Kitchen Buying Guide: Which Benchtop is Right for You?
With so many different types of kitchen benchtops on offer it can be confusing out there. We've outlined the most popular options and their characteristics to help make your selection a breeze.
Natural stones such as granite and marble have long been popular options for kitchen benchtops thanks to their beauty, durability and luxurious appearance. Of these two options, granite is usually the go-to material offering a highly durable surface that is less prone to noticeable stains. Natural stones are not temperature resistant: extreme heat (such as hot pots placed directly on the surface) can cause the stone to crack. Marble, although a classic and luxurious option is notoriously porous and prone to scratches and stains. It is a soft stone by nature and can be easily cracked if care is not taken. Both granite and marble are up there as high-end options and require ongoing maintenance such as cleaning, sealing and polishing.
Kitchen renovation in Carnegie featuring an impressive granite benchtop
Engineered stones such as Caesarstone and Quantum Quartz are man-made stones commonly used for kitchen benchtops. Theses surfaces are immensely popular in residential design as they are virtually non-porous (usually around 99%) meaning they are highly resistant to stains. Certain acidic substances (such as lemon juice, red wine, etc) can stain the surface if not cleaned immediately. Engineered stones are not temperature resistant; hot pots should not be placed directly on the surface as this can cause the stone to crack or show burn marks. When cared for properly and installed correctly, these stones are highly resistant to scratches, cracks and chips. Pricing of these stones is strongly dependant on the brand and colour choice: each brand has several different pricing categories within their own collections. You will usually find that most engineered stones are cheaper than natural stone options.
Our new home build in South Melbourne features engineered stone surfaces throughout. From kitchen, bathroom, laundry and custom joinery.
Stainless Steel benchtops have long been the surface of choice for professional chefs and are used in restaurants worldwide because of the steel’s non-porous and highly hygienic nature. Stainless steel benchtops are best suited to industrial, contemporary or modern homes and fall on the higher end of the pricing scale. A bonus of having a stainless steel benchtop is that hot pots can be placed directly on the surface without causing any damage: another reason why this surface is so popular in commercial kitchens. It's important to note, stainless steel surfaces are easily scratched and depending on your own personal tastes this can either add to the aesthetic of the surface or be a drawback.
Our Port Melbourne kitchen renovation features a stylish combination of engineered stone and a stainless steel section to the island bench
Timber benchtops are an excellent choice for a country Style, traditional and classical kitchen. The warmth and texture of a natural timber top adds a soft touch to a kitchen. There are many different species of timber available that are appropriate for a benchtop; a great option to consider would definitely be bamboo thanks to its hardness and durability. As with most benchtop options, we do not recommend placing hot items directly onto your timber benchtop as this will damage the finish and the material. All timbers can be stained and polished to change the colour or to accentuate their natural charm and character.
Solid surface products such as Corian and Staron are created using a combination of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate. This unique surface is virtually non-porous, stain resistant and extremely hygienic. These products are available in a huge range of colours and have the added advantage of allowing joints in the surface to be concealed therefore creating a seamless look. The material can also be fabricated into any form: you can even create your kitchen sink in the same material. Solid surface tops are very soft and as such, are easily scratched. The product can be “brought back to life” in the sense that it can be buffed by a professional to regain its original lustre and remove scratches. Once again, it is not recommended that hot items be placed directly onto your solid surface benchtop as this will damage the surface and integrity of the product. Solid surface benchtops fall into the higher end price bracket, with each brand offering different price levels within their collection. The price will depend on your colour selection, extras (such as integrated sinks, chopping boards, etc) and shape.
Laminate is the least expensive benchtop option available. Laminate benchtops consist of water resistant MDF board coated in a decorative film (laminate). The most popular brands of laminate in Australia are Laminex and Polytec: both offer a stunning range of colours, textures and finishes from high gloss stone-look benchtops, to textured and solid colour options. Although we do not recommend placing any hot items directly onto the surface (as with most benchtop options available with the exception of stainless steel) laminate remains a highly durable product providing a great ‘value for money’ option.