A new worktop can dramatically enhance the look of your kitchen without the cost and upheaval of replacing actual units…
Granite is one of the hardest materials so it’s ideal for countertops in kitchens. It’s formed when slow cooling lava deep beneath the earth’s surface produces a tough, course grained, crystalline rock, composed mainly of feldspar and quartz. The result is a fabulous range of colours, veining and tones. Granite is aesthetically decorative and low maintenance; timeless beauty; durable; very low porosity – difficult for bacteria to hide in; water, stain and scratch resistant; maintains its polished look for many years and has unique colours, shades and patterns.
Quartz is known as the ‘engineered stone’ because it’s made by combining natural quartz and resin, pigments and fillers. Quartz is one of the hardest naturally occurring materials and ideal for countertops in kitchens, utilities and bathrooms. And, compared to granite there is very little colour variation. It works well with modern high gloss kitchens and will accentuate the clean lines giving the whole kitchen an extra lift.
Quartz has the same high polished appearance as granite; consistent colours, shades and patterns; durable surface; scratch resistant – doesn’t crack or chip; heat resistant under normal cooking conditions; non-porous surface; and almost maintenance free with no need to seal!
Marble is a metamorphosed limestone composed mainly of calcite. Impurities present during the natural formation result in a wide variety of veining and colours which make each cut unique. Although it can be used in kitchens, it is a softer material than quartz and granite so may stain or scratch more. Still, marble can look stunning when used as a work surface. A sealer is required for long-term protection of this porous material.
Acrylic resin solid surfaces have seamless joins, are hygienic and non-porous with a silky smooth finish that can withstand heat up to around 180°C. It is versatile and can be shaped to create many products, which makes it a popular choice for kitchens.
Hardwood can give a timeless look; equally at home in a contemporary kitchen as a traditional one. It has antibacterial qualities, which makes it ideal for use in kitchens; anti-bacterial worktop oil will help enhance its natural beauty. Woods include beech, birch, teak, iroko, cherry, elm, maple, walnut, sapele, zebrano or wenge. Solid wood may contain knots, natural colour variations and drying splits as normal features of the product. This contributes to the uniqueness of each worktop.
Laminate countertops offer a huge choice of surface finishes, colours and designs which can mimic the look and finish of natural materials like granite, quartz or wood. Prices vary according to type, thickness, size and lengths ordered but it is generally cheaper than the real thing. Laminate worktops are durable and will last for many years when treated correctly.
Stainless steel (including brushed steel) might be synonymous with industrial catering kitchens but it can enhance the look of a modern or contemporary residential kitchen. It’s suitable for under-mounted sinks, integral sinks and integral upstands and splash backs.
Concrete exudes quality and class in a modern or contemporary kitchen and although it sounds industrial, it can be warm to touch when it’s highly polished. Sealants are needed to prevent staining, but once applied it’s easy to maintain and is extremely durable. The finished material retains a cool temperature which is ideal for baking and making pastry. Combining with recycled glass produces an alternative visual effect.
Porcelain/ceramic tile worktops use a clay base raw material. Most are durable, but consider the type of grout you use as some can suffer staining. Also some glazed tiles can be toxic and are not suitable for food preparation.
Glass countertops can look stunning in a kitchen but it is likely that they will need to be made to order, which will impact on the price. There’s a wide range of colours, thicknesses, sizes and edge detailing.
- Style: A good quality worktop can add value to the character and prestige of your kitchen.
- Material: Worktops can be made from various materials including wood, stone, marble, granite, quartz, acrylic resin, laminate, concrete, steel and even glass.
- Fabrication: Some worktops are cut to size and positioned directly onto units, while others are moulded to shape and incorporate sinks or splash backs.
- Colour: Take a number of samples and place them beside your kitchen units, splashback and flooring to see what works best. Some materials are speckled with browns, blacks or metallic elements, while others are solid and plain. Check the material at different intervals during the day to see how sunlight affects it.
- Function: Consider how you will use the worktop and what you want from it – food and baking preparation, heat resistance to rest pots and baking sheets or a breakfast bar.
- General Maintenance: Use a neutral cleaning agent or warm soapy water and finish with a dry cloth. Do not use acidic, abrasive, wax or bleach based household cleaners and sprays. Even though quartz and granite are resistant to heat, scratches and stains, it is recommended you use trivets or hot pads for roasting pans or hot saucepans and use a cutting board for all chopping, cutting and slicing, whatever the worktop material.