In the good old days, benchtops were functional laminated pieces of timber screwed to the top of cabinets, but today, benchtops have evolved into signature pieces of art that add class and sophistication to a home.
Thanks to technology, benchtops can be fabricated from a myriad of materials such as natural stone, engineered stone, timber, acrylic solid surface, stainless steel, and laminate. With so much choice, it’s hard to decide which type of benchtop to choose and which would be most suitable for your kitchen, so we’ve put together a guide to help you.
NATURAL STONE BENCHTOPS
Natural stone benchtops are manufactured from natural forming stone that is quarried from different locations around the world. These benchtops, with their natural striations, are a popular choice for many homeowners because of their unique markings, making no two pieces alike.
Natural stone products include granite, marble, limestone, travertine, slate, quartzite, sandstone, adoquin and onyx.
Pros of natural stone benchtops
Natural stone benchtops are quarried from the ground in their natural state, cut into slabs and fabricated into benchtops, so no chemicals are used during the fabrication process, making it a favourable choice for people looking to minimise their exposure to chemicals and additives. At the same time, some natural stone is also very resistant to chemicals, so acids and bases won’t harm the material. It is however recommended to seal natural stone benchtops to protect their surface.
When exposed to extreme heat, natural stone benchtops will not melt or blister. It is recommended though to use a trivet or cork mat when using appliances that emit heat over a long period of time, such as a slow cooker. The uneven distribution of heat can cause the benchtop to crack.
While natural stone benchtops cost more than other benchtops on the market, they are extremely durable and will last a lifetime with minimal maintenance required.
Cost: $ – $
ENGINEERED STONE BENCHTOPS
Engineered stone, also known as reconstituted stone or quartz, is a man-made material constructed from a combination of stone, glass or shells and a silicon resin bonding agent. Much like natural stone, engineered stone benchtops are a popular benchtop choice and widely used in newly built, modern homes.
Pros of engineered stone benchtops
Engineered stone benchtops are non-porous, meaning that moisture cannot penetrate the material, thus making it very hygienic for kitchen, bathroom and laundry applications.
Good for the environment
Because engineered stone slabs are made predominantly from crushed rock, it leaves a small environmental footprint than natural stone products.
Heat and stain resistant
Due to the makeup of engineered stone benchtops, they are quite resistant to heat and because they are largely non-porous, they are also less likely to stain and mark easily. Engineered stone benchtops are not recommended for outdoor use as the resin is prone to discolouring from the sun and the heat and cold of outdoors will also cause the material to expand and contract, leading to cracks over time.
Engineered stone is pretty tough but can chip around the edges if knocked with a heavy pot. The good news is that these chips can sometimes be repaired but it’s always better to treat your engineered stone benchtop with care.
Cost: $ – $
ACRYLIC SOLID SURFACE
Acrylic solid surface benchtops provide a similar look to stone or marble, but they are fabricated from sheet material with a warm-to-touch feel which is non-porous, easy to clean, waterproof, hygienic and reasonably stain resistant. The most popular brands of acrylic benchtops are Corian, Freestyle, Hi-Macs and Staron.
Pros of acrylic solid surface benchtops
The nature of acrylic benchtops allows you to seamlessly join sheets of acrylic material so that there are no visible joins or unsightly seams, giving you a visually appealing solid benchtop.
Germ and virus resistant
The smooth, non-porous surface of acrylic benchtops including seamless joins means that there is nowhere for moisture and liquids to get trapped in and grow germs and viruses. In fact, acrylic surfaces are used in many medical facilities around the world for this very reason.
Accidents happen in the kitchen with heavy pots and pans, but acrylic surfaces can be easily sanded and filled with new material to get your benchtop looking ‘good as new’ again. As with engineered stone benchtops, even though they are easy to repair, it’s always better to treat your acrylic benchtop with care.
Stainless steel is well known for its hygienic properties, but it is also strong and durable, meaning that your kitchen benchtop won’t crack, chip or break and will hardly need any maintenance once installed.
Pros of stainless steel benchtops
Hygienic and easy to clean
Stainless steel harbours fewer kitchen germs when compared to other surfaces and is easy to clean.
Durable and robust
Stainless steel doesn’t chip, crack or break and when you put a hot pot on the surface, it doesn’t damage it.
Stainless steel matches well with other materials, so you could pair it with other surfaces such as timber or stone to create the look you’d like.
Laminate benchtops are a popular alternative to stone benchtops. Made from laminate materials such as MDF board, ply or chipboard, laminate benchtops can replicate the look of natural materials such as granite, wood grain and marble.
While laminate benchtops are water resistant, they can be easily dented and scratched and can be damaged by extreme heat.
Pros of laminate benchtops
Laminate benchtops are available in a large range of colours and patterns than can mimic the appearance of stone but without the same price tag. So, you can get a benchtop that looks very much like that expensive stone benchtop but at a fraction of the cost.
Endless colour palette
The colour palette of laminate benchtops is endless and with new technology it means that laminate benchtops are always on trend with the latest colours and finishes.. One thing that you may want to note though is that matt finishes are better for kitchen benchtops as gloss finishes are prone to scratching.
Laminate benchtops absorb the noise of heavy pots and pans in comparison to other surfaces so if your household is sensitive to noise early on Sunday mornings, this would be a big pro!
People often choose timber as a benchtop for aesthetic reasons because timber has a natural look that you cannot get from any other material. It creates warmth and texture and because no two pieces of wood are the same, it creates a unique look for your home.
Pros of timber benchtops
Warmth and charm
Timber benchtops create an atmosphere of warmth and cottage charm and because there are so many different colours of wood and types of wood grains, you can create a look that is totally unique to your home.
I’m afraid that is the only pro of a timber benchtop though. Timber requires maintenance to maintain its appearance, which means that you do need to reseal it with a natural oil finish. Timber is also more susceptible to stains, even water can cause discolouration in timber.
Cost: $ – $
Building a Modular Home with TR Homes?
Prior to your prestart meeting with TR Homes, visit Crosby Tiles for your cabinetry selections. They have an extensive range of Polytec benchtop and cabinet samples for viewing at their Osborne Park and Myaree locations.
Or if engineered stone is your preferred material visit the Ceasarstone showrooms in Subiaco or Wangara. It is helpful to view the full slab to get an idea of the overall colour and scale of the veins, when considering the Supernatural Design Range.
Crosby Tiles – (08) 9446 6000
Caesarstone – 1300 119 119