Buyers Guide to Kitchen Benchtops

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Buyers Guide to Kitchen Benchtops

A kitchen is regarded as the heart of any home, but this valuable space will not function properly without a reliable benchtop. The kitchen benchtop is an essential work zone where people spend some precious time preparing meals. Since it is utilized for all kinds of purposes, a kitchen benchtop should be made stylish, elegant and most of all, time-tested.

 

Previously, kitchen benchtops were made from conventional materials such as concrete and timber. But now you have a lot of choices to match your current style and personality. This comprehensive guide to kitchen benchtops can help you decide what material will suit your comfort level the best.

 

Granite

 

Granite is a natural igneous rock composing of various minerals like feldspar and quartz. This natural stone is extremely high in compression which makes it resistant to scratch and cracks. Interestingly, granite comes in a variety of stone patterns including black galaxy and Kashmir white which may provide a huge difference for your benchtop. Unlike marble, granite may come in uniform grain patterns, or you may settle with beautiful flowing patterns within the surface.

 

Polished granite seems to be the best option if you want your benchtop to look striking. But honed and flamed granite are also available to give your kitchen countertop a rustic feel. Standard slab thickness is set at 20mm or 30mm variations while tile format is available from 5mm to 8mm. thick.

 

Pros:

 

  • Possesses natural grains and veining patterns
  • Offers large varieties of patterns as compared to marble and limestone
  • Offers flexibility in design
  • Fully resistant to heat, stains, and scratch especially when sealed
  • Available in different edge profiles
  • Easy to maintain

 

Cons:

 

  • Some stone grades are vulnerable to staining, particularly if not properly sealed
  • Hardness characteristic may vary depending on the type of granite
  • Top surface is cold (which may be suitable for tropical locations)
  • Unable to reproduce in massive numbers

 

Engineered quartz

 

Engineered stone has become a popular countertop in many kitchen designs today, greatly resembling the natural appearance of earth stones. This composite material comes in a wide range of patterns and color palettes delivered in artistic finishes. Its standard slab thickness is set at 20mm for most brands, but you may also get these man-made stone in 12mm, 25mm, and 30mm sizes. Standard tile format measures 3,040mm by 1,440mm, nearly covering around 10 square feet.

 

Price for engineered stone is set between moderate and high depending on prevailing market value and location. Polished engineered quartz doesn't require extensive cleaning unlike other countertop options like matt and honed. You will only need a damp cloth to wipe the spills, but be more cautious when you spill beverages with high acid contents. Maintain a regular cleaning schedule at least four times a year if you prefer to use stone cleaners.

 

Pros:

 

  • Highly resistant to scratch, stain, chemical spill, and moisture presence
  • Low absorptive capacity, meaning it's non-porous
  • Easy maintenance, no professional cleaning required
  • No re-sealing
  • Available in different edge profiles

 

Cons:

 

  • Grout line is visible
  • Honed and matt finishes require extensive maintenance
  • Not suitable for high heat temperature (which may result in the surface stain)
  • Exposed edges are prone to chipping or cracking
  • Limited options due to similar veining

 

Marble

 

Marble is a natural stone which has been used in massive and luxurious kitchens for many years. This metamorphic limestone has distinctive characteristics which manufacturers aren't capable of producing them in massive numbers.

 

This elegant natural stone is available in different tile format sizes, unlike those man-made materials. You can choose between 20mm and 30mm slab thicknesses, and tile formats are available from 2,400mm by 1,200mm to 3,300mm to 2,000mm sizes depending on the type of marble. Even though marble is highly vulnerable to chipping and staining, people still love the exquisite beauty of the natural stone.

 

Unfortunately, marble isn't the best practical solution as a kitchen countertop. Its porosity level is relatively high, which makes marble less resistant to spills and stains. On top of this, the market price of the marble is comparatively high, which may be influenced by domestic demands, stone grade, and other operational expenses.

 

Pros:

 

  • Provides prestige to kitchen countertop
  • Induces translucent effects
  • Available in different edge profiles
  • Unique veining patterns which are associated with beauty

 

Cons:

 

  • Requires regular sealing as maintenance
  • Prone to chipping due to its porous characteristics
  • Easy stain build-up especially when spilled with colored beverages and strong chemicals
  • Less resistant against staining, etching and water seepage
  • Similar slab patterns are not readily available

 

Solid surface

 

Solid surface is another benchtop material which has been regularly used as commercial fit-outs in institutional facilities and public toilets.

These acrylic-based materials can be joined with welding, providing a uniform look on any surface. Standard thickness is set at 12mm, but thicker options are also available. On average, the pricing for solid surface seems almost the same with engineered quartz.

 

Pros:

 

  • Easy construction without exposing the joint lines
  • Pre-fabricated according to requirements, but on-site fabrication is also possible
  • Flexible on both indoor and outdoor use
  • Non-porous and easy to clean
  • Easy replacement when the slab gets damaged

 

Cons:

 

  • Non-resistant to scratch and extreme heat
  • Patterns aren't as natural as engineered quartz

 

Stainless steel

 

Stainless steel is rust-free, thin sheets of metal that are bent into shape and directly installed on top of a wooden backer. This easy-to-clean surface is highly utilized in commercial kitchen setup due to its resistance capacity against stains and scratches. Standard sheet thickness starts from 1.5mm thick and may go up to 6mm thick depending on project requirements. Pricing ranges from moderate to high in accordance with the requirements and skill level of the fabricator.

 

Pros:

 

  • Resistant against heat and chemicals but expect warping to develop over time
  • Easy maintenance
  • Seams can be concealed through welding
  • Perfect for modern-accented kitchen
  • Pre-fabrication or on-site fabrication into various shapes is possible

 

Cons:

 

  • Vulnerable to noticeable smudges, scratches, and dent
  • Quarterly cleaning schedule may be required to restore finish

 

Porcelain

 

Porcelain is now the latest benchtop material used in domestic kitchen designs. This ceramic-like material is created from natural sources like quartz, silica, clay and even crushed stones. Though more expensive than solid surface and engineered stone, porcelain panels feature several patterns that resemble natural stone, and they come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses.

 

Pros:

 

  • Available in natural stone and wood pattern appearances
  • Reliably resistant to scratch, discoloration, heat, and spills
  • Available in large sheet profiles which minimize noticeable joints
  • Low porosity level

 

Cons:

 

  • Susceptible to chipping and cracking during handling
  • Difficult to fabricate unlike stainless steel or laminate

 

Gone are the days when kitchen benchtops are just limited to several materials. Fortunately, the manufacturing sector now offers you a broad range of countertop finishes, ready to bring your cooking experience to the next level. That’s because selecting the appropriate benchtop for your everyday meal prepping isn't an easy decision to make.

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  • Dale Basilla
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