Renovating your kitchen? One of the biggest decisions you need to make is the type of benchtops you’ll use. Not only does it have a big impact on the overall look, it’s also the hardest working surface in your kitchen, so durability is a big factor. Here’s a rundown of the best kitchen benchtop materials and a comparison of their pros and cons.
1. Engineered stone benchtops
This is the most popular choice of benchtop material for kitchen renovators. Made using natural aggregates mixed with resins, it comes in a wide range of colours, from bright whites to dark greys. You can choose either a solid colour or have flecks of different-coloured stone through it to add interest. You can get the chunky look via a skirting fixed to the edge but the latest trend is a 20mm thick edge for a cleaner, slimmer line. A big advantage of stone benchtops is that they are very durable and easy to clean. The non-porous surface resists staining, scratching and doesn’t need any ongoing maintenance. Quartz is a common engineered stone benchtop.
2. Laminate benchtops
If your kitchen reno is on a tight budget then laminate is your choice, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on looks. Laminate has the widest range of colours and designs that imitate more expensive materials such as timber, stone and even concrete. That means you can get the look you’re after without the expensive price tag. Laminate is resistant to staining and easy to keep clean but is more susceptible to scratching and scorching so always use a cutting board and be careful with hot pots and pans.
3. Timber benchtops
While you may think of timber as being a bit old fashioned, it is definitely making a comeback. You can bring a touch of warmth and character to your kitchen with timber when you’re using colder materials like glass and stainless steel elsewhere in the kitchen. The wide variety of available species means you can go light with the yellowish colours of ash or contrast light-coloured doors with the darker tones of walnut. Timber needs to be coated with either food-safe oil or polyurethane to protect it. Oil needs to be reapplied every year or so to remain effective. While polyurethane lasts longer, recoating involves sanding back the entire benchtop first before applying a new coat.
4. Solid surface
Solid surface benchtops are an acrylic resin with a filler of alumina. The joins between each piece of benchtop are invisible after installation, so it seems like one big slab of stone. You can also have the sink moulded into the benchtop so there’s nowhere for dirt to collect, making it easier to keep clean. It’s also UV resistant so is the perfect choice for an outdoor kitchen which is so popular these days. Another advantage is that solid surface benchtops can be repaired. Major damage such as heat scorching can be fixed by the manufacturer without the need to replace the whole benchtop.
5. Stainless steel benchtops
A chef's favourite, stainless steel can also be the texture you need to balance your palette. Heat-resistant and hardy, it can be wrapped over worktops and island benches, formed seamlessly into sinks and splashbacks, and used for feature shelves, too.
6. Polished concrete benchtops
Add raw contrast to timber or glossy joinery by using concrete on benchtops, over a wall as a cool backdrop to open shelves or as an island bench and top in one. Like stone, concrete requires sealing and is not practical for splashbacks.
7. Marble benchtops
Marble is a gorgeous, natural stone that is commonly used in kitchens as a benchtop and splashback material. It's a timeless and sophisticated option but it comes with an eye watering bill and substantial upkeep. Marble is surprisingly porous and will soak up spills like a sponge, damaging the look of your investment. Whether your marble surfaces are honed or polished, they need to be sealed with a good quality purpose-made sealant before you even begin to think about cooking up a feast. This is a job best done by professionals and should be repeated every few years.
8. Granite benchtops
Granite makes for an exquisite and enduring surface for your kitchen benchtop. However you'll need a significant budget – it's considered the second most expensive material after marble. On the plus side, there is a stunning variety of styles and colours to choose and it can withstand anything you throw at it. To clean granite, use warm water and soap to help keep its shine.
9. Porcelain benchtops
Porcelain benchtops are growing in popularity thanks to their durability, versatility and affordability. They can withstand high heats, scratches and stains and their low porosity makes them a very hygienic option.
10. Bamboo benchtops
Bamboo is an eco-friendly and less expensive benchtop material that can suit any style kitchen from country to contemporary. They're often sealed with oil (which will need to be regularly reapplied) or with polyurethane (which is more resistant to staining). Fortunately you can repair any damage done by sanding back the benchtop and refinishing it.
11. Ultra-compact surface benchtop
Ultra compact surfaces are made of natural materials found in glass, porcelain and quartz, which are put under extreme heat and pressure to create an incredibly durable product. Basically, it uses a high tech process to copy what Mother Nature does to natural stone over thousands of years, in a much shorter time frame. It's strong, stain resistant, scratch resistant, heat resistant and non-porous, making it a reliable choice for your kitchen countertops. Manufacturers like Dekton offer their colour range in a number of finishes so you can easily find an option to suit your style.