Although engineered stone is by far one of the most popular materials to use for kitchen benchtops, splashbacks and even bathroom vanities, there are so many alternatives that are just as beautiful (and just as affordable!).
Liam Flood, builder and founder of construction company, To The Mil, lends his expertise on the best alternatives to engineered stone. And, as he states, ‘The list is endless!’
His top picks for a high-end, quality look for your kitchen benchtop are as follows:
Natural marble is, of course, the most sought after look, which is why engineered stone was created in the first place. It does come with a certain level of expense, but nothing can beat the beautiful veins of colour and flawless finish that comes with this natural stone.
Natural stone does contain a certain level of crystalline silica, Liam Flood explains that it has significantly lower levels than that of engineered stone.
Granite is a top pick for many because of its durability – it is considered by experts as the strongest due to its denseness. Liam Flood explains that although it is very hardy, “all stone is susceptible to chipping and marking, as this is their weak point.” Natural granite makes for a great statement in the kitchen and looks beautiful in any design style.
Stainless steel is most commonly used in commercial kitchens, however, it is becoming an increasingly popular benchtop style for residential homes. It is extremely durable, easy to clean and very hygienic, making it the perfect option for a no hassle, low maintenance lifestyle.
Timber doesn’t seem like a usual benchtop material, but it looks great and is very affordable. Spotted gum, blackbutt and Tasmanian oak are heralded as the best quality timbers to use for their strength and durability. And just think, with a timber benchtop, you can use it as a giant cutting board!
Tiles are a great alternative for your bathroom vanity as well as your kitchen benchtop! Surprisingly sturdy, tiles make a great focal point in your kitchen and will give great texture to an island or backsplash. The best recommendations for tiles are actually made from natural stone, such as granite or ceramic tiles. Better yet, most of them are heat resistant, meaning you can put your hot pots and pans on them without a trivet underneath.
Concrete is, of course, extremely durable, and can withstand the daily wear and tear that happens in a kitchen. If you’re looking for a minimalistic, modern effect in your indoor spaces, then concrete is the perfect alternative to engineered stone.
Gone are the days of tacky laminate benchtops – this material is now beautifully made and comes in a huge variety of styles and colourways. The best part about laminate? The price of course! As one of the most affordable options for kitchen benchtops, it is definitely a dream choice.
Although Corian is considered an 'engineered stone' it is actually made without Silica, and is a great substitute. Made with acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate, this benchtop is stain resistant, durable and works well with heat and UV exposure, and is environmentally friendly.
Quickly becoming one of the most popular options for kitchen benchtops, porcelain is beautifully made and very sturdy. Great for use with heat and is very hardy against scratches and stains, this is a top contender for the best bench surface out there!
What is the easiest stone countertop to maintain?
Liam Flood explains that “A dark granite is the easiest to maintain as it is dense and hides any stains. However, as with all stone it needs to have yearly sealer applied and buffed back which will make it look new again.
Lighter-coloured stone looks amazing but needs more maintenance. If red wine or the like is spilt on it, this will need to be cleaned up quickly to avoid seeping into the stone.”
How dangerous are the effects of silicosis?
As Liam Flood explains, “Silicosis results in permanent lung damage and is a progressive, debilitating and sometimes fatal disease. Chronic silicosis typically occurs after 10 or more years of exposure to respirable crystalline silica.”
The disease can actually occur much quicker if there is excessive exposure to crystalline silica on a day-to-day basis.
For more information on the engineered stone ban and the health dangers of working with engineered stone, please visit Safe Work Australia.
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