As well as looking good, your kitchen worktop must be practical. It must be capable of standing up to the daily battery of chopping, cutting, hot pans and spills, so it’s important to choose a material that suits your lifestyle as well as the design of your kitchen.
Laminate is hard-wearing, easy-to-clean, stain-resistant, economical, and comes in very long lengths and various thicknesses. A well-made worktop will have been sealed against moisture on the back edge and on the underside, and have a drip groove under the front edge to prevent spills running under the top. Laminate worktops are available in realistic designs ranging from marble and granite effects to wood and zany abstracts. Pair black or white granite-effect with contemporary kitchen units, and wood-effect with more traditional designs.
Do use a chopping board for cutting and heat resistant mats or trivets for hot pans, to avoid scratching and blistering.
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Real granite and slate look good in both traditional and modern kitchens. Tops are made to measure by experts and supplied complete with cut-outs for sinks and hobs, so measuring up must be accurate. It is expensive, has to be fitted by a specialist, costs far more than laminate, and is heavy - but it is easy to clean and hard-wearing and can’t usually be damaged by heat or cutting. Marble is very ‘now’ but a more tricky beast – a beautiful bright white, it’s great for working with pastry since it’s naturally cool but it is naturally porous and stains and scratches easily.
A cheaper alternative to stone is to find a company (such as Granite Transformations) that fits lightweight granite work surfaces over your existing worktops for a fraction of the cost.
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Stainless steel worktops
Hard-wearing and stain-resistant, stainless steel – long the choice of top chefs for hygiene reasons - suits minimalist-style units and high gloss finishes. Tops are made to measure and sinks and hobs can be welded in to give a seamless look. Splashbacks are available too, plus matching unit doors. Beware too much, though – you don’t want your kitchen to look like an operating theatre – and avoid scratching it with abrasive cleaners and knives.
Solid surfacing worktops
Corian is the original solid surface, created from a blend of minerals and acrylics made into sheets in more than 100 different stone effects and colours. Seamlessly joined, they make a worktop that looks just like real stone. It’s non-porous, so therefore hygienic, is resistant to stains, chemicals and heat, and scratches can be sanded out. But it’s expensive and can only be fitted by a specialist.
Worktops are sleek and smooth, and made of fine laminated concrete sheets mounted onto an MDF core, so they are lightweight and easy to handle. Thick and chunky, they’re perfect for today’s popular industrial look. Made-to-measure - complete with cut-outs for sinks, appliances etc - they are expensive, though, and only available from a few specialist suppliers.
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Slim, smooth and cool, glass worktops come in a range of glorious colours. Only safety glass, laminated underneath, is used. This is both strong and heat-resistant, although manufacturers recommend a trivet for hot pans and a chopping board for cutting. Tops can be curved or straight and matching splashbacks can be included - but it’s going to cost you.
Solid wood worktops
Solid wood surfaces are made from planks of kiln-dried hardwood joined together to make a single surface. They are hardwearing - burns and scratches can be sanded out - and once you’ve done the initial oiling, you just need to wipe over another coat every month or two. All kinds of wood are available, from dark iroko - which looks great with modern units - to mid-toned oak (which suits traditional styles) and light beech and birch (suits everything). But you get what you pay for usually, so don’t skimp - and do look after it.
Find out how to care for a wooden worktop
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