Practical advice – kitchen worktop materials
Once you have considered the function of your worktops, it is much easier to decide on a material, based on its functional qualities. Here are some of the most popular options.
When creating more space in the home, one of the most popular rooms to extend is often the kitchen. Whether open plan, partitioned or a separate room, the decor matters; each element has to be up to the job as well as fit with the style rest of the house. Worktops are one of those important considerations in this instance; they account for a high percentage of space and have to endure a lot of use. This means that whilst they must fit with the decor, style and colour scheme of the room, they must also be practical. This can seem like a minefield for some, thanks to the wide variety of options available. In order to make the choice easier, keep the following points in mind:
First, consider key practical points:
- What do you use different areas in your kitchen for? It might be best to opt for heat-resistant materials near ovens and hobs, as hot pans can be placed directly on the surface, eliminating the need for endless of trivets. Materials such as wood, for example, could scorch and mark
- How much cooking do you do? A surface which has to endure lots of use needs to be hardwearing and preferably scratch proof
- Do you want a flawless look? Materials which mark easily are not ideal if you like your kitchen looking spotless. Stainless steel and glass, for example, mark easily so means constant wiping. An especially important consideration in an open plan room, where you can see the kitchen from the living area
- Is hygiene a concern? Consider an antibacterial material such as Corian or stainless steel
Once you have considered the function of your worktops, it is much easier to decide on a material, based on its functional qualities. Here are some of the most popular options:
Wood gives a lovely natural look, and there are so many different shades that there is undoubtedly something to fit every kitchen style. It can also be mixed with other materials, for example a metal trim, will added warmth. Maintenance is fairly easy; sealing with linseed oil every few months will help maintain the look, and scratches can be sanded out without a problem. However, some types can stain quite easily, so spills need to be cleared straight away. Hardwoods will last for a long time if looked after properly, but be careful not to use the surface as a chopping board, or to put hot pans directly on it, as it may scorch.
Granite is a natural stone and makes for stunning worksurfaces thanks to it’s high quality appearance, whether buffed to shine or with a matte finish. It fits with both modern and traditional styles, is very durable and low maintenance, and is also heat- and scratch-resistance – although citrus and red wine spills have to be cleared up immediately otherwise the granite will discolour. Although the best of all natural materials, it is very heavy to transport and manoeuvre – the supporting cabinetry will need to be considered to make sure that it is strong enough to support it.
Marble is a timeless and elegant natural material, and can give a bright look to a kitchen. It can also be surprisingly affordable as well, despite its luxury perception. Hard-wearing and easy-cleaning, it is naturally cool (great for pastry lovers), and the natural variability in colours and patterns makes each worktop unique. However, due to its porous nature, marble can stain and scratch more easily than other materials – acid and red wine spills need to cleared immediately and it’s best not to chop food directly on the marble itself.
Concrete is a fairly recent addition to the list of popular kitchen worktop materials, thanks to the rise of the industrial look, and provides a striking look. However, it’s very porous, so stains easily, and unlike most other materials, it can also chip. To keep it in its best condition you’ll need to stain it twice a year, and be very careful putting things down near the edges. Concrete is, of course, also very heavy so careful consideration of how to support the surfaces is needed.
Composite worktops are made from a mixture of natural quartz and polymer resins which are bonded together in a vacuum. The result is a continuous surface which is very durable and hardwearing, and can be made in many different shapes and colours. Thanks to it’s heat- and scratch-resistant qualities, it can be used anywhere – even next to hobs. If small scratches do appear, then it is possible to sand them out, as the colour is continuous throughout the surface.
Solid resin worktops are the most popular type of resin worktop. Other types generally have other materials embedded in them, making them more like composite worktops. Solid resin worktops can be made from several different materials; epoxy, acrylic or polyester resin, of which epoxy is the most expensive as it is the toughest and most durable. All types, however, are scratch- and heat-resistant – any marks that do appear can be sanded out easily. They can be made in a multitude of different colours, and can even be made translucent or clear so that light can shine through – great for modern kitchens.
Stainless steel is most commonly used for metal worktops, and fits well with modern and industrial decor schemes. There are many good reasons why it is used in professional kitchens, such as its durability, strength, water, heat and acid resistance. It is also antibacterial. Although it gets scratched over time, this doesn’t affect its antibacterial nature, and is fine if you don’t mind ending up with a ‘worn’ look. If you want a pristine finish to last though, think about something more hardwearing.
Laminate is one of the best options if you are fitting your kitchen yourself, as it is easy to cut and fit. It is also low maintenance and can closely mimic the look of other materials such as granite, slate and wood. Although it is resistant to most stains, it cannot take heat or steam, so be careful using it next to hobs and ovens.
Once you’ve narrowed down the material(s) you would like and where they will be placed, the real fun begins – making a final decision based on colour and style. Consider the overall look and feel of your kitchen, and how it will flow with the rest of an open plan room or extension, as different materials fit with different schemes. Our advice will help guide you to the right worktop for you and your home.