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.

Advantages

Fairly Inexpensive.

A wide range of colours and patterns to choose from.

Easy to apply fancy edges.

Stain resistant.

Disadvantages

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.

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

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.

Advantages

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).

Disadvantages

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.

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

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.

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

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.

Advantages

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.

Disadvantages

Cost is high when all available options are used.

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