How to choose the right kitchen benchtop for your home

June 1, 2021

When it comes to making a decision on a benchtop for your kitchen, the amount of choices can sometimes be overwhelming. The kitchen is often the focal point of the home, where people gather to eat, drink, socialise, do life admin and homework, and much more. Modern kitchens in Australia have evolved into a more open space, so you will be seeing a lot of it. For these reasons we think it is important to make the right choice on your bench top, for you and your family when it comes to strength, functionality, budget, visual impact and a material you will love!

In this article we will unpack the pros and cons for each option, and give you an idea of cost.

Engineered stone – You may have come across brands such as Caesarstone, Silestone, Quantum Quartz and Essastone, which are all manufacturers of engineered stone. Engineered stone is made by mixing aggregate with pigments and polymers, creating a solid surface which is extremely strong, mostly heat resistant, easy to look after and comes in a variety of colours that mimic natural stone.

Keeping in mind it is sold by the slab, which limits its length to 3000mm. While joins are becoming finer, it is important to consider where the join falls if you are installing a longer bench or island.

Engineered stone is not as porous as granite or marble so does not have to be sealed. It is very difficult to scratch but can be prone to chipping. Remember to clean up things like red wine and tea if spills in a timely manner, as it can stain when exposed such things for an extended period. Make sure you use approved stone cleaners or get it professionally cleaned.

COST: Mid range. This option can vary in price, starting from $1200 per 3000mm x 1400mm slab for standard colours to $4500 per slab for premium ranges. Cost will be added of undermount sink cut-outs and drainage grooves.

Natural stone – When we talk about natural stone, we are referring to marble, granite or limestone. These products are very luxurious and beautiful, and being natural material every slab is unique, and aesthetically pleasing (but come with a price tag). Understanding their porosity is probably the biggest consideration here, as you will find  marble is highly porous, meaning items such as oil, red wine, vinegar, coffee and spices will easily stain. Marble can also lack durability so it will scratch, crack and chip more easily. Granite benchtops are much less porous, making them more stain and scratch-resistant, and they come in a wide and beautiful selection of colours. Marble and granite bench tops can either come in a gloss (polished) or matt (honed) finish. It is best to visit the warehouse and choose the slab so you are getting exactly what you expect. These surfaces are found in higher end projects, forever homes and are great for people who love cleaning!

COST: High, but again this varies, dependent on the type of stone, where it is from and the thickness of the slab. Marble ranges from $800 to $2200 per square metre and granite from about $700 to $1700 per square metre. A sink cut-out usually costs $250 and drainage grooves about $350, however additional costs incur for cuts for undermount sinks, where edges need to be carefully finished.

Solid timber – Solid timber is a beautiful option if you are looking to add warmth and texture to your kitchen space and works well with many interior styles such as coastal, scandal, modern and traditional. Not to mention our ever increasing desire to bring the outside in and surround ourselves with natural materials. Timber bench tops are unique and can be formed from one solid length, or be pieced together in a butchers block style. As timber is a natural product it can be prone to scratches and marks, and will leave scorch marks by placing hot saucepans on it – so will need some regular maintenance to preserve appearance over time. On the other side of the coin the general wear and tear will add to the aesthetic of the natural material. The surface will need to be sealed when it is installed, resealed in the future to remove any marks, and you can repair any damage by re-sanding it.

COST: The price for timber benchtops is mid-high range depending on the type of timber you choose, and whether you go for a custom made, recycled timber, or go to Bunnings or IKEA. Prices range from $550 to $950 per square metre.

 

Laminate – Laminex and Polytec are the leading suppliers of laminate, which is made by adhering the decorative finish (layers of paper) over chipboard, ply or MDF and coated in a clear layer of melamine. It is important to note how far laminates have come in the past few years, which provide a solution which is versatile, effective and affordable. They come in a huge range of colours, textures and styles, with some selections giving you look and feel of timber or stone without the expense or upkeep. Laminate is stain resistant and almost anything can be cleaned off. The main disadvantages to be aware of is that laminate can’t withstand the same level of heat as say, natural stone and if you drop something on it, it will chip, and once the melamine layer is broken, water can seep in underneath causing swelling.. That aside it does provide a long lasting and durable bench top.

COST: Laminate is the most budget friendly benchtop material. It is are generally sold by the linear metre and in various widths (from 600mm to 1200mm), with prices from $120 per linear metre for a 600mm benchtop in a standard finish to $440 per lineal metre for a 1000mm to 1200mm benchtop in a premium finish.

Porcelain – Porcelain benchtops come in the form of very large porcelain tiles, so large you can use a single piece as a benchtop, minus the joins found in its tiled counterpart. Porcelain is made of powdered clay and coloured pigments which are bonded together at very high temperatures. It can be printed with finishes that resemble stone, timber, concrete and rusted metal, and created with different textures, from glossy to matt.  It is extremely dense and non-porous, very heat resistant, which means it’s great to use around cooktops. Another advantage of Porcelain is it can be used outdoors, so your alfresco kitchen can have the same look as indoors. Artedomus is a large supplier of porcelain tiles as well as Dekton and Neolith.

COST: You will fine porcelains price point similar to the base cost of natural stone, but generally more for installation, as it requires specialist installers and tools.

Solid Surface Benchtops – Solid surface is made from quartz and plastic polymers, a man made product. It looks seamless and clean and you can achieve large runs of bench top with the appearance of no joins. Sinks can also be seamlessly integrated, and it is translucent, so you can backlight it for that desired effect. Stains are easily removed on solid surface and it is easy to clean. There is the option of having your bench top repaired by a professional if you manage to scratch of dint it. Being UV resistant it works well for outdoor kitchens. Corian is the well know brand of solid surface.

COST: Solid Surface can be at the higher end price wise, especially if you’re after a colour that’s not of their standard range. 

Concrete – Concrete benchtops are formed and poured on site, and will be very heavy, so the subfloor structure needs to be considered before pursuing this path (additional support can be added, but will come at a cost).  The concrete however will provide a stunning raw surface in your kitchen which will be completely customisable in terms of size, shape, level of polish/aggregate exposure, making it’s appearance entirely unique (unlike its imitation equivalent, such as engineered stone). Concrete will need to be finished and if cuts for sinks etc are required, cost will be added for labour.

Cost: Mid range, approximately $1000 to $1750 per square metre depending on the complexity of the formwork and the finish.

Stainless steel – Stainless steel is mostly found in restaurant kitchen environments, however if paired with the right materials it can blend nicely into a residential kitchen. It is easy to clean, sturdy, and splash backs and sinks can be integrated. It will show scratches however, but given the right thickness, they can be polished every five to ten years.

COST: For good-quality stainless steel, allow about $900 per square metre and $300 per sink.

 

We hope you found this article helpful, and of course Lococo Build’s Interior Designer Hannah will help you in choosing not only what benchtop is right for you, but all of your material selections.

 

Sources:

http://www.marg.studio/marg-mondays/choosingkitchenbenchtops

https://www.homebeautiful.com.au/kitchen-benchtop-material-we-compare-7-popular-surfaces

https://www.homestolove.com.au/popular-benchtops-and-why-to-choose-them-16377