Experts share their advice on choosing a kitchen worktop
It’s common to focus on cabinetry when it comes to renovating, but your countertop is the workhorse of the kitchen – not only does it have to look good, it has to be up to the task for years to come. A lot will also depend on your lifestyle choices; a marble worktop might be great for a solo baker, while a porcelain or solid surface design may be better for busy families.
We are getting more experimental, demanding surfaces with dramatic veining, unusual colourways, striking terrazzos and those with characterful patinas. “While classic white kitchen worktops still dominate the market, dramatic dark designs are also becoming sought after, particularly for one-off pieces such as freestanding pantries or statement islands,” reveals Stacey Cobley, kitchen designer at Harvey Jones. “Another trend is to mix materials within a kitchen, with customers leaning towards more unusual finishes, such as stainless steel, glass and distinctive timbers.”
What is the best worktop for my kitchen?
Whether you’ve got your heart set on a wooden kitchen worktop or a striking marble design, check out our expert guide to worktops below before you buy...
If you’re after a cheap kitchen worktop, laminate is the most affordable on the market, costing as little as £30 per linear m. It’s also a good choice if you want to save money by installing the kitchen yourself, as they’re easy to fit. Thanks to modern ink-jet printing technology, laminate kitchen worktops can realistically mimic the look of real stone or wood, plus they’re incredibly low maintenance, requiring only a quick wipe down, making them perfect for busy families. Laminate kitchen worktops also prevent the growth of mould and germs, while also being resistant to heat, water damage and everyday scuffs and scratches. For example, Bushboard’s range of worktops provide antibacterial protection that is food safe and destroys 99.9% of bacteria within just 24 hours.
However, you get what you pay for, so it’s still worth investing in a good-quality product as cheaper options are susceptible to damage. You’ll need to be wary when using knives too, as there’s no easy way to get rid of scratch once it’s been made. Another point worth noting is that if you’ve got your heart set on a butler sink, you won’t be able to have a laminate top as the exposed chipboard won’t be watertight, even with an edging strip.
Wood kitchen worktops
“One of the huge benefits of timber is the natural beauty it provides, with each piece revealing its own unique character,” says Alex Main, director of The Main Company. “Reclaimed wood worktops are ideal if you’re considering a sustainable solution that doesn’t compromise on style. The wood surface can be sanded back if stained and is generally a softer, more tactile material to work with.”
If you’re after a timeless look, oak, beech and maple are good choices, whereas darker timbers such as iroko or wenge can add a real statement to a kitchen. Whitewashed or lighter-toned wood such as birch and ply can bring a cool, contemporary feel.
Timber tops are a budget-friendly option, with prices starting from around £120 per linear m, however, be prepared for a bit of upkeep. As wood is very prone to water damage, you’ll need to mop up any spills straight away to prevent swelling, rotting and mould, and ensure that worktops are re-oiled every six months to preserve them.
Porcelain kitchen worktops
Porcelain worktops are becoming increasingly popular thanks to being virtually indestructible, plus their ability to imitate expensive natural stones without the upkeep, as well as being cheaper to buy and install than other materials. “Porcelain is super-hygienic and easy to maintain, requiring only a wipe with clean water or mild surface cleaner,’ says Raquel Dominguez, retail senior area manager at Laminam. “A natural or matte finish is easiest to clean, but a satin or gloss finish provides more shine. Compared to other surfaces, porcelain is highly resistant to stains and scratches due to its minimal porosity. It’s also unaffected by extreme temperatures and UV resistant, meaning it’s a great solution for outdoor worktops, too.”
Porcelain slabs also come in thin 6mm-200mm thicknesses, ideal if you prefer a sleek, contemporary look, and there are designs available with the design running through the inside of the slab for a seamless look, e.g. a sink made from the same material. While porcelain may seem infallible, it’s important to check the quality of the slab you buy and it’s always best to visit a showroom to see the worktop on a larger scale as it can be hard to determine the overall look from a cut sample. Dominguez suggests pricing starts from around £110 per sqm.
Stainless steel kitchen worktops
“Stainless steel is great for creating a modern, industrial-style vibe, plus it’s non-porous and resistant to heat, acid and water, making it more hygienic and hardier compared to other materials like marble or wood,” says interior designer Rudolph Diesel. “While stainless steel worktops are durable, they can be scratched easily, so avoid using abrasive sponges or steel wool which can scratch the surface, leading to unsightly marks that are hard to remove. Use warm, soapy water and a stainless steel cleaner to remove dirt and grease and leave your surface streak-free, being sure to use a soft cloth or sponge to clean and then polish the area.”
A matte finish might be best if you’ve got little ones as smudges can show up easily, but otherwise stainless steel is about as low-maintenance as you can get – a quick wipe down with stainless steel cleaner will keep it looking slick. As one of the cheaper worktops on the market, you can expect to pay around £150 per linear m.
Copper kitchen worktops
Copper has historically been used in kitchens for centuries due its special antimicrobial properties. Copper has recently made a comeback, with homeowners lusting after its unique patina, as well as its ability to combat germs. “Copper is a surprisingly practical choice for splashbacks and worktops when treated as it can easily withstand heat and oil splashes,” says Elizabeth Sherwin, creative director at Naked Kitchens. “However, it’s not one to choose if you don’t like patina, as it’ll naturally weather over time, which is part of its beauty.”
Companies including deVOL and Naked Kitchens offer copper worktops and splashbacks, which have been hand-aged using substances such as sawdust and vinegar to create the distinctive oxidised finish. It’s worth noting that despite being an antibacterial surface, it’s best not to prep your food directly on the copper, as it can taint the taste, nor should you cut directly onto the surface as copper is an inherently soft metal so it will scratch. To maintain the patina, avoid using any abrasive cleaners; a soft cloth and warm soapy water is best to keep your copper product clean.
