Selecting a new kitchen benchtop is one of the most important tasks when creating your design. You want the right look, the right style, strength and durability and of course, the right price! We’ve put together an in depth Buying Guide to help make your decision just that little bit easier!
You will also want to checkout this epic benchtop cleaning guide – quite literally the only cleaning guide you will ever need! Supplied by our friends from Tips Bulletin, this in depth guide runs through all benchtop materials and how best to clean each of them, along with some incredibly simple and cost effective homemade cleaning solutions!
Brands to consider:
Laminate benchtops are the most cost effective option for the kitchen. There are many colours and textures available to choose from: a style to suit just about every taste! Thanks to better manufacturing techniques and advances in technology, laminates not only provide a highly cost effective option but also a very durable and versatile benchtop; gone are the scratchy laminated benchtops of the 70s! The surface is highly stain resistant and easy to maintain and also provides the added benefit of insulating sounds – no more plates clattering across the benchtop! As with most benchtop options, the surface can burn or mark if hot items are placed directly onto the benchtop and it is not recommended that any chopping be done directly on the surface. If you are looking for a quality, cost effective alternative to stone, look no further than a quality laminate benchtop!
- 7 Reasons Why We Love Laminex!
- Materials & Finishes: Laminex Impressions Range
- New from Laminex: The Absolute Series
A classic, rustic option, timber is one of our all time favourites! Of course, you can expect marking and denting on the timber surface however, this simply adds to the charm and character of your kitchen design. There are many species of timber available, as well as different cuts and stains to achieve the exact look you are after; we highly recommend the durability of a bamboo benchtop. Bamboo is a fantastically strong timber and is also an environmentally friendly option due to the fact that bamboo can be harvested much sooner than traditional timbers.
Timber benchtops can be sanded and re-polished later down the track to renew the surface and are suitable for just about any design, from classic or contemporary to rustic or country style, as the material pairs well with many cabinetry finishes. Concrete and timber for example, create an industrial vibe in your design whereas timber paired with a sleek two pack painted finish creates a glamorous, classic vibe. Depending on which species you choose, the cost of a timber benchtop will vary so discuss your options with your cabinet maker prior to making any final decisions.
Brands to consider:
A quartz based, man-made stone option, engineered stone (often also referred to as engineered stone) benchtops are renowned for their extremely high durability, strength and ease of maintenance. Being almost completely non-porous, composite stones allow a more cost effective alternative to traditional natural stone benchtops such as marble or granite. With proper use, composite stone benchtops will not stain, mark or scratch however, excessive force (especially along any exposed edges of the benchtop or around an undermounted sink) can cause chips or cracks. It is also important to note that any continuous constant heat (e.g. a slow cooker placed directly on the surface without a chopping board or similar barrier beneath it) can also lead to cracking.
An experienced stonemason should always install your composite stone benchtop to ensure the installation meets the manufacturer’s requirements. Improper installation can compromise the integrity of the stone and lead to cracks.
Each brand of composite stone varies in cost; you will also find that each brand has its own different price tiers within their respective collections. For example, Caesarstone’s Standard Collection features a range of classic styles at an affordable price. Their Supernatural Collection however, is priced at a much higher rate per slab due to the specialised technology that goes into this range’s design and manufacture.
- Materials & Finishes: Composite Stone
- NEW Caesarstone Colours for 2017
- A Sneak Peak at Essastone’s New Collection!
Wholesalers to consider:
The most popular natural stone options for kitchen benchtops are granite and marble. Onyx is another popular choice for the kitchen; thanks to its natural translucent qualities, onyx can be backlit for dramatic effect and should only be used in vertical applications. As you can expect, natural stone benchtops are rather pricey and then there is also the added cost of regular professional maintenance to consider. Natural stone benchtops will require sealing once every couple of years to maintain the surface’s integrity and lustre while also assisting in the prevention of staining. There are natural stone cleaners available (usually found in your local hardware store or from selected tile shops) that contain sealant within them. These cleaners are specifically designed to help reduce the amount of time needed in between professional cleaning, buffing or sealing of your natural stone benchtop. Natural stone benchtops (especially marble) are more prone to cracking, scratching or staining as they are porous and sensitive to sudden changes in temperature (for example, when placing a hot pot directly on the surface without the use of a board or trivet). As also mentioned in regards to composite stone, natural stones should also not be exposed to constant sources of heat such as direct sunlight or slow cookers directly on the stone, etc. Although there are certain drawbacks involved in maintaining a natural stone benchtop, the beauty of the product is something you simply cannot compare to anything else! Don’t be afraid to splurge on a luxurious natural stone top if that is your first preference!
Brands to consider:
Porcelain benchtops are fast becoming a go-to option for both residential and even commercial kitchens the world over. Thanks to the material’s incredible durability, ease of maintenance and non porous nature, porcelain is a fantastic choice for a busy kitchen! A porcelain benchtop will not stain or scratch and is available in an ever growing assortment of colours, textures and finishes – our favourites are the concrete-look porcelain tops! As noted in the example above, Dekton provides the combined benefits of porcelain, glass and quartz making it one of the hardest and most durable options available.
Yes, you CAN place your hot trays straight from the oven directly on the surface! Yes you can spill just about anything you want on it and it WILL NOT STAIN – Just checkout the video below!
You will find most porcelain benchtops to be priced from the mid range to higher end of the scale, depending on the colour, thickness and style you select. We recommend porcelain benchtops not be mitred to achieve added thickness as this process can create brittle edges that are prone to chipping and will also add a huge chunk to the final cost.
Brands to consider:
Initially developed for laboratory use, solid surface benchtops are one of the most hygienic options available. Completely non-porous, the material has the ability to be shaped and moulded into just about any shape you like, allowing the creation of adventurous designs. Joins in the material can be blended to ensure no visible seam however, it is worth noting that this technique is much more successful in solid colours rather than patterned designs; solid surface benchtops that feature a pattern will have a more noticeable seam. Solid surface is a rather soft material and can be easily marked or scratched however, it is renewable in the sense that a professional can buff the surface to bring it back to its former glory. That being said, solid surface benchtops are extremely pricey, especially when selecting any colour or pattern other than the standard white.
- Materials & Finishes: Synthetic Solid Surfaces
- Interior Design Myth: Solid Surface Benchtops are Seamless
Other kitchen benchtop options:
- 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 available. As you can expect, this is a very 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!
- 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!
- 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.
Which is your favourite benchtop option?
Tell us in the comments below!