When remodelling your kitchen, it’s important to choose the perfect benchtop for both the space and your needs. There are a variety of options and it can be hard to decide which one is the right fit for your kitchen and your lifestyle. Choosing the material for your benchtop is one of the key decisions that will influence the overall aesthetic of your space. Your decision on which material to choose will likely come down to a number of factors such as style, functionality, durability, budget and, ultimately, preference. Not just a beautiful focal point, benchtops are the primary working surface in your kitchen and need to be up to the demands of a busy life.
Our experienced kitchen designers will meet with you in person to explore your kitchen space. They will work with you on your vision and will also help to determine the best material for your new kitchen bench. There are many popular options to consider, from natural stone or marble to engineered stone and porcelain-based benchtops, laminate or natural timber. There’s a wide range of textures, finishes, colours and styles available. Each option has its own pros and cons, and our designers can help you weigh up each one in order to select the best material for your needs.
While you are considering your options to renovate your kitchen, it’s helpful to know more about different benchtop materials and narrow your choices based on your needs and preferences. Let’s explore how to choose the right material for your benchtop, the factors you should consider, and the pros and cons of selecting the type of material that will work best for your needs and design style.
What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing a Material for Benchtops?
When choosing a material for benchtops, it’s important to consider several factors.
1. Durability: The ideal material for benchtops should be able to withstand constant use and regular wear and tear. Consider the hardness of the material, as well as its heat and moisture resistance capabilities. Materials like engineered stone and porcelain-based benchtops are great options for hard-working benchtops because they’re strong and long-lasting.
2. Aesthetic: Your benchtop should look great in your kitchen, so the goal is to choose a material that complements the overall design of the space. Lighter coloured and materials can make rooms look bigger while darker materials can bring a feeling of warmth and cosiness. Natural timber can also add warmth to a space.
3. Cost: The cost of materials can vary significantly though it’s important to take into consideration not only what it will cost you upfront but also on ongoing costs such as maintenance. Laminate is one of the most budget friendly options available, but may require upkeep or replacing more regularly than some other materials due to its susceptibility to scratching and staining over time.
4. Maintenance: Since benchtops are exposed to various elements such as food substances, grease, water and heat, it’s important to choose a material that is easily maintainable. For example, stainless steel is extremely durable but requires extensive scrubbing with special cleaners to keep it looking shiny and it scratches easily so is usually not a preferred choice for a busy home. On the other hand, engineered stone does not require much maintenance aside from regular wiping down with warm soapy water and occasional resealing over the life of the bench.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Different Benchtop Materials?
Natural stone offers a classic look that is timeless and elegant. This material contains a variety of types like marble, granite and quartzite which are incredibly durable and offer an additional level of luxury to any space in your home. The unique compositions and variance in appearance allow for individual character to shine through each benchtop.
Stone benchtops are also easy to clean using lukewarm water with a mild soap though it’s best to steer clear from harsh chemicals like bleach or abrasive pads because these can be damaging over a prolonged period of time. However, unlike other materials such as engineered stone and laminate, it is important to note that acidic liquids such as vinegar, wine, and citrus fruits should be avoided as they can cause discoloration and staining. Additionally, you should also keep knives off of these benchtops as this may scratch the surface permanently.
Let’s explore some of the different natural stone materials and their pros and cons:
Marble has long been valued for its beauty and strength. Marble comes in two options, honed and polished. Honed marble is porous and has a matte finish, where polished marble has a protective surface and shiny sheen.
- Unique & beautiful
- Durable – resistant to heat, cracking and breaking
- Prone to etching and scratches
- Annual sealing required
- Susceptible to acid staining
Granite is very popular for benchtops due to its natural beauty, variations in colour, patterning and durability. Due to granite’s popularity, it’s more widely available and more affordable than it used to be, though it’s still on the upper end of the spectrum since it’s natural stone.
- Extremely durable and hardy
- Desirable appearance & versatility in design
- Easy to clean
- Resistant to heat & chips and scratching
- Can add value to your home
- Can be expensive
- Regular sealing required
- Possibility of staining or discoloration
- Heavy – labour-intensive for installation
Quartzite brings with it the natural beauty of marble with a higher resistance to etching, scratching and staining.
- Beautiful appearance
- Hardy & durable and resistant to heat
- Long lifespan with proper care
- Some are antimicrobial
- Can be very expensive
- Periodic re-sealing/waxing may be needed
- Can be high maintenance
Engineered Stone (Engineered Quartz)
Engineered quartz benchtops have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. Made by combining natural quartz with resin and pigments which results in a surface that is extremely hard and resistant to damage, engineered stone is highly durable and resistant to scratches, chips, and stains.