Quartz kitchen worktops
“From light to dark, smooth to textured, natural to urban, it’s not a surprise quartz has overtaken natural stone as the UK’s number one most desirable countertop material on the market due to the vast array of designs available, along with its inherent non-porousness, making it heat resistant, stain resistant and bacteria free,” says Jon Stanley, VP marketing at Caesarstone.
Quartz is an engineered stone made of around 93 per cent crushed quartz; one of the hardest natural substances. The quartz is mixed with silica and bonded together with resin and colouring, offering a more consistent colour and pattern, which many people prefer. It’s also stronger than many natural stones (it’s five times stronger than granite), plus it’s less susceptible to staining and doesn’t require sealing.
Despite its durability, quartz isn’t without flaws. It can be tricky to restore if chipped, and while it's heat resistant, it isn’t heatproof as the resins within the quartz can melt and mark, so it’s worth investing in some heat pads or stands for pots and pans. A simple cleaning routine of mild detergent and a damp cloth or non-abrasive scourer and to avoid any harsh chemicals or natural stone cleaners that could discolour the quartz.
Stone composite kitchen worktops
Not dissimilar to quartz, solid stone composite worktops are also made up of a mix of elements, usually including stone, mineral dust, acrylic, resin and pigments. “The bonus of stone composites is that they boast high-performance qualities and real design freedom,” says Charlotte Hughes, retail design expert at Cosentino UK. “As stone composites can be transformed into any colour or shape, being able to create curved features and seamlessly integrated sinks, they are perfect for creating a statement contemporary kitchen or bathroom. Often made from a blend of raw materials, porcelain and glass, they combine the beauty of natural materials with the ease of high-tech resources. This has several benefits. Stain, heat and scratch resistant, solid stone surfaces are more resilient and durable, able to cope with the pressures of daily wear and tear on multiple applications.”
Products such as Dekton’s ultra-compact stone surfaces are also a great choice for outdoor kitchens, as they’ve got a high resistance to sudden temperature changes and are UV resistant. Being non porous, they’re easy to maintain too – perfect for outdoors. Due to the technology used, Dekton has a high threshold for heat, withstanding temperatures up to 400C, so it won’t get scorched by hot pans. If the worktop needs repairing for whatever reason, then specialist fillers are available for chips. Stone composite surfaces from Cosentino start from around £200 per linear m.
Marble kitchen worktops
Marble is undoubtedly the go-to choice for adding timeless elegance and a touch of luxe to the kitchen. Italian Carrara marbles such as Statuario, Calacatta, Arabescato are classic choices, yet beautiful green and pink marbles from India and Portugal are also in demand. It’s the perfect choice for those looking to make a real design statement, such as a book-matched splashback or a waterfall kitchen island, as well as for keen bakers thanks to its naturally cool surface.
“When it comes to durability, marble is generally considered a soft, porous stone, meaning it's more susceptible to scuffs and stains,” says Oliver Webb, director at Cullifords. “If liquid is left on the surface for some time it will etch, so it’s advisable to clear up any spills asap. Polished marble is usually more stain resistant than a honed finish, while honed marble doesn’t tend to show up scratches. Most staining on marble is down to poor sealing, upkeep, or if the sealant has worn off over time. However, the benefit of a marble worktop is that stains can be removed with a poultice and it can be re-polished in situ.”
As marble is a pricier option, costing from around £350 per linear m, it’s best to buy it from a reputable supplier that can cut it to the exact size you need. Many suppliers will come to your home and draw up a template to ensure you get the perfect finish. When it comes to maintenance, use a soft cotton cloth with neutral cleaner and avoid acidic cleaners as these can eat into your marble surfaces.
Natural stone kitchen worktops
If you want a low-maintenance worktop that can still add wow factor and character, natural stone, such as granite, is the way forward. “The benefit of 100% natural stone is that it boasts naturally resistant properties, making it extremely easy to maintain,” says Hege Lundh, marketing director at Lundhs Real Stone. “With a high density and non-porous surface, materials like our Larvikite stone are extremely durable and distinctive. It only takes a damp cloth to clean it and boasts heat resistance of up to 300C, as well as resistance to water, scratches, stains and UV. Being able to work directly onto the worktop as well as placing hot pots and pans on the surface means that you have the freedom to use your kitchen without a worry.”
One of the key considerations with a stone worktop is that each piece is unique and appearance can vary greatly, so make sure that you’re happy with the exact slab you’re buying from the supplier. If you choose a stone like granite, which is more porous, it’ll require a thorough sealing once fitted, but often can be left for years afterwards without resealing. Stone isn’t cheap, with prices starting from around £300 per linear m, but it’s long-lasting, so worth the investment if you intend to be in the house long term.
Recycled kitchen worktops
Over the last decade, there’s been a real uptake in recycled worktops as consumers are striving to make their homes more sustainable. Companies including Sustainable Kitchens supply a range of recycled worktops, made from materials ranging from glass to paper.
Diamik’s glass worktops are manufactured in the UK from glass waste that would otherwise end up in landfill, which is crushed and pressed in solvent-free resins. It’s a great choice for a kitchen worktop as recycled glass is tough, scratch and heat-resistant, plus it can be manufactured in any colour.
Durat recycled plastic is another option (around £370 per sqm), which has a similar appearance to quartz and is available in 200 colours, meaning you can colour-match it to your scheme. Lastly, there’s a FSC-certified recycled paper solid surface known as Richlite made using post-consumer recycled waste, which can be used for worktops and kitchen doors with a variety of finishes for a honed and leathery look. Non-porous, heat and water resistant, Richlite is a hardy surface choice, which develops a natural patina like wood over time.
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