Worktops a Complete Guide
The most popular materials for kitchen worktops are laminate, wood, granite, glass, composite stone and stainless steel. Each has unique characteristics and advantages and this article aims to help you choose what may be the right one for you.
Choosing a worktop is not just about looking good, although we will come to that. By its very nature a kitchen worktop needs to be practical. After all it will be suffering a great deal of abuse over the years. Just think about the times you will throw water over it and stab knives into it, not to mention loading it with pottery, steel and chemicals, such as acid from fruit and vegetables as well as cleaning liquids. And then there are the hot pans, oops!
So your choice of worktop in these circumstances may depend on how much of a cook you are, or whether you are just looking for a show kitchen that does not get much use. Perhaps you will need to consider heat resistant materials, or maybe incorporate these into a worktop that is not so heat resistant. If you are mainly concerned with hygiene then you may wish to think about using anti-bacterial materials such as stainless steel or Corian. Whilst Corian has the ability to be repaired, stainless steel will over time bear the scratch marks of continuous use and will develop a patina that is loved by some but may not be to your taste.
Let’s have a look at the range of worktops available today to help make the choice a bit easier.
There is a wide range of laminate worktops to choose from today and the quality will be reflected in the price. Many of the designs are very clever at imitating other worktops, such as granite, wood or slate, so it is not difficult to find something you like. Although laminate worktops can be resistant to most chemicals and stains, they do not like heat or steam and will often mark easily if cutting is done on the surface. It is better to pay a bit more for a high pressure worktop which will be far more durable.
Laminate worktops also have the advantage that they can be cut and fitted by most diy enthusiasts. The edges of the worktop will need to be sealed as they will not be resistant to water. Remember that a high gloss worktop will look great but will be more inclined to show every smear and scratch so if you don’t want to spend your time forever polishing the worktop you may be better to go for a patterned matt finish.
Cost: From £20 per linear metre.
Hardwood worktops are ideal for food preparation and eating areas, such as breakfast bars and kitchen island units. Hardwoods such as teak and Iroko have a naturally high oil content which makes them ideal for use around the sink area due to their water resistance. Whether your kitchen is contemporary or classic, wood can be an ideal choice. It can also be used to compliment other materials such as stainless steel or glass as it will balance the feel by adding warmth.
When it is first installed it will require sealing with either linseed or Danish oil at least once a day for the first week and then once a week for the next month and then once a month thereafter. The worktops will require regular maintenance to keep them protected but if this is done they will last for many years. When installing wooden worktops it is also important to make sure that all of the edges are well sealed, particularly those around sink and hob cut outs as these areas are vulnerable to water damage. Remember not to use the worktop as a chopping board and don’t place hot pans directly onto the worktop as they will leave scorch marks.
Cost: from approx £80 per linear metre (depending upon the type of wood).
Granite is extremely durable and can be used in every area of a kitchen. Granite has been around for a long time and is always fashionable. It can be found in contemporary or traditional settings and comes in a variety of styles and colours. It has the advantage of being very low maintenance but after its initial sealing will need to be done again about ten years later. Once sealed it can withstand water and most stains but citric acid and wine would need to be removed immediately. Although it can be difficult to install due to its weight, the end result is a worktop that can last a lifetime.
Cost: Approx £200 per m2
These types of worktops are very practical and can look beautiful as they come in a wide range of styles and colours. Because of this they can be used almost anywhere. Neutral colours look great in traditional style kitchens, whereas some of the darker colours are fabulous in contemporary settings. They need to be kept clean as they will mark if spills are left but they are extremely tough and durable. The advantage they have over many other materials is that scratches can be sanded out as the colour runs right through the material, and it is very tough compared to other natural tone worktops. Composite worktops can also be thermoformed into different shapes which can mean no joints in a run which can look pretty cool.
Cost: Approx £300 per linear metre.
These really are the most amazing surface to fit in a kitchen. A Corian worktop will blend seamlessly (literally) with any style of kitchen and can be shaped so that the sink is one continuous flow back onto the work surface. The surface is very low maintenance and any scratches or marks can be sanded (yes sanded) to remove them. Corian comes in a wide range of colours and styles and works with traditional or contemporary styles.
Cost: from approx £300 per linear metre.
Glass worktops can look amazing and come in every colour you can think of. They do look best in a contemporary setting and because of the reflective surface they can help a kitchen look bright and spacious. They will need to be wiped over constantly as every splash of water will mark the surface. A glass cleaner will help to keep the sparkle. They are heat, acid and water resistant and can be cut to fit most shapes, including sink and hob cut outs. They will show scratches but these can be polished out, so be prepared to use a range of chopping boards to protect the surface or face the risk of some heavy maintenance. They are often used as a compliment to other worktops in a kitchen,
Cost: from approx. £300 per linear metre.
Stainless steel worktops
Often used in professional kitchens, stainless steel worktops are ideal for food preparation areas and around sink and hobs. They ideally suit an industrial or contemporary scheme in a kitchen and can be matched with other work surfaces. Stainless steel is very easy to keep clean and the best thing to use to keep it looking at its best is baby oil. A run of worktop can be cut from a single sheet of steel thus avoid the need for joints.
Cost: from approx. £250 per linear metre.
The ultimate in kitchen worktops is made from a compound that incorporates 94% natural quartz. Because of this the worktops are extremely hard and durable, and are not only resistant to scratching but have anti-bacterial qualities that are unique to the product. The product is also used in bathrooms, as flooring and even to make items of furniture, and it also comes in an amazing range of colours and textures to suit any scheme. Because of its non-porous qualities it is highly resistant to staining and food acids.
Cost: £250- £500 per linear metre dependent on grade.
So when you are choosing a worktop, think about what your priorities are and start from there. You may need to compromise on your ideal as no work surface ticks all of the boxes. Make sure you go to the showrooms so that you can touch the work surfaces and see the colours in real time. This will be a big help in deciding what is perfect for you.