Selecting a benchtop is one of the most important tasks when creating a new kitchen, bathroom or laundry. You want the right look, the right style, the right strength and of course, the right price! We’ve put together a Buying Guide to help make your decision just that little bit easier!
- Engineered/Composite Stone: Engineered stone refers to a stone product, usually Quartz based, that has been manufactured by man. The most popular brands include: Caesarstone, Quantum Quartz, Smartstone & Silestone. Each brand offers varying price categories within their vast colour collections so it is difficult to place this item into a price category; depending on which colour you choose, the price will vary. Read more about Engineered/Composite Stone here. The main benefit of this product is that it is highly durable, long lasting and does not require regular sealing as its natural stone competitors. There are certain small drawbacks: Joins in the stone are noticeable so it’s a good idea to stick to your selected manufacturer’s maximum slab sizes if this is something that bothers you. When excessive force is applied to the edges of the stone (such as an extremely hard hit by a frying pan, etc.) chipping can occur. Each manufacturer can offer fixes for chips however, larger chips are not easily fixed. You are not able to place hot items directly onto the stone however, we shouldn’t really be doing that with any sort of man-made or natural surface!
- Natural Stone: The most popular natural stones for benchtops are granite and marble. Both options are very pricey! It is also important to keep in mind that each material is prone to scratching, chipping, becoming dull over time and staining. However, with regular care and maintenance such as re-sealing, buffing and polishing, your stone will be looking almost like new again! Once again, avoid placing hot items directly onto the stone to avoid cracking and discoloring and also make sure to use quality cleaners that are safe for natural stone. Although there are ongoing costs involved in maintaining a natural stone benchtop, the beauty of the product is something you simply cannot compare to anything else! If you are careful and tidy in your kitchen, don’t be afraid to splurge on a luxurious natural stone top!
- Dekton: Dekton is a fairly new player in Australia but is definitely on the rise! Dekton is a unique combination of quartz, glass and porcelain, making it the hardest and most durable surface of this list! Given its strength and incredible temperature resistance, you can place hot items directly onto the surface. The surface will not stain or crack however, it can be prone to chipping with excessive force. To avoid this scenario as much as possible, opt for a thicker benchtop (20mm or more) rather than the thinner options below 20mm. Dekton is also the only product on this list that is warrantied for unprotected (not under cover) external use! As you can expect from such an amazing product, this is one of the most expensive options on this list, especially with consideration to labour costs; the super strength of Dekton does mean it is difficult to cut to size and work with.
- Solid Surface: Another popular choice, solid surface benchtops such as Corian and Staron were initially developed for laboratory use, meaning they are one of the most hygienic options available. The material is composed of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate and is almost completely non-porous. Solid Surface materials have the ability to be shaped and molded into virtually any form and any joins in the material are blended in so well that they are virtually unnoticeable. That being said, it is a rather soft surface and is highly prone to scratching and dulling over time. It is renewable – Professionals are able to buff out any marks however, one must consider this ongoing cost along with the exceedingly high cost of the product itself. We have discussed Soild Surface products in more depth on our blog – click here to have a read.
- Porcelain Sheets: There are several products on the market such as Neolith and QuantumSix+ that are basically super-sized porcelain tiles or sheets. They have a high temperature resistance and are also highly scratch resistant. Similar to Dekton and stone benchtop options (both engineered and natural) porcelain sheets are also prone to chipping with excessive force on the edges. We do recommend a thickness above 12mm with porcelain sheets if used as a benchtop and again, ensure you seek advice from the supplier in regards to any warranty issues there may be when used as a benchtop. Porcelain sheets are also rather costly in terms of added labour costs.
- Glass: Although not overly common, another option for your benchtop is glass. Toughened glass with images and colours printed directly onto the back or even slump (textured) glass are both options. As you can expect, this is an extremely pricey option and as we all know, glass is prone to scratches and cracking. Joins are clearly visible and as silicone is used to fill them, the joins are not very easy to clean. The end result however, is a highly polished and luxurious finish that is sure to turn heads!
- Timber: A classic natural option, timber is one of our favourites! Of course, you can expect marking and denting on the timber surface however, depending on your style this can be seen as “adding character” to the timber. There are many options available, as well as different timber cuts and stains and of course, timber tops can be sanded and re-polished later down the track. Timber tops vary depending on which species you choose however, you can expect the cost to be less than pricey selections such as steel, glass, solid surfaces, Dekton, and even some categories of engineered stone!
- Stainless Steel: Another classic option renowned for its amazing hygienic properties, Stainless Steel benchtops have their roots in commercial kitchens. They are extremely versatile and durable. Of course, the steel will scratch over time and be a more expensive option than most items in this guide, however you will have a lifetime of super clean benchtop use!
- Laminate: We recently published a piece on how much we love laminate – if you haven’t already, click here to have a read. Laminate products are far more advanced than the original laminate we all “loved”! Laminates are now available in hundreds of colours, textures and finishes. The manufacturing process has advanced to the point where laminate is often a product of choice for many people as it is long lasting, looks great and the most price effective option you can get! As with most other benchtop options, do not place hot items directly on the surface of your laminate benchtop as it will stain or burn. Although not resistant to scratching or staining, it does have an extremely high tolerance, equal to composite stone in our opinion. We also love the fact that it is warm rather than cold to the touch and also serves to insulate sound.
- Concrete: Another pricey option, concrete benchtops are usually cast on site by a professional. You can select dyes and textures and even have specific textures impressed upon the surface (such as a timber grain or tiled appearance). Read more about the process in our two part interview with Julian, Owner of Melbourne’s Concrete Blonde: Part One – Part Two. A concrete does require regular sealing however, will last you more than a lifetime!
Visit brand websites for further information; certain items have no specific brands associated with them (such as glass) so please contact your local supplier for more information:
- Natural Stone Supplier: Jordain Stone
- Natural Stone Supplier: WK Stone
- Natural Stone Maintenance: BK Stone Melbourne
Glass: Contact your local Glazier to view their available options
Timber: Contact your local Cabinet Maker to discuss
Stainless Steel: Contact your local steel supplier/installer to discuss
Which is your favourite benchtop option? Tell us in the comments below!