The Opun kitchen worktop selector
Finding the right kitchen worktop or counter for your home is no easy task. You need to find a material that suits your specific requisites, factoring in; how much you want to spend, your own personal tastes and whether you’re willing to put a little effort into a material’s maintenance or you want something utilitarian. With all this in mind, here’s our rundown of all you need to know about different worktop materials when deciding how to best renovate your kitchen:
Pick up your favourite cook book, flip over to that obligatory picture of the author leaning over the counter, the chances are it’s a hardwood worktop: Jamie, Hugh, Nigel and Nigella are all fond of a wooden counter, and for good reason. Depending on the finish, wood can look modern or traditional, rustic or urban. It always gives a homely, wholesome charm and pairs beautifully with any colour or style of kitchen.
However, the numerous charms of wood do come at a price. Depending on what specific type of wood you opt for, it can cost considerably more than other options. On top of this, it takes a fair bit of up keep to maintain a pristine look and will need to be oiled every now and then. You can normally fix any damage done to a wooden surface with a bit of sanding and refinishing, but with an organic material like wood, many feel that this imperfection is part of the joy – viewing every scratch, stain and scorch mark their countertop has accumulated over the years as part of its overall beauty.
Perhaps the favourite material for really high-end kitchens, granite is one of the most expensive materials commonly used for countertops. It has a timeless aesthetic, which is handy considering how long it lasts with a little maintenance. It’s easy to clean, highly scratch resistance and its heat resistance means you can take pans right from the hob and place them on top!
On the downside the installation can be costly on top of the purchase price and you’ll need to find a base that can support its considerable weight, and if it does get damaged for example, if a corner chips it’s not easy to repair.
If you’re a budding chef who loves to show off prestige cooking skills, then consider using stainless steel. It’s tough, low maintenance and hygienic – that’s why it’s used in basically every single professional kitchen around the world. Its looks might not be for everyone but, if done right, it can come off chic and modern, and there’s no need to worry about scorching it with a hot pan.
If you’ve ever worked in a professional kitchen before, you’ll know that steel is not indestructible. It can scratch and dent, and once it does it’s not easy to rectify and therefore not the best choice for someone who wants their counter to look perpetually new. You’ll also want to match it with appropriately high end, professional looking appliances so the rest of your kitchen doesn’t look out of place.
One of the most economical materials out there, laminate counters are typically made out of MDF or plywood coated in a protective plastic cover. These types of counters can vary in quality depending on just how much you’re willing to spend. However, a very high quality laminate counter will still be cheaper than using other options.
It’s not the most robust of materials, so you will want to invest in a good number of chopping boards to protect the counter from being scratched or burnt by hot and heavy cookware.
When it comes to aesthetics you can buy laminate counters that replicate just about any other material fairly well. Plain, coloured laminate is a stylish choice in itself, however a wood effect laminate counter will ultimately lack that organic feel.
This material is one of the shorter lived options for a counter, but its low price means it can be replaced relatively inexpensively.
A manufactured material made by mixing crushed quartz with resin, the result has all of the benefits of materials like granite, but is if anything more resistant to staining and heat, making it very practical. Although still costly, it is less pricy than both granite and marble and does not need sealing. It comes in lots of patterns and colours, but will always have a faintly shiny, artificial look when compared to natural stone counters.
Toughened glass can make interesting, attractive and practical countertops for a contemporary decorated kitchen. A light and airy glass counter will brighten up the room, it’s a hygienic material robust enough to stand up to high temperatures and it’s fairly scratch resistant.
While they’re easy to wipe down and won’t easily stain, if you want your counters to have a flawless shine there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself spending a fair part of your time in the kitchen buffing out every last streak and smudge.
For a really decadent kitchen, few things beat the old school glamour of a marble counter. It’s a beautiful, characterful material where a counter slab has its own unique patterning. It’s robust and heat resistant, but not as impervious to scratching as other stones like granite.
It is perhaps obvious that a material like marble comes at a price, both to purchase and properly install. While it is a tough material, it can be damaged by acidic solutions, so make sure you mop up any spilt vinegar or lemon juice quickly. It can also be stained and will need to be resealed on occasion.
Cultured marble looks like the real thing, but it isn’t… It’s a combination of crushed marble and thermoplastic resin and available in matte or gloss finishes. It’s cheaper than the real thing (though still pricey) and more resistant to staining. However, it does scratch easily and still needs regular sealing.
Solid Surface worktops are a relatively new innovation in the world of kitchens but are becoming an increasingly popular option amongst those in the know. They are fairly inexpensive and their non-porous nature means they won’t stain, will be easy to clean and resistant to mould and mildew. Like laminate, it is available in a huge range of colours and styles that can mate other materials. On the downside, it’s vulnerable to damage from hot pans and can be hard to repair.
Concrete may not sound like the most obvious, or desirable material to build your kitchen work tops, but hear us out. Modern techniques allow for that concrete to be poured in place, in turn allowing it to be perfectly configured to fit any kitchen, and with minimal expense. It’s available in a wide variety of colours, patterns and with gloss or matte finishes. It’s also incredibly strong- in fact, its strength and density give it its downsides: it’s not for giving on dropped crockery, and it’s hard edges can be a hazard for children running around the room.