Countertops and Worktops

[an error occurred while processing this directive] What a change a couple of decades have made for kitchen countertop materials. In addition to the popular laminate material, there is now concrete, glass, and stainless steel to provide a contemporary look.

More classical materials are natural stone and granite, ceramic, and lavastone.

Rather than just look at the cosmetic affect here, we are gong to provide you with an overview of each material as it may save you thousands of pounds from a wrong purchase. This is not just about looking good, it's about practicality and buying a product that is fit for the purpose.

Let us not forget the affect that the design of the kitchen sink and taps has on the overall look and feel of the countertop area.

To look at how countertops enhance the overal feel of a kitchen, go to our Kitchen Photo Gallery

Let's start with Laminate.

The basic make-up of a laminate countertop is a base of chipboard or fibre composite board with a melamine type layer on top to create the final colour and texture.

Laminate board is probably the cheapest material to use per metre and like-wise the least expensive to fit. The kitchen DIYer can fit laminate quite easily however, be aware that professional fitters use a template tool to cut the corner sections.

Most laminate finishes are impact resistant and easy to look after; a damp cloth is sufficient to keep the surface clean.

Warning: Placing a hot pan directly onto laminate and water seepage can cause the laminate to part from the base board.

The next most popular material used for kitchen countertops today is Natural Stone. This comes in the form of granite, quartz, marble, slate, soapstone, and limestone.

All these materials are more expensive than laminate and not a DIY option. However, the investment is most definitely worth it when you see the finished product.

Granite is very durable and scratch and heat resistant - but don't lay a hot pan directly on it for long. Be aware though that, because this is a natural product, it can absorb stains; so it will need sealing to avoid this. Talk to the kitchen supplier and fitter for details.

Quartz Countertops are the most robust of all the natural stone products. It is scratch, and stain resistant. As with granite, be careful not to lay a hot pan directly onto the surface for long.

The colour finishes are more consistent than other types but hey, what's the deal with people who want the natural look but don't like the fluctuations in colour from piece to piece.

Marble Not as durable as granite and definitely requires sealing. However, it's great as base for rolling dough and working pastry!

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Slate - you either love it or you hate it! It is hard wearing, heat resistant, has low stain absorbency, and has a beauty all of its own.

Soapstone Countertops is a much under-rated finish. You can buy sinks to match which provides a real contemporary look. Stains can be rubbed out and it is heat resistant - not proof! You can also treat Soapstone with mineral oil which brings out a richer quality to it's finish and colour.

Limestone is the most porous of the natural stones used for kitchen countertops. Therefore it will need sealing but has a great weathered look - if that's what you want.

Counter Tops made from Solid Wood material are either Maple hardwood used as "butcher block" (ideal for carving or chopping meat) or Cherry, Teak, and Walnut that are softer than Maple as therefore need more care. Any solid wood countertop will need sealing and on-going oiling. The product will obviously show dents and cut marks but if the "aged" look is what you want, then go for it.

Tile and Ceramic products used as a kitchen countertop surface can provide a variety of finishes, textures, and colours.

You can use materials such as porcelain mosaic tiles, normal ceramic tiles, quarry stone, glass tiles, or natural stone cut into tile sized shapes.

You will need to discuss the durability of each product with the supplier to assess it's fitness for what you want to achieve from your countertops. Some of these issues are of course discussed above.

Stainless Steel Countertops provide a great "professional" look in any kitchen. Most manufacturers lay the stainless steel onto a solid wood sub-structure to provide strength and reduce the "metallic" sound.

Be aware that, just like a stainless steel sink, this product will scratch and could dent - dependent upon the quality of the steel and the sub-structure.

Obviously, it will not stain and is heat resistant. It also shows all those finger marks so cleaning freaks will have a great time!

Glass is one of those materials that has come on in leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. Have a good look at it and see if it's for you.

Be aware that there is a difference between toughened and laminated glass; laminated glass can be cut and drilled after fitting if required; toughened glass must be "worked" as part of the manufacturing process. You cannot cut or drill toughened glass.

However, it comes in a variety of colours and thicknesses; it is hard waring and easy to keep clean. Check it out, it looks great.

Concrete - yes concrete; not how you think of it though. This kitchen countertop product is getting more and more popular as it can be worked into most shapes (including sinks), it is heat and scratch resistant, comes in custom made colours if required, and it is stronger than other natural stone.

Such countertops must be sealed to resist stains and must be regularly waxed to maintain it's sheen and, finally, cut marks will show.

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