It’s one of the most hard-working surfaces in your home. Here’s a help to choose your material wisely and get the best kitchen benchtop material for your needs.No longer shut away behind closed doors, modern kitchens in Australia are not only where meals are made but also where much of the action happens – from homework to household admin and from family meals to entertaining. All of which means the kitchen benchtop materials used need to be both practical and good-looking, whether you are an enthusiastic gourmand, a short-order family cook, or a takeaway connoisseur. And nothing gets a bigger workout than your benchtop. Here’s our pick of the tough but terrific materials that will give you kitchen counter bliss.
1. Natural Stone Benchtops
The beauty of stone is as a natural material, each slab is unique. Marble is popular with enthusiastic cooks as it’s perfect for rolling out pastry, but it’s easily stained by things such as red wine, vinegar, coffee, spices (we’re looking at you, turmeric!) and even water. Granite benchtops are much less porous, making them more stain- and scratch-resistant, and they come in a wide, and very beautiful, selection of colours. The finish for either marble benchtops or stone benchtops can be gloss (polished) or honed (matt) and it’s best to visit the warehouse and choose the slab you want so you know exactly what you’re getting.
2. Timber Benchtops
Timber benchtops are formed from one solid length or pieces that have been laminated together (butcher’s block style). The surface of wooden/timber benchtops needs to be finished before using and, if oiled, will absorb spills. Bamboo benchtops are on the rise in the timber market. The big advantage is every couple of years you can have it re-finished to remove any marks, and the benchtop will be as good as new.
3. Stainless Steel Benchtops
Stainless steel is very hard-wearing and hygienic, which is why it’s used in restaurant kitchens. Splashbacks and sinks can be completely integrated, so there’s no cracks for nasties to loiter in, and going for high-grade, thicker stainless steel benches mean they can be re-polished every five to 10 years, giving you the look of a brand new benchtop.
4. Engineered Stone Benchtops
Engineered stone is made from mostly crushed quartz held together with resin, and is available in a variety of colours and finishes. It is also sold by the slab, which does limit its length to 3000mm. Joins are becoming finer, but if you are installing a longer bench or island, you will need to consider where the join falls.
Brett Patterson recommends pairing engineered stone with low-profile, flush mount sinks so cut edges aren’t chipped and damaged by pots and pans.
5. Polished Concrete Benchtops
Concrete benchtops are formed and poured on site, and considering their weight, you may require additional sub-floor structural work for support. However, they have a wonderfully raw finish (that’s now being imitated by other materials) and can even have heating built into them. Concrete benchtops also need to be sealed before using and finishes can vary from very rough to more refined, plus they can be coloured by tinting the mix.
6. Porcelain Benchtops
Made of powdered clay and coloured pigments and bonded together at very high temperatures, porcelain can be created with different textures, from glossy to matt, and can also be printed with finishes that resemble stone, timber, concrete and rusted metal. It is extremely dense and non-porous, plus it’s very resistant to heat, which means it’s great to use around cooktops. Another advantage is it can be used outdoors, so your alfresco kitchen can have the same look as indoors. Porcelain is made in larger slabs than engineered stone and in much thinner profiles, tapping into the current trend away from slab-like benchtops. However, it’s extremely heavy and you will need to work with your joiner to ensure cabinetry can take the weight.
7. Laminate Benchtops
Laminates are budget-friendly and offer a seemingly endless range of colours and finishes, including marble and stone-look that are almost as good as the real thing. The major brand has also recently added an on-trend matt finish to its massive range.
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