What’s the Best Worktop Material for Your Kitchen Style?
From concrete to quartz, glass to laminate, which worktop should you choose? The answer depends on how you use your kitchen
Of course, it’s not just about looks and style; the right work surface very much depends on how you use your kitchen practically, what your personal bugbears are, and where you stand on cleaning and maintenance. Here are some of the main worktop options to get you started.
Stainless steel If you’re harbouring street food start-up fantasies, then stainless steel may be the worktop for you. Hygienic, tough and reminiscent of a restaurant kitchen (hello MasterChef), stainless steel looks professional and industrial chic, and is very easy to keep clean (one reason it’s popular with cooks). Plus you can put hot pans down on it, no problem.
However, it does scratch (and potentially even dent), so if you want a perfect, pristine surface, it may not be the best choice. On the other hand, some people think multiple scratches over time give it character and personality.
Solid surface It isn’t necessarily the cheapest option, but a man-made solid surface worktop, such as Corian (composed of a mix of minerals and acrylic resin) can be the ultimate in tough kitchen worktops. This material’s flexibility means you won’t have to worry about unsightly joins, and it can be formed to create integrated sinks and draining boards for a neat look, as here. Solid surface worktops also come in a wide range of colours and natural effects – ideal if you want something different.
A solid surface worktop won’t stain, scratch or crack easily and it’s ultra-waterproof, so won’t get soggy. This material is also good for food prep, as it’s ultra-hygienic and easy to keep clean.
Wood Wooden worktops have many detractors – yes, we know, they stain, scratch and go black and mouldy all too easily. And don’t even mention the scorched saucepan rings. If you’re a low-maintenance kind of person, they are possibly not for you – you’ll need to oil them regularly, and frequently when they’re first fitted. Spills will need to be mopped up fast to avoid staining, and scratches may need to be sanded back.
And yet a well done wooden worktop is a real joy to behold. It looks beautifully rustic, warm and homely and, if you don’t mind a little elbow grease every now again, you’ll (hopefully) never regret your choice. Hardwoods, including teak and iroko, have a higher oil content, so are more resistant to water.
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Laminate Think laminate and nasty, cheap, landlord-issue fake wood might spring to mind. But hold on a minute. Laminate (ultimately a chipboard, ply or MDF core coated in plastic) has come a long way, and there are lots of superior versions around that look brilliant and are great value.
You can fake just about anything you wish: granite, slate, oak. An unfussy plain white laminate, as in this smart, compact kitchen, can also look simple and perfectly lovely. It’s hard to beat if you’re on a shoestring and, even better, laminate can be fitted DIY, if you’re up to the job.
However, remember to protect your worktop when chopping food or removing oven trays, as this type of worktop can get damaged easily. Remember also that the very cheapest laminates could end up being a false economy.
Granite Natural granite can last a lifetime. It’s not cheap, but it’s heat-resistant, which means you can put a hot saucepan down on it with no concerns. It’s also easy to keep clean. It has natural good looks, and there’s a wide choice of types and colours available (ranging from grey to brown, black, white and even blue or pink) if you shop around.
Granite is heavy, though, so it will need to be well-supported. And if it does get damaged, it isn’t easy to repair. It should also ideally be resealed every couple of years.
Quartz A manmade quartz, such as Silestone, offers the benefits of natural stone, being extra hard and durable, but with a contemporary, clean look. This type of worktop (composed of crushed quartz and resin) is ultra stain-resistant, so you won’t need to worry about curry mishaps and red wine spills, and there’s no time-consuming sealing process to put up with. It’s also antibacterial, so you don’t need to stress about bugs multiplying in cracks and crevices.
This type of ‘engineered stone’ comes in lots of colours, but it can be on the pricey side. It also doesn’t look the same as ‘natural’ stones – something to consider if you’re craving the authentic country look.
Marble Nobody really needs a marble worktop in their kitchen. There are plenty of other tough alternatives on the market. And yet nothing says light, upmarket elegance and five-star chic quite so wonderfully. Natural marble is cool to the touch (and great for rolling out pastry), and each piece will be individual. Marble is also fairly easy to keep clean.
It does scratch, however, and you’ll need to keep acidic solutions away from it (so watch out for that stray lemon half), as they can corrode it. Certain substances, such as red wine, may also stain if not mopped up speedily.
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Concrete Bring out your brutalist side with a chunky slab of concrete in the kitchen. A concrete worktop is heavy-duty, cool-looking and, as you’d expect, super-durable. It also ages beautifully, acquiring a characterful patina.
However, it’s undeniably heavy and, as raw concrete is porous, will need to be well sealed to avoid stains and marking. You’ll also have the odd seam to contend with. As it’s cast in slabs, concrete is more versatile in shape than stone; plus you can opt for different types of surface finishes, from polished to matt.
Ceramic Ceramic worktops are gaining ground in kitchens. Ceramic is tough and durable, yet it’s slimmer than surfaces such as granite – ideal if you want a modern, streamlined look, as here. New technology and manufacturing methods mean ceramic worktops can now feature longer lengths without joins (rather than the tiled worktops of yore, with their acres of always-needing-to-be-cleaned grouting). They also tend to be stain-, scratch- and heat-resistant.
Ceramic can crack, though, so watch out when swinging that Le Creuset pan – you’ll want to avoid dropping anything heavy on it.
Glass Gleaming glass may not be the first option that springs to mind when you’re shopping for a worktop, but it can make perfect sense. Glass is reflective, adding a sense of light and brightness to small or dark kitchens. It’s easy to clean, heat-resistant and hygienic.
The latest toughened glass worktops are less susceptible to chips, scratches and breakages. Even slimline designs can be super-strong these days. A bespoke, cut-to-fit glass worktop can also be made to fit the exact space you require – another big plus.
However, glass does smudge and smear, so if you don’t fancy constantly buffing away fingermarks, it might not be the option for you. And it’s not the cheapest material, either, so perhaps not for those on a tight budget.
Which type of kitchen worktop is your ideal? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.