When it comes to your making a kitchen benchtop material comparison, do the research first.
It’s one of the most hard-working surfaces in your home. Here’s help to choose your material wisely and get the best kitchen benchtop material for your needs.
No longer shut away behind closed doors, modern kitchens not only where meals are made but also where much of the action happens – from homework to household admin and from family meals to entertaining. All of which means the kitchen benchtop materials used need to be both practical and good-looking, whether you are an enthusiastic gourmand, a short-order family cook, or a takeaway connoisseur. And nothing gets a bigger workout than your benchtop.
Things to keep in mind:
Different materials suit many different applications, so before you get swept away choosing a colour, consider how your kitchen is used. Most materials are durable and hard-wearing, but some require a little more care than others. Marble has been having a moment recently, but it’s actually fairly soft and absorbent, meaning you’re constantly on the lookout for spills, or need to accept it will show its history.
Cost is a big consideration, not just for the material but also for installation. Porcelain, for example, does require specialised tradespeople. “Because it is so hard and dense, if it was dropped, it would just shatter,” says Prue Gordon, interior architect at Melbourne’s Bryant Alsop Architects. “It needs special tools to cut it and stonemasons who are happy working with engineered stone are not necessarily happy cutting porcelain.” Always make sure your estimate includes installation before you sign on the line.
The final step is finding a look you’ll love. Prue Gordon of Bryant Alsop Architects, takes her benchtop lead from the flooring. “It’s a case of who’s using the kitchen, whether there are kids, and what the home’s design style is,” she says. Consider too, how the colour and finish will flow throughout your home, a factor particularly important in an open-plan zone.
6 materials to consider:
1. Natural stone
The beauty of stone – such as Statuarietto marble or Juparana granite – is as a natural material, each slab is unique. Marble is popular with enthusiastic cooks as it’s perfect for rolling out pastry, but it’s easily stained by things such as red wine, vinegar, coffee, spices (we’re looking at you, turmeric!) and even water.
Granite benchtops are much less porous, making them more stain- and scratch-resistant, and they come in a wide, and very beautiful, selection of colours. The finish for either marble benchtops or stone benchtops can be gloss (polished) or honed (matt) and it’s best to visit the warehouse and choose the slab you want so you know exactly what you’re getting.
2. Stainless steel
Stainless steel is very hard-wearing and hygienic, which is why it’s used in restaurant kitchens. Splashbacks and sinks can be completely integrated, so there’s no cracks for nasties to loiter in, and going for high-grade, thicker stainless steel benches mean they can be re-polished every five to 10 years, giving you the look of a brand new benchtop. “I love stainless steel, but you have to be the type of person who’s happy with the little scratches after a couple of years,” said Prue Gordon.
3. Polished concrete
Concrete benchtops are formed and poured on site, and considering their weight, you may require additional sub-floor structural work for support. However, they have a wonderfully raw finish (that’s now being imitated by other materials) and can even have heating built into them. Concrete benchtops also need to be sealed before using and finishes can vary from very rough to more refined, plus they can be coloured by tinting the mix.
Timber benchtops, such as American Oak top, are formed from one solid length or pieces that have been laminated together (butcher’s block style). The surface of wooden/timber benchtops needs to be finished before using and, if oiled, will absorb spills. Bamboo benchtops are on the rise in the timber market. The big advantage is every couple of years you can have it re-finished to remove any marks, and the benchtop will be as good as new. The trend, says Brett Patterson of design and project management company, The Renovation Broker, is towards timber being used as a feature on an island bench, rather than throughout the kitchen.
5. Engineered stone
Appearing under brand names including Caesarstone, Silestone, Quantum Quartz in Gobi Black and Essastone, engineered stone is made from mostly crushed quartz held together with resin, and is available in a variety of colours and finishes. It is also sold by the slab, which does limit its length to 3000mm. Joins are becoming finer, but if you are installing a longer bench or island, you will need to consider where the join falls. Brett Patterson also recommends pairing engineered stone with low-profile, flush mount sinks so cut edges aren’t chipped and damaged by pots and pans.
Laminates are budget-friendly and offer a seemingly endless range of colours and finishes, including marble and stone-look that are almost as good as the real thing, so try Laminex’s ‘Diamond Gloss’ in White Valencia or ‘Impressions’ in Black Spark. The major brand has also recently added an on-trend matt finish to its massive range. “It’s velvety to the touch, has limited reflectiveness and is non-fingerprint marking,” explains Catherine Valente of Laminex. “Plus, it has a really strong sense of warmth.”