Granite is the most popular stone for worktops and gives a quality feel to kitchens. The vast range of shades and patterns available means each surface feels unique, and there are choices perfect for modern and traditional kitchens alike. If a bit of sparkle and shine pleases your eye, granite is a good choice.
Pros It’s very tough, and resistant to heat and mould. Its often cheaper than engineered stone and composites.
Cons Granite is porous and so needs to be sealed – ideally every six months. It can be very heavy, so needs to be sitting on good cabinets. If granite gets damaged it cannot be repaired.
Composite / Quartz / Engineered Stone
There are huge advantages to using Quartz countertops and Quartz flooring in your project. As well as being available in almost any colour you can think of, it has twice the strength and durability of Granite. It needs very little other upkeep than a clean in warm soapy water to keep it in pristine condition, and there is no need to concern yourself with staining from spills. Quartz is scratch resistant, stain resistant, mould & mildew resistant, and requires the least maintenance as there is no need to re-polish or reseal is once it has been fitted. Manmade generally from a mix of quartz and resin, composite worktops offer a smooth durable surface in a huge of colours. Quartz, particulary Silestone, is one of the biggest brands on the market. It has an anti-bacterial agent that prevents germs from spreading, is stain resistant and comes in a wide range of colours and finishes. Other Makes include Corian, Hi-Macs and Ikea’s Personlig acrylic. Dekton is a new product from Consentino, the manufacturers of Silestone and has zero porosity, is highly resistant to heat and can be used both inside and out. Other Makes include Cimstone and Caesarstone. It’s available in roughly 100 colours and a huge range of finishes, from glossy to matt, plain to flecked or sparkly – and even ones that mimic concrete.
Composite has a soft, satin look and comes in a massive range of colours and, thanks to different-coloured glues, the seams are virtually invisible, so it’s great for long worktops, or L or U shapes. If you scratch it, you can polish up again, so it’s pretty easy to maintain.
Pros These worktops are extremely robust, hygienic and easy-care. They can be formed into any shape, including sinks and upstands. The colour runs all the way through, so it’s possible to carve out draining boards.
Cons. As there is a small amount of resin in the mix it is best not to put very hot pans on these surfaces. If the resin does burn or is damaged in any way it is not possible to repair.
With everything from oak,walnut and maple bringing warmth and texture into kitchens, natural timber is justifiably popular. Oak and walnut worktops look great as an island worktop, island feature or an area of the kitchen that is for appearance rather than practicality.
Pros Wood is naturally antibacterial, relatively simple to install and easy to repair. If you’re willing to oil it frequently, it can be robust and beautiful.
Cons Wood needs oiling a couple of times a year. Wood can be easily scorched, scratched and stained and can blemish if stained with water.
Concrete has the most industrial aesthetic of all the worktop materials. There’s a surprisingly large range of colours available beyond classic grey, and it can be shaped to run around pillars or form sinks.
However concrete is not very robust, and it is not seamless as expansion joints need to be incorporated. The main reason for choosing concrete is aesthetic.
Pros Nothing quite beats it for adding edge to a ‘safe’ scheme. It can be formed into any shape, and can be repaired or stripped back to remove stains. It gets tougher as it ages, and makes a great in/out material if you want your worktop to continue out onto a patio.
Cons If you opt for a concrete worktop, your kitchen will be out of action for a while. Concrete worktops tend to be poured in situ (although simple shapes can be made off-site), and it takes a couple of weeks for it to be ready to use. It stains easily and needs to be treated with a penetrative sealant every six to eight months.
Marble & Stainless Steel
Marble is available in a wide variety of shades and can come in a honed, polished, brushed, or tumbled finish. Marble is often considered to be the most luxurious building material with its distinctive veining and soft clouding that grant the impression of translucence and depth. Marble occurs when a type of limestone is subjected to intense heat and pressure making it both strong and durable. Its strength means that it can be applied to almost every area in the home. It succeeds in being an excellent material for kitchen counter tops, and is also a good material to use for sinks and basins due to its natural resistance to staining.
Pros The undeniable wow factor. It comes in a huge range of patterns and colours and each piece is unique.
Cons It’s delicate – watch out with red wine or citrus juice. It’s easily scratched and unrepairable.
Stainless steel has become increasingly popular recently thanks to a surge in cooking and the industrial interiors trend. Stainless steel is very robust but it does wear and it does scratch and become patinated but it can looks even better for it.
Pros Stainless Steel has a modern look, is very robust, and very clean and resistant to staining. It can be formed into any shape and size of worktop with integrated sinks and splashbacks.
Cons Stainless Steel needs a lot of work to keep it clean, as it shows grease and fingermarks. It scratches fairly readily although light marks can be burnished out. Stainless steel can be dented, although the substrate (often plywood) tends to limit this.
Laminates have come a long way in the past 20 or so years. Now they can realistically mimic other materials, including wood and granite. It’s also the most cost-effective choice. Laminate might not be swish, but it’s definitely still the “safest” option on the market. A laminate top can be styled up with an edge in stainless steel or wood.
Pros It’s relatively low cost and perfect for light-use kitchens. The huge range of finishes means it’s easy to create the exact look you are after.
Cons Not the most durable surface as its easily scorched and scratched – and it’s unrepairable if damaged. The joins are visible.