Whether you’re completely renovating your space, or buying your first kitchen, finding a worktop to perfectly suit your needs is vital. It’s an area I would always suggest allocating a chunk of your budget too, as well. The surface you choose needs to be durable, long-lasting, hard-wearing and, of course look good too.
No one wants to be too afraid to put anything down on in case it marks or scratches, right? So, together with Sally Smith, I’ve put together a helpful guide with everything you need to know about kitchen worktops…
Sintered stone worktops
If you’re a keen cook, then this worktop could be one to consider. Sintered stone is a composition of natural materials, fused together using pressure and a very high heat, known as sintering. Being heat and temperature resistant, non-porous and having antibacterial properties are ideal if you kneading dough straight onto the surface, for example. Lapitec and Dekton offer the beauty of natural stone, but with added durability.
- Stone oozes a timeless charm and, if well maintained, can last a lifetime
- Granite and quartz are highly resistant to stains and scratches
- Granite and natural stones are also among the most expensive options.
Granite and quartz are very low maintenance, requiring sealing when installed and up to 10 years later.
From around £200 per m.
If splashing out on a worktop isn’t on top of your wishlist. Plastic is regarded as the low budget alternative to natural materials, however thanks to improvements in laminate – technology have raised the standard, making it a worthy alternative for smaller budgets. When choosing laminate, don’t be tempted to get the cheapest as they can be prone to chipping.
- Widely available, very low maintenance, and suitable for a variety of budgets
- Laminate comes in styles such as tile replicas and solid wood-look designs
- It is quick and easy to fit, even as a DIY project
- High-definition printing means it looks like real wood or stone but at a fraction of the cost
- Can scratch easily, warp from water, and cannot be sanded down.
Wipe down with a non-abrasive detergent.
Expect to pay from £35 per m.
Composite or engineered
Composite or engineered stone worktops offers the natural beauty of stone, combined with the durability. Quartz is one of the main components due to its extreme hardness and resistance to acids. Quartz and wood worktops work well together, and are great for a kitchen island or breakfast bar for example. Another benefit is its versatility.
- Composite materials offer design flexibility, as they can be moulded to suit bespoke shapes
- They are long-lasting, need no treatment, and are more durable than natural stone
- Scratches can be repaired to make the worktop look like new
- One of the most expensive kitchen solutions
- Composites require highly trained specialists for installation as well as any repairs
Wipe down with a mild non-abrasive detergent.
From around £350 per m.
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If you love the industrial look, concrete could be your worktop of choice. As it is cast in a mould, concrete is very versatile. It works well with other materials such as wood. However due to its porous nature, concrete must be sealed on installation, followed by regular waxing to reduce the risk of staining. So keep your hot pots and pans away.
- The hard-wearing material increases in durability as it cures over time
- It shows off stains
- Can crack
- It requires installation by specialists and takes at least 30 days to cure completely
The concrete needs to be sealed properly and resealed every couple of years or it can become a haven for bacteria to grow.
Expect to pay from around £500 per m.
You can’t go wrong with wood. Versatile and priced for a variety of budgets, it adds warmth to your kitchen. Consider that changes in humidity and heat can cause the wood to expand or contract, so solid wood worktops should be fitted with a small gap between that and the adjacent wall for breathing. They also require thorough oiling prior to installation, followed by re-oiling every six months to maintain and keep it looking pristine.
- Solid wood is durable and beautiful
- It can be recycled
- Oak may require oiling once a week until it matures
- Specialist installation and maintenance are key
- Solid wood worktop could warp if the grains are not protected with, for instance, end caps
It can be sanded down to repair scratches, but simply apply oil as advised by your supplier to keep the surface looking good.
Expect to pay from £150 per m.
If you dream of a luxurious kitchen, marble is hugely popular. Thanks to its cool finish, it’s ideal for making pastries and dough – how amazing is that? Carrara is a favourite, but it is porous so care must be taken to avoid staining.
- Marble tops are natural stones with variable hues and veining
- If taken care of properly, marble surfaces are long-lasting
- Perfect for creating a glamorous space
- Softer and can be prone to scratching, burns, and stains
- It doesn’t fare well with hot pots and pans so they should be placed on trivets
- Depending on their quality, marble countertops can be very expensive
Striking marble tops need a daily wipedown with a microfibre cloth and warm water.
From around £200 per m.
Trend alert: Mix and match worktops for a unique look. Think a breakfast bar area with wood and a cooking area with quartz for example. It’s a great way to create an individual look and could even help you balance the books as you’ll need smaller quantities of each material – smart and stylish, right?
Now that hygiene is a more of priority than ever, stainless steel is a great choice for the kitchen. It’s non porous, so won’t foster bacterial growth. Not only that, it’s durable, waterproof, and heat and acid resistant.
- You can customise thickness and polished finishes
- Integrate welded sinks, gas burners and hobs
- It scratches easily
While fingerprints and smudges might show up more than on some materials, stainless steel is about as low maintenance as you can get, so with a quick wipe down with a suitable cleaner you will keep it looking sleek.
As one of the cheaper worktop products on the market, you can expect to pay around £150 per m.
A worktop is an investment and can really add wow factor to a kitchen design, so take time to visit showrooms with a good range of surfaces on display. Make sure you take a wide variety of samples away so you can play around with different materials, textures and colours to see how they look and feel in your kitchen in different lights.
Plus, don’t be afraid to experiment with reclaimed surfaces either, whether it be old school desks, pre-loved tiles, and scaffold boards or mix contrasting finishes. Remember to ensure your surfaces are food safe. Many manufacturers carry a NSF 51 certification, which means the worktop is safe to come in contact with food, but always check.
It’s not only the layout you need to consider – think about how you use your kitchen, too. Have you been cooking a lot recently? If you’re worried about spices or other ingredients staining your surface, a hard-wearing laminate or stainless steel may be more practical for the preparation and cooking areas. If you want to make a statement with an island unit, especially if you love to entertain, why not invest in a natural stone such as marble or granite?
The cost of worktops does vary greatly, from a couple of hundred pounds to nearer £1000 per sq m. The final price of your surface not only depends on the material but also the complexity of the installation – so check the cost per sq m and factor in any installation fee, too.
Featured image: Gerald Culliford’s dramatic Belvedere polished natural quartzite is priced from £300 per sq m.
Post updated on: 01/07/21