The choice of benchtops for your new kitchen is not a decision to be taken lightly. It really is one of the most hard-working surfaces in a home, and as it will take a beating over time thanks to heat and various kitchen utensils, it really needs to be tough. Not only are benchtops used for meal preparation, they have also become a space for homework, casual eating and family meals. The benchtop will set the aesthetic for your kitchen, so it’s important to ensure that you really love the material that you select.
The main benchtop options
Natural stone, such as granite and marble, is beautiful, timeless and sophisticated. Marble does require significant upkeep as it is porous, while granite can be used in either contemporary or classic kitchens and gets top marks for durability – it can withstand whatever is thrown at it. For an alternative to a polished finish, it can be honed for a matt look. The beautiful classic and textured appeal of Carrara or Calacatta marble is known for its elegance and hard-wearing qualities, and is the ultimate in luxury.
Solid surfaces – Staron® Solid Surfaces has an extensive selection of more than 80 colours. Staron® is silica free, non-toxic and can create monolithic flowing benchtops. Solid surface benchtops such as Corian are an acrylic resin and the seamless joins between each piece are invisible after installation, so it appears like one big slab. Solid surface benchtops such as Corian can be repaired to their original condition by the manufacturer if scorches occur. Corian is also germ, virus, stain and mould resistant.
Engineered stone such as Caesarstone, Silestone, Smartstone, essastone, Quantum Quartz, Talostone or quartz comes in a wide range of colours, is very durable and easy to clean. A man-made product, engineered stone is a mix of natural aggregates such as crushed quartz and resins. Slabs vary in size, but are available in a standard 20mm thickness. Highly durable, engineered quartz is resistant to stains, heat, cracks, mould, mildew, scratches and is non porous.
Concrete benchtops are excellent in an industrial-style space and add a raw contrast to timber and joinery. They are formed and poured on site, and should be finished in order to avoid staining – if left unfinished it will be porous. Polished concrete can vary in colour depending on the mix of concrete, aggregate and sand. As it chips easily, be careful not to drop items onto polished concrete.
Speaking of the industrial look, if it’s a modern finish that you find more appealing, consider heat-resistant, hygienic and hard-wearing stainless steel. It’s expensive and long wearing, however, can dent and does show fingerprints.
A classic kitchen or country farmhouse-style homestead will likely use the character and warmth of a timber benchtop, such as American or Tasmanian oak, spotted gum or jarrah. Timber also works wonderfully well against white in any kitchen. Timber can be repaired, but requires finishing with oil or polyurethane to protect the surface. For a ‘green’ touch, consider using recycled timber.
Bamboo is less expensive and eco friendly, and can be an exciting addition to any style of kitchen. Refinish it every couple of years to refresh its look.
Laminate benchtops are man-made and available in a wide range of colours and designs. Laminate mimics more expensive materials such as timber or stone, making them budget friendly, while achieving a designer look. While resistant to stains and easy to keep clean, it’s more prone to scratches and scorches. The Laminex range is not only flexible but also durable. Polytec is another laminate brand that your kitchen designer may suggest.
Porcelain slabs are becoming an increasingly popular benchtop option. It’s durable without being sealed, and resistant to heat and scratches, however, can be costly due to fabrication costs charged by stonemasons. Two of the most popular brands you may encounter if you’re researching porcelain are Dekton and Neolith.
What to consider before choosing your benchtop
Now that you’ve thought about what material is best for your space, there are also other crucial factors to take into consideration before locking in your choice.
Style and aesthetics – is it a rustic, classic, modern or industrial look that appeals to you? The overall style of your kitchen will dictate your choice in benchtop, and each need to work in unison.
Quality is vital. A poor-quality benchtop has the potential to make even the most high-end kitchen look cheap, while a top-quality benchtop can really lift the look of a less expensive kitchen.
Durability and functionality – how often do you cook? What type of cooking do you do? Are you likely to clean the kitchen every day? Are you preparing meals for a large family? Do you entertain on a regular basis? Answering these questions will help your kitchen designer narrow down the material options that are best for your space. Stain and UV resistance also need to be considered – the lighter the stone (for example, marble), the more porous and susceptible to stains it will be. It must not only be practical, but also look good, too.
Slab size – benchtops are available in many sizes and thicknesses, with or without joins. Your kitchen designer can assist you here.
Budget – if the sky is the limit when it comes to budget, you’re probably more likely to request a gorgeous granite or top-of-the-range marble benchtop, whereas those who are watching their hard-earned renovation dollars may look to a benchtop material such as laminate. Be upfront with your kitchen designer about how much you have to spend and they can guide you towards the best benchtop for your budget. A great rule of thumb is to buy the best quality that you can afford.
Colours – look at how your benchtop works with other colours in the kitchen, such as the colour scheme in the cabinetry, flooring and walls. Neutral-coloured benchtops are always a safe option.
Our specialist designers are experts in helping our customers make the right choice so don’t hesitate to get in touch and talk about your plans.