Summary: Advice for choosing a kitchen worktop, comparing hardwood kitchen worktops, granite kitchen worktops, quartz kitchen worktops, corian kitchen worktops and laminate kitchen worktops.
The kitchen worktop is not only a prominent feature, but also where much of your food preparation takes place so it needs to be hardwearing as well as attractive.
Choosing a kitchen worktop
Hardwood, marble and granite worktops are durable and very stylish but can be expensive and difficult to install. Natural wood will also require regular maintenance. Alternatively, you could choose from a range of laminated worktops with veneers in imitation wood or stone, but be careful not to scratch or cut the laminate. Stainless steel is becoming increasingly fashionable and has the advantage that it can be moulded to include an integral splashback. Worktops are also available in glass, acrylic and various synthetic materials to suit budget and taste. For a cheap option, you could simply cover the kitchen worktop in ceramic tiles.
Worktops tend to come in standard lengths: 2m (6ft 6in), 3m (9ft 8in), and 4m (13ft). Some width may be lost during the installation so it is a good idea to allow for this and excess can always be cut down to size.
Hardwood kitchen worktops
Wooden worktops are made out of hard woods such as cherry, maple, oak, beech, teak and iroko (also known as African teak). These work tops are great to add warmth to industrial style steel kitchens or for use in country style, rustic kitchens. Hard wood worktops are naturally hard wearing and long lasting and it is said that they actually look better with age and use.
They can be stained any colour to match any type of kitchen and are particularly good for food preparation areas and eating areas such as breakfast bars and islands. Woods with high oil contents, such as iroko and teak, are good in sink areas.
Wooden worktops are easy to look after and maintain. They require oiling with linseed oil or Danish oil every 3 months but otherwise just need cleaning with a soft cloth and mild detergent. Water and spillages can stain lighter woods, so make sure they are cleaned up immediately and re-oil if needed. Re-oiling often hides water marks and stains. Scratches can be sanded off and the work top re-oiled. Avoid scorching with hot pans and tins and don’t chop straight on to the worktop.
Granite kitchen worktops
Granite is another popular and desirable material for kitchen worktops. It is a natural material and gives any kitchen a sense of luxury. It is available in many colours and shades, greens, blues, reds, browns, greys, whites and blacks, and so will complement any colour cabinet. You can also buy glossy, highly polished granite or granite with a matte finish.
Granite is very durable and is low maintenance. For general cleaning, wipe with a soft cloth dampened with a mild detergent. It is heat resistant to very high temperatures, water resistant and scratch resistant. It can be marked by red wine and damaged by highly acidic and alkaline liquids such as vinegar and lemon juice, so clean the surface immediately after a spillage.
Granite worktops are quite expensive, although generally cheaper than Corian. Granite can be cut to size but is heavy to transport and lift.
Quartz kitchen worktops
Quartz is a naturally hard-wearing material which is resistant to heat and water. It does not absorb liquid spills and so is an ideal work surface material. It is resistant to a temperature of about 250º, in case you accidentally put a pan down on it, but it is best to use trivets.
Quartz is very hygienic and is easy to keep clean by wiping with a soft cloth, dampened with a mild detergent. Although it is resistant to liquids, any spillages should be mopped up straight away so that they are easier to clean off.
Quartz work tops are long lasting and any damage, such as scratches and scorches, can be sanded off. It is available in a wide range of colours.
Corian kitchen worktops
Corian worktops are very desirable because they can be formed into any shape and size without the need for joins or seams. Corian can also be used for sinks, so you can actually get an integrated sink in your worktop
Corian worktops are available in a wide range of colours and are very practical because there are no unhygienic seams to trap food and dirt. They are water and stain resistant and heat resistant up to about 250º C, simply clean with as soft, damp cloth and a mild detergent such as washing up liquid or soap. Scratches or scorch marks can be sanded off.
These worktops can be quite expensive but are highly practical and hard-wearing – a real plus point when it comes to selling your house.
Laminate kitchen worktops
Laminate worktops are the cheapest option for worktops and can often be fitted by a DIY enthusiast. They are available in a wide range of finishes and colours and can look like granite and quartz. Some laminates have rolled edges, others require a trim. They are easy to care for but lighter colours can stain, so mop up spillages immediately. Laminate worktops are prone to heat damage and scratching but repair kits can be bought to cover scratches. Choose thicker laminates for durability.