KITCHEN WORKTOPS – WHICH MATERIAL IS BEST?

Kitchen Worktops: No One Magic Bullet!

Kitchen Worktops: There are few areas of the home where as many choices of different materials are on offer as for your kitchen worktops. With at least eight totally different options, it is small wonder that homeowners feel pulled in every direction over what to buy.

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An 1810 company ceramic undermount sink set under a Dekton Fjord worktop

Part of the problem is that every material out there claims to solve all the problems. Companies that sell only one of the eight materials for kitchen worktops will tell you all the good news about their product – but not look you in the eye and fess up to its weak points. The result of that is effectively a lot of misinformation. Many people call us or visit our showroom with the “You don’t want granite – it stains!” line ringing in their ears from a quartz enthusiast, and it takes a while to get a more balanced view across.

Of course, anyone in sales is going to be tempted to sing the praises of their particular product, only mention its good points, and put down all the others. But that approach tends to bite back in the long-haul. Disappointing your customers by not telling them the full story is not the way to generate ongoing recommendations. And word of mouth is the life blood of a business like ours.

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Silestone Quartz worktop – Blanco Stellar

So, for us, an important part of honest selling is managing expectation and helping customers think through their particular needs and challenges for their kitchen.  We want people who come to us to be clear about what our kitchen worktops both can and can’t be expected to do.  Helping someone to work out what they really need and want is more than half the battle when it comes to meeting their needs.

Kitchen Worktops: the Challenges

Kitchens are terrifying places. In one room are concentrated many of the sharpest, hottest, hardest, stickiest and most lethal objects in the house. Life for a kitchen worktop is tough, with threats of every kind. Spare a thought for your humble worktops next time you chop veg, spill some hot oil or leave curry or tea overnight to ingrain the stain. Kitchen working surfaces have to face all of these challenges,  perform well and go on looking good…

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Chemical attack – the bleach you use on the sink itself, or in a clothing handwash – chemical resistance

 

Dropping stuff – blows from heavy objects on the edge of the worktop. A surface can be scratch resistant and strong and yet still prone to chipping. You want a surface with low friability

 

Dust – very plain, smooth surfaces can show EVERYTHING, and seem to need another wipe down every five minutes. The way that a surface avoids showing basic dust and finger marks can be described as its liveability.

 

Grease – oil, butter, even finger marks can be annoyingly difficult to shift from some surfaces. And on some porous materials (eg wood) grease can cause permanent damage. You need grease resistance and forgivingness!

 

Heat – the cup, saucepan, casserole put casually down at high temperature – heat damage is a real issue with some worktop types – you need heat resistance

 

Knives and other hard/sharp surfaces – kitchen worktops are subject to constant potential abrasion/scratching – you need hardness

 

Soaking damage – exposure to standing water for periods of time and possible water damage – stability, durability and strength of the material itself when wet

 

Surface staining – the toddler with the permanent marker, wine, curry, tea and beetroot – you know the stuff! Stain resistance

 

Water penetration – sub-surface staining from penetration by water or even oil-based colouring agents – from red wine to curry and back. A surface can be strong when soaked in red wine, but if it is a dull pink ever after, you will be changing it! You need low permeability especially in light colours

 

Weight stress – the big guy who insists on perching on your breakfast bar overhang at a party – worktop breakage is rare but not unheard of – you need good tensile / flexural strength

 

Each of the main kinds of worktops performs really well under at least some of these pressures. But there is NO ONE MAGIC BULLET which really is the perfect solution for all of them. Everything has some degree of trade off, and you need to think through the look you want, and what really are the biggest challenges in your particular home.

We are very much aware that customers are all different – and that means that the challenges to the worktops we install are going to vary from home to home.

  • Some people love cleaning shiny black granite and actually want a surface that shows every speck so that they can know the kitchen worktops are REALLY clean!
  • Some people relish the thought of regularly resealing a light-coloured stone worktop or reoiling a wooden worktop. Others would rather not.
  • Some people are more likely to drop heavy and hard objects than others – you know what you’re like!
  • Some families have small children (or grandchildren) marauding around the house creating happy chaos. Others have a quieter, less hectic and risky existence.
  • Some people would never dream of leaving a red wine or tea-ring on a surface for five minutes anyway – other people might wipe the surfaces once a week.
  • Some people hardly cook at all, or never eat curry, drink red wine or do anything that might stain their worktops. Others use gallons of food colouring in garish cupcakes.
  • Some people love to put hot pans straight onto the worktop. Others like using a trivet.

