Whether you’re renovating or building a new kitchen, choosing your kitchen benchtop material is a big decision. There are plenty of different materials out there, from affordable laminates to hard-wearing granite to luxurious carrara marble. Each material has its own pros and cons and can vary dramatically in price. Before making your decision, you want to make sure you’ve done your research, and we can get you started.
- Know your budget
Before you even begin looking at potential benchtop materials, you need to know your budget. Knowing how much you have to spend will help you to narrow down the options, ensuring you don’t waste time exploring options that are out of your price range.Remember that your budget will need to include the cost of the material and its transport, installation and labour costs and any additional work that needs to be done in your kitchen to correctly install the bench. It’s also a good idea to have some money on hand for any unexpected costs.Unfortunately, a smaller budget may mean that you need to compromise when it comes to the functionality or aesthetic of your benchtop. You may need to choose materials that do not perform as well or do not look exactly as you would like. So, once you know how much you have to spend, you need to think about the performance and functionality of each material.
- Can it handle the heat?
If you love to cook, you’ll likely want a benchtop that can handle the heat of the kitchen. For some benchtop materials – like laminate, bamboo or marble – even a moderate heat can damage the surface. If you think heat may be a problem, consider materials like tile, sealed granite, stainless steel or polished concrete. For less heat-resistant materials, heat damage can be extremely difficult to remove and may end up being permanent.You can, of course, make an effort to only place hot items on appropriate surfaces, like a stove top. Additionally, you can purchase pot rests to save your bench from heat marks.
- How will it fare in the wet?
Kitchens are known as wet areas. From the food prep to the cooking to the washing up, there’s a lot of moisture that the surfaces need to deal with. When it comes to water resistance, different materials will perform very differently.Marble, for example, is a particularly soft and porous stone that will quickly absorb water and stains. Granite, on the other hand, is much denser and more naturally water resistant.The surface’s water resistance can also affect its hygiene. For porous surfaces, like marble or concrete, water can seep into the material, leading to the growth of mould and bacteria.Other than metal benchtops, most other materials – including timber, concrete, natural stone and engineered stone – will require periodic sealing to protect the surface from staining and water damage.
- How tough is it?
Your kitchen benchtop should be able to withstand a fair amount of daily wear and tear. From sharp knife edges to knocks from heavy pots and pans, you want a tough surface that won’t need regular repairs or touch ups.Most materials on the market can handle the odd scratch from a knife, but it’s still recommended you use a chopping board rather than cutting straight on the bench.When it comes to knocks and impacts, the field is more divided. Marble, polished concrete engineered stone and tile are the most likely to be damaged. Typically, you’ll see this damage as chips or nicks on corners. In some cases, you may be able to smooth back the material or replace a small section to repair this damage.But if you want to avoid this hassle, you’re better off picking a hardier material like sealed granite or bamboo.
Some benchtop materials require more maintenance than others. If you aren’t a keen cleaner or don’t have time for household chores, avoid marble, granite and concrete. These materials require regularly cleaning to keep any seals intact, as well as regular resealing too.Stainless steel requires little maintenance and, as a non-porous surface, it’s easy to clean and keep hygienic. However, stainless steel can be prone to streaks and fingerprints, making it a challenge to keep clean from a purely aesthetic point of view. To keep it looking great, it will require regular cleaning using specialised stainless steel cleaning solutions.For a low-maintenance option, consider engineered quartz, tile or laminate. However, the grout on a tile bench can make things a little tricky as you need to effectively get into these small spaces for a thorough clean. You may also have a similar issue around the joins between laminate pieces.
Regardless of your budget, you should be able to find a kitchen benchtop that suits your tastes and fits the style of your home. You may like to match materials already used in your kitchen, like using stainless steel to complement your fridge or oven. Alternatively, you may want to contrast materials in the space, like using timber or bamboo amongst metals.Think about the atmosphere you want to create. For instance, if you want a sense of luxury, use carrara marble. If you want a sleek, minimalist look, polished concrete may be better.As you explore the wide world of kitchen benchtop materials, remember that your budget will ultimately decide the end result. However, understanding what you want out of a benchtop will also affect your choice.