Choosing anything in a kitchen can be a daunting once you factor in just the furniture choices, Matte or gloss? handle or handle-less? slab or shaker? Antique White, White, Polar White or Brilliant White? A bin pullout or wire baskets?
The Appliance choices aren’t any less overwhelming – Neff? Bosch? Siemens? Whirlpool? Hotpoint? Caple? ISE? Rangemaster? Indesit? Fisher and Paykel? Falcon? Stoves? and about another dozen I can’t name of the top of my head.
Worktops because of their prominence in the kitchen can prove a particular challenge. Luckily there are ways to narrow down what exactly are the right worktops for you. There are obviously a few transferable rules and I’ll cover them in future blogs. But, we’re here to talk about worktops.
It’s a lot to cover so let’s break this up to make it easier…
Budgets in my estimation are one of the most useful things I can know about a design going in. The last thing I want to do is display an idea that a customer loves but simply cant afford, especially when that little number before hand could allow me to provide an affordable alternative without raising hopes beyond means. Having a budget in mind whether you’re renovating the entire kitchen, replacing the worktops, or adding on a new feature piece can be the single biggest guiding factor to narrowing down the choices.
In my experience worktops have a sliding scale of cost, now this isn’t a perfect representation as worktops have many price ranges within them that may cross over with other products but it is a fair guide.
Standard Laminates… Premier Laminates… German Laminate… Solid Wood… Solid Surface… Natural Granite/Granite Alternatives… Dekton.
These can range anywhere from under £100 for a 3-4m board right up to tens of thousands for your entire project.
Now there are absolutely worktops on the market that aren’t reflected by this list but if you can’t find something you like in the given list then you may be beyond my help.
If light woods or dark grains are your aesthetic choice then the Laminate and wood ranges are the obvious place to start. Almost any colour wood is going to provide a timeless style in a kitchen and almost all laminates standard colours have been sold for years without leaving the market. Laminates have the benefit of working with just about any kitchen door out there (even if they can look quite cheap on more modern unusual doors). One of the more important aesthetics with laminates and solid wood is the edge profile, a rounded bull nose or square edge finish can accent a kitchen perfectly and not all edges are equal quality, In my personal opinion the German Laminate or Solid wood edges are worth that extra money for the extra quality they provide.
Solid Surfaces provide more block colours and tend towards very attractive White, Black, Grey and Browns. Its not uncommon for these to include decorative ‘flecks’ or veins in an attempt to present as marble or granite. In my experience Maia and Minerva have been the most common in this regard, Maia being in the solid surface is a little bit of a misnomer as it is laminate block layered with a solid surface resin, whereas Minerva is a similar resin condensed into a solid block. Both offer a huge amount of customization in their fitting flexibility allowing for stong design choices.
Natural Granite, Substitutes and Dekton are definitely on the upper end of budgets and design. Natural granite is exactly what is sounds like, Huge slabs are dug out of the ground, cut and polished and honestly look beautiful. While they may not be to everyones taste it is rare that you can’t find something to match what you need.
The Granite substitutes like Silestone and some of the other products like Caesarstone go along way to replacing granite and marble colours while offering more protection for the end user, in particular Caesarstone can be digitally cut to allow for roaming veins to carry over joins and even down the side of islands.
Dekton is personally one of the most impressive products on the market for myself. Its ridiculously highly scratch resistant and temperature resistant and stain resistant to boot. It comes in some of the nicest finishes I have seen and look forward to adding a display to our showroom.
I myself view all things in the kitchen as the more you take care of them, the better they can take care of you. I use anti slip cutting mats under each of my table top appliances and have a slew of coasters to protect from heat and use more of those cutting mats when cutting anything, even if its with a butter knife to prevent damage.
Laminates are the simplest and most common worktop out there, any carpenter worth his salt can fit a laminate (although I think there is no substitute for an actual fitter). Depending on the choice you land on the laminates finish may be more sensitive to heat, textured tops wont have the same scratch resistance and poorly made laminates always risk delaminating at the corners. The good news is laminate is easily replaceable in the future because of it’s low cost.
German Laminates so far has proven to be very resistant to most damage with no complaints from customers in the half a decade I’ve been selling them. Its custom cutting means it can be very easy to fit you only pay for what you order, this all means less wastage by the end of the project.
Solid surfaces tend to offer more protections from heat and scratches but less from blunt force, which being fair to most people taking a hammer to their worktop isn’t average behavior. Darker colours can prove difficult because scratches appear lighter, the micro damage all worktops accrue is more visible. In terms of fitting, your kitchen fitter should have no problem assuming they have the right tools and have done the appropriate homework.
Silestone and other manufactured stones hold one big advantage over natural granite and that is the clear coating they use, Natural Granite has a porous surface which allows liquids and bacteria’s to pool in, this has been a little sensationalized and seen the alternatives take a big share of the market.
As mentioned above Dekton is the clear front runner for durability. The image displayed here is a sample kit provided by Cosentino and yes that sample is on fire. These upper end products will more often than not include the template and fitting within their price which saves money.
The main thing I always tell my customer is to make sure it’s something you can live with for years to come and always think about the way you use your kitchen.
If your budget is 10K for an average sized kitchen including fitting then being realistic, The upper end stones may not be the right choice for you without massive compromises on everything else, the better compromise may be to find a solid surface with matching or similar styles and go with that instead.
rule out what you don’t want. It might sound silly but it’s something I see time and again, a customer returning to something they put down for something else and keeping their choice foggy.
and Lastly (We got there in the end), don’t fill your head with useless knowledge on the product, that’s what I’m for. Have a clear idea of what you want from your worktops and trust your designer or salesperson to lead you to a suitable product.
If you have any questions or comments please let me know
Designer and Administrator
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