, and no brush marks or other irregularities are visible at all. If you choose a special finish, such as glazing, the cost increases a bit more.

9)Stainless steel. These doors are usually not made by a cabinetmaker’s shop, but are subcontracted out to a metal shop. They are, without a doubt, the most expensive of your door options.

Because the finished sides have to match the doors, your door selection affects the cabinetry itself. So the cabinetry for lacquered cabinets will be costlier than for melamine. The finished side panel to match any wood doors are veneered; solid wood would not be as dimensionally stable (it would warp or bow), and would be astronomically priced. Then you have to consider the interiors of your cabinets. The standard is white melamine on the inside of cabinets, unless something different is requested. The most economical choice, if you do not like the idea of white, is melamine to match the doors. Using a more expensive material inside the cabinets is not advisable: why spend money on wood veneer or lacquer that is more likely to be damaged by pots or dishes being scrubbed against the surfaces? And why put a pricier material that you would then want to protect with shelf-liners, so you would then never see the wood or lacquer anyway?

The countertops are the other major price-affecting selection. The truth is, there are really only two price groups for counters. The plastic laminate counters are the economical choice, and not a bad choice as they are very durable and are now available in some amazing textures and patterns, plus they can be dressed up with wood or solid-surfacing edges. All other counter materials tend to be comparable in cost ‘ granite, solid surfacing (Corian, Silestone, etc), concrete, and stainless steel. Concrete countertops are quite expensive because of the fact that they are still relatively uncommon, and therefore a specialty-item ‘ you cannot go purchase these just anywhere. Ceramic tiled countertops are the only real mid-priced option. They require a high-quality tile be used, otherwise chips and cracks will be unavoidable. The grout also has to be high quality and safe for food preparation areas, and it must be sealed. Marble, which tends to be a bit less expensive than granite, should not be used in kitchens, as it is porous and prone to staining.

What people find most surprising is that the final touches can become very expensive as well. Handles and knobs range in price from about $2 each all the way up to over $30 each. Kitchens commonly require about 25 handles, so that creates a price difference of $700 right there. A reasonable amount to plan on for handles is $5 to $8 each. The other “budget buster” is the accessories. Built-in spice racks, garbage cans, drawer dividers, pull-outs, and the like tend to be quite costly. Some of these gadgets are incredibly practical though, so try to determine which you would need and which appeal to you mostly because they are just really neat add-ons.

There is one aspect that you should never scrimp on just to save a few dollars, and that is installation. Imperfect installation of even the best-made cabinets will result in doors and drawers that do not close properly, or that look poorly constructed. A good rule-of-thumb is that you should have anything custom-made installed by the specialist that fabricated the item.

Cabinetry for the average sized kitchen can cost anywhere from about $7,000 all the way up to significantly over $30,000. It is often said that a home’s kitchen (including appliances, cabinetry, flooring, lighting, labour, and more) should cost about 15% of the value of the house, so a $250,000 home’s kitchen should cost about $37,500 if you want to go by this method of budgeting. There are a few things to consider with this: the size of the kitchen plays a major role in determining the budget ‘ of course a larger kitchen will be more expensive to redo than a small one; a home built in the 1900’s will likely be costlier to renovate than a home built in the 1970’s; your preferences will affect the budget; and this is a figure that was developed as a guideline to some extent ‘ it is not necessary to follow it. Based on projects handled by Idealspace Design, we have seen that the cabinetry (including countertops, handles, and installation) usually equals about 30% of the total renovation budget of a kitchen. These figures are to help you develop an idea of the budget range you should be expecting, they vary greatly from one project to the next.