How to choose a material for your kitchen worktop

The Worktop is the workhorse of the kitchen, the material and colour chosen for a kitchen worktop will have a massive impact on not only the look and feel of the kitchen but also the functionality.

So when designing a kitchen, it is important to really have a handle on both the needs of the space and the desired look and feel.
Some important questions to think about are: What is the goal of the design? Contemporary? Traditional? Industrial?, how much use will the worktops receive, will these be large family meals cooked every day or infrequent smaller dishes? Does the end user mind cleaning often or would they prefer low maintenance set up?

All of these questions and more should inform your choice, it will ultimate be a combination of how tough you need the worktop to be, how much maintenance the user is willing to commit to and how the materials look in your kitchen scheme.
This guide will aim to talk you through the main surfaces and give you an idea of where to start.

 

Solid Surfaces
Manmade solid surfaces are made from a mix of minerals usually quartz and resin. They are available in a wide range of colours and can be described as having a soft satin like finish. The martial is very durable and flexible to be shaped to fit any kitchen.
As the glue for manmade suffices can be colour matched the seams are almost invisible so the surface is good for L or U shaped kitchens.

Good for: Seamless look, mimicking natural effect.
Pros: Tough and easy to care for, flexible can be formed into any shape, including sinks and upstands, possible to carve out draining groves.

Cons: Darker colours show up scratches. The area around a sink can discolour or crack over time. Vulnerable to heat shock meaning it will scorch if hot pans are placed directly on the surface.

 

Wood
Natural timber is a popular choice in kitchens, loved for its ability to add a sense of warmth to a space. Hardwoods, including teak and iroko, have higher oil content, so are more resistant to water.
However wood is the most time intensive material to have as a worktop requiring frequent oiling when installed and frequent aftercare, furthermore wood is soft and susceptible to scratches which may require the whole surface to be sanded down and re oiled. The natural nature of wood also makes it prone to water ingress, mould and scorching from hot pans.

Good for: The rustic / country kitchen look or to add warmth to an indusial design.

Pros: Simple to install and easy to repair. Classically beautiful.

Cons: Requires oiling a couple of times a year. Is easily scratched and scorched, is porous so stains easily and is highly susceptible to water ingress.

 

Glass
Glass is a very stylish and sleek looking material best used in a contemporary style kitchen or as a statement around a sink or as a breakfast bar. Its natural luminosity bounces light around a room making it an excellent choice for smaller galley kitchens. Glass is extremely tough resistant to temperatures up to 200 degrees centigrade and can be made in almost any colour.

Glass is flexible and cut-outs can be made for almost any hob or sink type. Drainage groves can also be included.
It terms of hygiene glass is the most hygienic surface being non porous and very easy to clean. Flush joins means no dirt builds up in these areas either.

Good for: Bringing light to small places, sleek look, hygiene, colour choice.

Pros: Wow factor. It comes in a pretty much unlimited range of colours. Certain products can be lit from below for a special effect. Chips can be repaired by most windscreen repair firms. Maintenance is easy as the smooth surface doesn’t stain, it’s unaffected by moisture. It doesn’t need sealing and is heat resistant to 200c. Light scratches can be buffed out.

Con: Finger-marks and scratches can show on darker colours. Joins are visible.

 

Marble
Marble is renowned as a Statement worktop, adding to a kitchen a luxe feel and wow factor. Loved by pastry chiefs for its cold surface marble can be delicate due to its porous nature and open grain. Added to its expense it may be best to use marble as a separate section of a worktop. One major thing to look out for is that marble cannot be repaired once damaged so chips are forever.

Good for: Decadent luxe feel.

Pros: Wow factor. Flexible with a large choice of colours and patterns.

Cons: It’s delicate, easy to stain with wine, vinegar, lemon lime and orange, easily scratched and unrepairable.

 

Granite
Granite is the king of stone worktops, being the most popular and the most durable of the stone materials. It’s a luxury material that never falls out of fashion and suits traditional and modern styles. Choose from a classic polished finish, or a honed matt for a more contemporary look.

Good for: Timeless long lasting looks.

Pros: Durable and resistant to heat and mould.

Cons: Granite is relatively expensive; it’s porous, so needs to be sealed every six months. It’s heavy, so needs to be sitting on good cabinets. If it’s damaged, it can’t be repaired.

 

Concrete
Polished Concrete has become an increasingly popular choice for those aiming for the industrial look. Available in a range of colours the most popular is still the classic grey. As it is poured, concrete can be made to any shape or specification.

However concrete is not the most durable material, it isn’t quite seamless as the length of the worktop is limited and joins have to be incorporated to account for the expansion of the concrete.

The main reason for choosing concrete is aesthetic.

Good for: The industrial look/finish.

Pros: It can be formed into any shape, easily repaired and toughens as it ages.

Cons: Concrete worktops need to be poured in on site and it takes a couple of weeks for it to be ready to use. Concrete is very porous and stains easily and needs to be sealed every 4 months.

 

Stainless Steel

Another darling of the industrial look is stainless steel; it is one of the most robust options for a worktop but can scratch and become patterned overtime.

Good for: The Professional Kitchen look.Pros: Stain proof, durable and hygienic.

Cons: Shows marks and scratches easily, it can also dent if enough force is applied.

 

Copper

Copper has increasingly become a popular accent material in the kitchen be it splashbacks, panels or even worktops.
Copper can warm up an industrial look or add some cool luxe to a warmer interior.
Many designers are using it with the blue and dark kitchen trend.
Like most metals copper erodes over time and develops a pattern.

Good for: A statement piece, unusual.

Pros: Easy to clean. Good for long surfaces up to 20m –without a join.

Cons: Fades over time, a relatively soft metal that can dent, hard to obtain so can be expensive.

Laminate
Laminate has traditionally been maligned as cheap looking; however the advancement in printing technologies over the past 15 years means that modern Laminate can realistically mimic the look of most stone and wood based materials. Cost effective laminates do best in matt finished.Good for: Value.Pros: Low cost.Cons: Not durable at all, prone to stains, burns and scratches, joins are visible and attract dirt, not very hygienic.
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