The workhorse of any kitchen are countertops as they must be resistant and practical to use, as well as elegant.
Work surface materials have changed radically in recent years, offering a wide selection. Technology has provided us with incredibly tough materials that are virtually indestructible options for the busiest family homes. Meanwhile, the trend for open-plan layouts and living room styling in kitchens has led to the introduction of luxury materials.
Here's what to consider before investing in a countertop.
Evaluate your budget
Worktops are available in a wide variety of prices from cheaper laminates to expensive granites. Cheaper options may be a good idea but may not last as long.
If budgets are tight, try mixing and matching your countertop. Place more expensive stone panels in harder work areas, such as the kitchen or sink, and wood or laminate elsewhere. The combination of countertops is also in trend, so your kitchen will look very updated.
Choose the best kitchen countertop material for you
The most popular materials for kitchen countertops (laminate, granite, wood, glass, composite stone, stainless steel) have different advantages, so it is important to consider all the factors involved.
Many of the custom-made countertops (marble, concrete, Corian) are quite expensive and can be unrealistic if you are on a tight budget, so go for a quality look instead. Pre-cut laminate work surfaces still offer great surface design and durability without a high price tag. Solid wood can also be a good option as it is easy to maintain.
What is a hardwood countertop? A traditional favorite for its natural warmth and aging character, hardwood is preferable to 'soft' woods like pine for its strength. Popular hardwood choices include oak, walnut, and iroko.
The best food and food prep areas, for example islands and breakfast bars. Iroko and teak are ideal for use around the sink as they are high in oil and are resistant to water.
The best look, fits all kitchen styles. It can be incorporated into a contemporary scheme that uses glass or stainless steel to add a warm feel.
How durable is a wooden countertop? If hardwoods are properly sealed and maintained, they will last a long time, but don't use the work surface as a cutting board, or place hot trays directly on the wood, as it may burn.
Flexibility and fit Wood is very easy to cut and is suitable for use in most situations.
Do hardwoods require any initial treatment? Hardwoods require an initial oil seal program. Apply a coat once a day for the first week, then once a week for the next month, and then once a month for a year.
How do I care for a wooden countertop?Wood needs a certain amount of maintenance. Avoid direct exposure to heat and prolonged soaking, especially in the sink and faucet area, where you may prefer to install a wall-mounted faucet. Wipe up spills instantly to avoid staining. Once established, seal with Danish or linseed oil quarterly to stop drying out. The good news is that any scratches or stains can be sanded down to restore your countertops to their original glory. Start with 100 gr sandpaper. And accumulate up to 150 gr. (Not finer, otherwise the oil won't penetrate properly.) A sink with a built-in drainer will help protect the weather from contact with water. Never place a hot tray or pan directly on a wooden countertop - always use a trivet.
What is a composite countertop? Made from approximately 90% natural quartz crystals mixed with a small percentage of binders, known as "quartz compound" and "engineering stone," this material is highly durable, virtually non-porous, and resistant to scratches, stains, and damage from heat and shock, and often comes with a long warranty.
It also offers a uniform composition, so, unlike natural stone, there will be no variation in grain and color shading.
Best used. It can be used anywhere, even next to hobs and around the sink.
Best look. Dramatic colors like dark gray and blue look great in modern and contemporary kitchens. If your room design is fairly traditional, stick with neutrals like cream.
How durable is a composite material countertop? The compound is very strong and more durable than many natural stones. As the color spreads through the material, any scratches can be sanded off. In the unlikely event that your composite surface is scratched, chipped, or stained, it can often be repaired by a specialist.
Flexibility and fit. This work surface can be thermoformed in a variety of seamless shapes to create seamless and uniform work surface runs. Manufacturing is done by specialists and usually arranged by your kitchen supplier.
Do composite materials require any initial treatment? No
How do I care for a composite material countertop? Clean up spills to avoid marks. Keep it clean with a soft, damp cloth and a mild detergent.
What is a granite countertop? For some, nothing beats the beauty of natural stone, its unique veins and colors for each slab. Marbles are classically beautiful and luxurious, they tend to be rarer and therefore more expensive.
It is best used . Any area of the kitchen, even around the sink and next to the hob or oven. A large expanse of shiny granite makes the island countertop eye-catching
Better look . It is a luxurious material that never goes out of style and adapts to traditional and modern styles. Choose from a classic polished finish or a matte matte finish for a more contemporary look.
How durable is a composite material countertop? Granite is hard and resistant to heat and scratches, but must be treated to avoid damage. The best of all natural materials, it can withstand high temperatures, is waterproof, and impervious to most stains, but wine and citric acids should be cleaned at the same time to avoid damaging the stone and generally should be protected by a special sealant.
Flexibility and fit . With advances in modern technology, granite can be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes, although it is very heavy to transport and difficult to maneuver.
Does granite require any initial treatment? Granite requires an initial seal, and then another approximately 10 years later.
How do I care for a granite countertop? One great thing about granite is that it is very low maintenance. You can clean it with a damp cloth and a mild detergent.
What is a laminate countertop? Long considered the best budget option, laminates are non-porous, easy to maintain, and come in many design and color options. Manufactured by fusing multiple layers of impregnated paper at high temperature, bonded to a substrate, they are resistant to impact, scratches and humidity.
Best used general purpose , including food prep areas, sinks and around hobs and ranges.
Better Look It can accurately mimic other countertop materials, including granite, slate, and wood, so it will suit both modern and traditional schemes.
How durable is a laminate countertop? Resistant to most stains and chemicals, but not heat or steam. It is not suitable as a cutting surface. Choose a thicker, high-pressure work surface for increased durability.
Flexibility and fit . It is one of the few materials that a DIY enthusiast can cut and fit, rather than a kitchen professional.
Does the laminate require any initial treatment? No
How do I care for a laminate countertop? Laminate is very low maintenance. Clean with a cloth and mild detergent.
4.Stainless steel countertops
What is a stainless steel countertop? Durable, heat resistant, hygienic, and waterproof, stainless steel is an iron alloy. The addition of chromium makes it resistant to oxidation.
Best used around the sink, by the counter, and in all food preparation areas.
Better look . Stainless steel is a restaurant kitchen favorite and is ideal for creating the industrial aesthetic in your home. It works best in contemporary schemes, but you can combine it with other materials to soften the look.
How durable is a stainless steel countertop? Very resistant, resistant to water, heat and acid. It is prone to scratching, but some say this adds to its attractiveness, and it will not affect its antibacterial qualities.
Flexibility and fit . The sinks can be built into a stainless steel track. Simple designs can be cut from a single sheet, avoiding the need for joints.
Does stainless steel require any initial treatment? No
How do I care about a stainless steel countertop? It is very easy to keep clean with a stainless steel cleaner. Use baby oil to make it look better.
What is a concrete countertop? The industrial look of concrete makes it a current choice. It is also designed to withstand many heavy uses, and comes in a variety of standard concrete mix colors (white to gray) and can be mixed with pigments for stronger colors. Polished concrete countertops are flat and smooth, but concrete is porous and can stain, and is heavy, so additional reinforcement may be required.
Best used : General purpose, but always use cutting boards for food preparation.
Best appearance : industrial and contemporary schemes.
Maintenance : If food is left for a long period of time, it can cause staining. You may need a touch-up kit to minimize the appearance if this happens.
Sealing Required : You will need to use food grade sealer or finishing wax to prevent water absorption and staining.
Durability : Concrete is an incredibly durable material, but it is also prone to scratches.