In this blog we offer practical advice on kitchen worktops using examples and experience from over 12 years of designing kitchens.
There are some fantastic worktops on the market and with such a bewildering range of options, it is difficult to know where to start. First consider the budget.
- With a limited budget (a few hundred pounds) you will almost certainly be looking for a laminate worktop.
- From a larger budget (£500 or so) you can choose a timber worktop, although we caution against fitting wood anywhere near a kitchen sink.
- With an even larger budget (several thousand pounds) you might consider granite, engineered stone, quartz or acrylic. You may even look into more exotic products such as lava stone, concrete and glass.
Having chosen a type of worktop, you should assemble samples of all the kitchen finishes to make sure they work together – flooring, cabinets, wall colour, a splash of brushed steel, worktop and splashback.
Engineered Stone – Quartz Kitchen Worktops
Typically a quartz resin product, these worktops offer a wide range of colours and finishes.
With quartz kitchen worktops being man-made, there is more control over the process and appearance than with a natural product. You should still check the actual slab you are purchasing because the slurry may not be well-mixed and the finished look not as uniform as you might like. We have rejected slabs in the past because of the unevenness in the mixture in some very obvious places. Visit your supplier and ask them to mark out the cuts on your slab with a chinagraph pencil to make sure it will look fine.
Engineered stone works well with undermount and Belfast sinks. Remember that a cheaper laminate worktop would have exposed edges adjacent to wet areas which would soak and swell. For an undermount sink, the worktop needs to be solid. Your supplier will cut draining grooves into the surface, so check which side of the sink would work best for you.
Natural Stone – Marble and Granite Kitchen Worktops
Natural stone kitchen worktops are typically marble or granite. Some clients love the idea of a natural product, but check the maintenance required. If you are the sort of person that cleans up scrupulously, then all should be fine, but don’t leave red wine rings, or oil drips for too long as some will be absorbed. Granite and marble are suitable for undermount sinks and Belfast sinks as in the photo below. If you want draining grooves, decide which side of the sink feels natural.
If you like the idea of a natural stone worktop but don’t want to spend as much, search out a specialist company to fit a 6.5mm granite overlay straight onto an existing worktop at a fraction of the price. You will need to check the implications of raising the worktop by this amount on other parts of the kitchen and make sure that it continues to look good around the joints.
In the image below, our supplier created a 40mm thick Cararra marble worktop from two 20mm slabs, faced with a solid piece to cover the joints. This saved our clients over £1000; you would be hard pressed to spot the joints which were designed to disappear in the machined radii. To all intents and purposes it looks like it’s made from one piece.
Timber Kitchen Worktops
Timber looks fantastic when new, but we do not recommend its use around a sink or other wet areas. Although suppliers tell you to oil the surface regularly, people simply don’t do this; the wood fades, splits, and looks unsightly after a relatively short period. If you really love wood, we recommend that you fit it away from very wet areas as in the peninsula below, and use a different material near the sink.
Worktop combinations look quite stylish; below our suppliers combined a granite worktop with an oak breakfast bar.
Laminate Kitchen Worktops
Constructed from chipboard with an impermeable laminated coating, these worktops offer good value for money. Remembering that chipboard should not get wet, laminate is not suitable for an undermount sink; with a laminate worktop you’ll need a surface sink with drainer. You’ll need to decide whether the drainer should run to the left or right of the sink.
Tiled Kitchen Worktops.
Simply avoid them. You won’t find any in our portfolio; they get filthy, the grout cracks, they are uneven and are generally rubbish.
Acrylic Kitchen Worktops.
Fabricators mould acrylic worktops to shape with seamless joints. They do scratch so you’ll need to think hard before choosing these – do a test with your fingernail and see what you think. You can dress out these marks, but that takes a bit of effort and you might prefer a specialist to do it. Below is an acrylic worktop with integrated sink; you can also see the flush mounted hob. Whilst our client decided against draining grooves, you can form these in the moulding process.
Stainless Steel Kitchen Worktops
You’ll see these in commercial kitchens because they are easy to clean. We designed this kitchen with stainless steel surfaces for a noodle bar in Bath. Stainless steel is also fine in a home, if a little noisy.
You can find concrete, glass, lava stone, and re-cycled plastic worktops for a truly special feature.
Breakfast bars are great if you have space for one, usually as part of an island. Consider the height you want; you may prefer a breakfast bar as a simple extension to a worktop at just 900mm, or one raised to 1150 for a bar stool
Below, we designed and fixed a breakfast bar to a wall as the granite worktop had already been fitted with the original kitchen. We designed the polished steel supports and had the glass shelf UV bonded on top.
Our specialist bonded the glass to the posts using a UV adhesive which avoids any protrusions through the upper surface.
Of course, you can always just use the overhang from your worktop as a breakfast bar
or create a knee space:
In terms of thickness, consider 30mm or less for a contemporary look, or ultra-thick to create a statement in its own right. 28 and 38mm are the common thicknesses for laminate worktops.
A kitchen fitter will form joints in the worktop in a number of ways. He or she will usually use a butt joint for stone worktops filling the straight joint with a colour-matched resin. For a good joint on timber or laminate, ask your fitter to use a butt and scribe joint (see image below). This avoids those unsightly joining strips (another dirt trap), looks professional and neat, but your fitter needs the correct tools. You shouldn’t do this by hand.
Just to note: nomatter how confident you feel, always use a trivet to stand hot dishes from the oven; never stand such items directly on the worktop.
If you’d like to read advice about other kitchen design features, or if you are looking for ideas for your new kitchen, please read kitchen design.Back to blog