The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Kitchen Worktop
While the space your kitchen worktop takes up is really quite small in comparison to, say, the kitchen cabinets or the walls, there is no denying that worktops punch above their weight in terms of aesthetic importance. Worktops are the key component for tying together the different colours in the walls, floor and cabinets.
Your eye is automatically drawn to the worktops as this is one of the most important aspects of any kitchen. Sure you can have fancy LED lights that change colour, sure you can have taps and ovens and toasters that are more technologically advanced than your car. Sure you can spend days deciding between eggshell blue and turquoise for the walls.
But, fancy lights, singing toasters and design features will never disguise a poor choice of worktop. Opting for the wrong colour may look bad, but going for a material that doesn’t suit your needs may result in maintenance and repair costs stacking up or, worse, having to replace your worktop.
Anyway, enough of all these scare stories. This ultimate guide is here to make sure you avoid all the classic pitfalls and help you choose the right worktop for your kitchen.
We’re going to take an in-depth look at no less than 10 different types of kitchen worktops, evaluating their various strengths and weaknesses and telling you how best to maintain your chosen worktop.
Let’s get started.
Quartz is a very tough mineral made up of silicon and oxygen. It is combined with a polymer resin to make worktops that are extremely hard-wearing as their composition makes them resistant to scratching and chipping. Unlike some natural stone worktops, quartz worktops don’t need to be sealed and their impermeable surface makes them very resistant to staining.
Another advantage of quartz is that there is a truly dazzling array of colours available, meaning you're guaranteed to find one that matches with your specific tastes and design requirements.
With such qualities, these worktops are a great option for busy families as maintenance and cleaning is easy. Simply wipe down your quartz worktop with soap and water.
The downside to quartz worktops is that their heat resistance isn’t great. The resin which binds the worktop can withstand heat up to around 150°C, which means a misplaced casserole dish could spell disaster for your worktop. Quartz is also not the cheapest option, with prices ranging from £30–£100 per square foot (PSF). Finally, quartz does not achieve the elegant look of its natural counterparts, meaning it is rarely suited to life in a classic kitchen, however its style means it is at home in a modern kitchen.
From an aesthetic perspective, polished slate worktops are simply sublime. The natural composition and dark grey colour give a solid, finished effect that really is hard to beat. Slate is also versatile, looking equally delightful in an old-fashioned country cottage or a sleek city centre apartment.
Unlike quartz, hot dishes are no problem for slate worktops. Their sturdiness also makes them resistant to scratches and heavy impacts.
However, any gains in style are paid for in the careful maintenance required for slate worktops. For a start, make sure to only use a wet cloth and stone cleaning fluid with a neutral pH to wipe your surfaces, as strong, abrasive cleaning products may cause corrosion of your worktop.
It’s also highly advisable to seal your slate worktop in order to prevent staining and corrosion. This will have to be done fairly regularly. You’ll know when it’s time to reseal as water droplets will spread out over the surface, rather than forming tight little beads.
Prices for slate worktops range from £9–£35 PSF.
Now, a whole blog could be written on the different types of wooden worktops you can get, so we’ll stick to listing the general advantages and disadvantages here. As with quartz, a key benefit of wood is the massive range of types, colours and grains to choose from. From dark mahogany to light ash, there will be a wooden worktop to suit your needs. And like slate, wooden worktops work well in any kitchen. With solid wood worktops, proper maintenance will allow them to last for a very long time.
The downside with wooden worktops is they can be quite easy to scratch or burn. However, unlike most other worktops, minor damage can be repaired by sanding away the affected area. While they do require regular maintenance, such as oiling them to protect from water damage, you’ll find that the natural beauty of the wood makes you want to take good care of it.
Coming in at £20–£60 PSF, wood can be an affordable option, with more expensive options available as well.
A simple cleaning solution of warm water and a little soap is all that's required to keep your wood nice and clean.
Corian is a man-made, solid-surface material made from an acrylic polymer resin and alumina trihydrate. Its shiny and sleek style lends itself particularly well to ultra-modern kitchens as the surface is made to be completely seamless. As well as looking fantastic, this smooth surface is naturally resistant to the accumulation of dirt. While arguably the nicest colour of Corian is the classic white, there are numerous colours to choose from, including beige, blue, green, grey and red.
Cleaning could not be easier. All that’s required is to wipe down the surface with a damp cloth. You’ll find it difficult to stain your Corian worktop, however, if you do it should be easy to clean off using a standard kitchen cleaning spray.
Unfortunately, the silky smooth finish of Corian worktops doesn’t last forever, as minor scrapes and scores will accumulate over time. The plastic and resin components are also not great at dealing with heat, so it is advised you set aside an area with a heat resistant board for hot dishes.
Prices range from £30–£75 PSF.
While you might be more accustomed to seeing stainless steel in your cutlery drawer rather than as your kitchen worktop, this remarkably versatile material makes for an excellent choice.