Engineered stone benchtops are also very easy to maintain as they don’t require sealing or polishing, and can be easily cleaned with soap and water. These benchtops come in a wide variety of colours and patterns, making it easy to find a style that matches your kitchen or bathroom decor. Different styles can mimic the look of natural stone like marble or granite, or have a more uniform appearance.
Because they are non-porous, engineered stone benchtops are resistant to bacteria and other microorganisms, making them a hygienic choice for kitchens and bathrooms. Many engineered quartz benchtops are made using recycled materials, making them a more eco-friendly choice than some other options.
- Beautiful appearance
- Extremely durable and Resistant to scratches and stains
- Resists mould, mildew, and bacteria
- Doesn’t require sealing
- Low maintenance & easy to clean
- Great for kitchens and bathrooms
- Prone to heat damage or melting
- Can be scratched
- Direct sunlight can fade colour
Is There a Risk of Silicosis With Engineered Stone?
In recent times, there has been some concern about health related issues tied to engineered stone, including the incidence of Silicosis in some workers within the industry. Silicosis is a disease of the lungs that can occur in industrial settings where tiny particles of silica enter the lungs on a repeated basis. We are proud to say we only work with suppliers who are committed to the reduction of silica in their products, with targets of under 40% (an agreed international target), and who are encouraging the government to mandate a national licensing scheme for stone fabricators.
When safe-cutting practices are followed, working with all engineered stone is safe. Safe-cutting practices include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respiratory tools, engineering controls such as ventilation and filtration and working with water-injected tools to undertake ‘wet cutting’ which eliminates the risk of silica dust in the air. Suppliers like Smartstone and Cosentino now include an increased recycled content of glass and minerals that continue to ensure high performance and durability while also offering global environmental accreditations including NSF, Greenguard and Greenguard GOLD. These suppliers also ensure every slab is delivered to stonemasons with the relevant warnings, and health and safety information prior to fabrication and installation.
A small amount of silica dust may be generated during installation or repair of quartz surfaces in your home or office, provided that installation is being performed according to state specific requirements for appropriate safety controls. However, this poses no health threat to you or your family or workers, since diseases related to silica dust develop only as a result of unprotected, uncontrolled and ongoing occupational exposure to silica dust. Once the benchtop is secured in place, there is no threat to you or your family and the benchtop is completely safe for use.
Laminate benchtops are one of the most cost-effective and widely available materials used today and so if you are prioritising budget over longevity, laminate benchtops can be a good option. They come in a variety of colours, textures, finishes, and patterns that allow you to customise your benchtop to your specific needs. While their affordability and adaptability is attractive, there are drawbacks to using laminate benchtops.
Perhaps the biggest downside of laminate benchtops is their tendency to show visible wear and tear quickly due to dents, scratches, and burns that can be difficult to repair or replace. Additionally, this material does not tend to increase the value of a home like other materials as it doesn’t offer the elevated look of a natural texture like other surfaces such as stone or wood.
Despite these downsides, laminate can be a good option for many homeowners looking for versatile benchtop options that won’t break their budget. All in all, when considering laminate benchtops, it’s important to weigh the positives against the negatives in order to make an informed decision.
- Very affordable
- Easy to install
- Flexible, varied designs
- Easy to maintain and clean
- Susceptible to heat damage
- Prone to peeling
- Shorter lifespan and less durable than stone or engineered benchtops
- Can only use a top mount sink
Timber benchtops offer a textured organic surface with warmth and natural beauty that can complement a variety of design styles. They can also develop a unique patina over time that adds to the character and charm of the benchtop. Often composed of timber slabs like Blackbutt, Spotted Gum or Jarrah, timber benchtops can also be created from renewable resources, which can make them more eco-friendly than some other options.
High-quality timber bench tops are very durable and can withstand heavy use and wear and tear, particularly if cared for appropriately. They can also be refinished or sanded to remove scratches or imperfections as the benchtop ages.
- Easy to install
- Adds a natural, organic element
- Warm and
- Can be environmentally friendly with reclaimed or plantation wood
- Sanding can fix most surface issues
- Requires regular oiling
- Prone to scratches
- Not resistant to heat or stains
Concrete benchtops are becoming increasingly popular due to their unique look and feel and versatility. Concrete is one of the most durable materials available, and can withstand heavy use, wear and tear, and even heat. Concrete benchtops are also relatively inexpensive and can be easily customised to suit your space and design, but since concrete is porous, benchtops generally require sealing every year in order to protect them from staining or cracking over time.
- Highly durable
- Scratch resistant
- Heat resistant
- Long lifespan
- Requires regular waxing and sealing
- Prone to scratches
- Not resistant to stains
Whether you lean towards affordability, durability or aesthetics when making the decision of which material to use for your benchtop, understanding how much wear your benchtop will receive and your ultimate vision for the space are the key components in choosing the right material. Why not book a consult with one of our designers and they can help you to fully explore your options.