And so the list goes on. Most of all, people vary in the look they want. A wild Brazilian granite that is the dream surface for some people just gives others a migraine. The pristinely smooth quartz or Dekton that will crown the sleek modern kitchen in one home would bore another family silly – and drive them up the wall as it shows off every speck of dust!

We see part of our job as helping people not only to understand kitchen worktops, but to understand their own needs. That’s the way to avoid disappointments and leave our customers satisfied.

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A home with little ones has special challenges

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Some people just love cleaning and resealing…

Kitchen Worktops: The options out there

Against the backdrop of those varied needs, as well as the common challenges, worktop options start to line up. Each material meets some needs better than others. You need to think about your home, your family, your needs, he look you want… and then buy what is best. Fortunately, though there is no one material that is perfect in every way, there is plenty of high-performance choice.

Concrete – great at looking like concrete, great for a brutalist style kitchen. Seamless. Possible stain issues. Making and sealing has to be done WELL to last. There are no cheap shortcuts with concrete.

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A concrete worktop

Corian and similar – seamless, which is great for anti-bacterial purposes, especially with pressure hose wash-downs etc. It scratches fairly easily. Corian is ideal for spray-cleaned environments where hygiene is critical but abrasion/scratch risk is low. The motorway service station washroom rather than the kitchen is the classic use.

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Corian in a large washroom

Dekton/ceramic – awesome against scratching and staining. Available in great colours, though the marble-look, as at present, is printed on the surface and not genuinely full-body. Just make sure you don’t hit it hard with anything heavy – chipping and serious fractures are a risk. If Dekton is a ‘must have’ for cleaning and hardness, we advise checking that your home insurance covers worktop replacement.

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Dekton Trilium in a Horsham kitchen

Glass – wonderfully stain resistant and superb against chemical damage. Like stone, can be made in any shape, and looks very sleek and modern. Very hard to keep looking perfectly smear free, and tends to dull over time – it just isn’t as hard as granite.

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Glass worktops

Granite – hard against scratching, strong in overhangs. The high polish on granite means that surface staining can be particularly easy to treat. Granite can chip, and light-coloured stones can stain below the surface and may require regular resealing, perhaps every 9 months to a year. However, there are no stain issues with black and other dark colours, where granite really scores. And look at Sensa for the solution to the staining issues in light stones. We stock Sensa Colonial White.

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Classic Blue Pearl Granite

Laminate – very economical, can look great and easy to clean. Not very tough, prone to water and heat attack. See our recent blog on laminate v granite here.

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Wood-effect laminate worktop

Quartz – hard against scratching, exceptional strength. Can chip. There can be no water damage or sub-surface staining due to the resin content. Surface staining is possible; the slightly less polished finish than natural stone/granite can make some common kitchen stains harder to treat. Vast range of colours and price bands. Amazing emulation of marble and some other natural stones. Can look plasticky and hard to clean in black. Check out our article What is the Difference Between Granite and Quartz?

Oxted Surrey Affordable Granite Silestone Eternal Calacatta Gold

Calacatta marble-style quartz in a Surrey kitchen

Stainless steel – practically indestructible, great to clean, fairly scratchable (though once scratched enough that becomes part of its ‘look’ or patina). A very industrial or educational look – your kitchen can look like a canteen, school kitchen or a morgue, all contexts where steel is standard. Using it in a small area as a feature can be great, though.

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Stainless steel worktops in a training kitchen

Wood – stunning and warm look. Really homely. Very hard to maintain free of staining or water damage over the long haul, with fairly intensive regular oiling requirements. Can be great as a feature island / warm breakfast bar with no sink and hob, leaving granite, quartz or steel to look after the wet and oily areas.

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Woodblock kitchen worktops

The point is, every material for kitchen worktops has its pros and cons. There is no one magic bullet. We are happy to sell granite, quartz and Dekton, but we don’t want to put other products down. Choice can be confusing – but it is also wonderful! We have a wealth of great-looking and great-performing materials to choose from – to suit every budget. Call us on 01293 863992 for straightforward info and help to achieve the kitchen look and functionality that you really want. We are at your service!

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Blanco Massa Quartz in a Guildford kitchen. See case study here.

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Azul Platino Granite in an East Grinstead kitchen.

As affordable as any quartz that we sell, vastly cheaper than Dekton, durable, beautiful and classy.

We like selling classic natural stone! 

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