There are many reasons to choose stainless steel worktops, especially if you do a lot of cooking. They can tolerate extremely high temperatures, are practically impossible to stain and are impermeable to water. Stainless steel is also super simple to clean, just wipe down with a hot soapy sponge and your good to go.
When done correctly, these worktops can look stunning, however, the polished and rather industrial looking final effect is not going to be to everyone's taste. And they certainly would not work in a traditional-looking kitchen.
While resistant to heat and stains, stainless steel is vulnerable to dents if heavy objects are dropped on it, and scuffs and scratches will build up over time. For some, this will add character to a well-used kitchen, for others, this will only diminish the look.
These aren’t the cheapest worktops, with prices between £40–£90 PSF.
Laminate worktops cover a range of styles, colours and effects, though the basic elements are a layer of chipboard which is fused at high temperatures and pressures to a plastic laminate coating, hence the name.
There are plenty of good reasons to choose laminate, but by far their strongest suit is the affordability of this option. Starting at just £5 PSF, rising to £30 PSF for some styles, laminate worktops should be an option no matter how tight a grip on the pursestrings. This is especially important to bear in mind if you’re covering a large area, as costs can soon add up. If real wood or stone is out of your price range, why not try a wood or stone effect laminate.
Laminates are fully resistant to water, meaning they’ll last a long time, and can be cleaned really easily in case of accidental spillage. You can also choose a laminate to match your kitchen, with both matt and gloss finishes available.
It’s not all plain sailing, however. Laminates are susceptible to damage from heat, heavy impacts and sharp objects will leave fairly visible scratch marks. This may shorten the life cycle of your laminate worktop and mean a replacement is required sooner than you would like.
Wait a minute. A glass worktop? Although not the most obvious material, glass makes a fine choice with many positive characteristics in terms of style and utility.
Let's start with style. Who do you know with a glass worktop? Exactly, no-one. Going for glass is a bold choice but one that will certainly pay off. The smooth, silky, shimmering look of a glass worktop will wow any guests.
You can choose from a variety of colours and styles to suit your unique tastes. Glass worktops are put through various processes to toughen them and make them resistant to heat and impact. Naturally, these worktops are completely resistant to water and very easy to clean. Any standard glass cleaner will suffice for cleaning this style of worktop.
While they are toughened, very heavy pressure (especially on the corners) will crack glass worktops, which is something to keep in mind if you’re minded to stand on your worktop to change a lightbulb. Your worktops will also need to be cleaned regularly as acidic substances can cause erosion and discolouration.
Though there is a fairly wide price range, glass worktops tend to be quite expensive and will generally require specialist installation. You can get a glass worktop for £25–£100.
There’s something about the word “granite” that just shouts solidity, toughness and durability. This hardy material certainly lives up to its name, with the long life of these worktops making them an attractive choice.
A naturally occurring stone material, granite comes in a wide range of colours, including white, pink, black, yellow and green. The natural markings of granite are distinctly beautiful and will add a sumptuous splash of sophistication to any room.
Not just a looker, granite is practical too. Its solid surface is heat resistant, hard to scratch and very hygienic. Cleaning is straightforward, with warm water and a little soap all that’s required.
Granite worktops do require some maintenance to keep them at their best. Left untreated, their surface will let water seep in meaning they need to be sealed every couple of years. Another thing to bear in mind is that while they are very hard to damage, any damage to your granite worktop, such as chips, is very hard to fix.
Sitting across a wide price range, granite worktops can be bought for £30–£90 PSF.
If making a bold design statement is your thing, but glass isn't, then perhaps a polished concrete worktop is right for you. This worktop will add a touch of luxury to ultra-modern kitchen design.
The positives of a concrete worktop are perhaps obvious. For a start, it’s concrete, so it’s incredibly tough and the polishing process actually makes it very resistant to scratching too. They are also sealed, meaning they are resistant to water and staining. Overall, this means a concrete worktop will last a very long time.
Cleaning is a doddle too. Just use warm water with a squeeze of washing up liquid to keep your worktop in immaculate condition.
In terms of style, concrete worktops come in a surprisingly wide range of colours thanks to the addition of various pigments during the construction process. They can also be cut to various thicknesses, allowing for a sleek, minimalist look or a heavy-duty, solid effect.
Although polished concrete can take some heat, it’s best to avoid placing hot pans straight onto the worktop. Another point to consider is that concrete, being very heavy, will require cabinets that are strong enough to support the weight over a long period of time.
Polished concrete worktops come in at around £45–£110 PSF.
The final say
We hope this guide has been useful in giving you an insight into the massive range of worktops available. Your choice of worktop is a key decision from a design and a practical perspective, and it's important you know how to look after your chosen worktop. Whether you opt for slate, wood, laminate or concrete, this guide has shown you the various strengths and weaknesses of each, as well as how to look after your worktop for years to come.