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Kitchen Countertop Materials

 

There is now a wide range of materials available for kitchen countertops, and an equally wide price range. The following provides an overview of these options from the least expensive to the most expensive. As a pricing rule of thumb, if:

  • A laminate bench top costs $1000
  • Wood or stainless steel will cost $2000
  • Engineered or natural stones $3000 or more.

Replacing a kitchen countertop in an existing kitchen can transform it over night.

Laminate

Laminate over MDF is the most cost-effective counterop material, and the most popular. It is not as durable as other options and cannot tolerate heat or highly abrasive cleaning products. There are different qualities of laminates so ensure the product you get is thick enough to withstand reasonable wear. Edges can be hard or rounded. Butt joints at the back need to be sealed carefully to stop moisture getting in.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steal is certainly the most practical and hygienic of all countertop surfaces and is available in standard or custom sizes. The design advantage is that you can get a custom fit done that is a continuous looking fitout including countertops, splash-backs, sinks and bullnose edging.

Stainless steel is extremely durable but it does scratch and dull over the years. Simple repolishing can buff out all the aging and restore it to new.

It is now available in high gleam, brushed or dimpled effects. Be careful using SS in high sunlight areas as the glare can be a problem.

Concrete

Poured concrete benchtops are becoming very popular and can look stunning in contemporary and classical kitchens alike. After a frame is made in situ, the concrete is poured and left to cure. The frame is removed, the surface buffed and several coats of sealant applied. Make sure the sealants you use are suitable for contact with food. As this countertop is quite heavy you need to ensure that your kitchen flooring is of suitable weight bearing properties.


Wood

Wood was a popular countertop material in the 80's and 90's and is still favored by some. It is ideal when the kitchen includes breakfast bars and other utility activities.

Wood must be specially finished to be used around wet areas and food preparation surfaces and is generally laminated from strips to stop warping.

Wooden surfaces can be re-finished when it shows signs of wear.

Resin-Mineral [Corian]

Corian is made from a mixture of mineral fillers and acrylic resin. Each kitchen is custom made with integrated sinks and splash-backs. Although Corian is claimed to be hard wearing and heat resistant, my experience has been otherwise. The surface is highly intolerant to heat and the remedy to rid heatspots is not effective. Further, the corners around the gas cooking tops continually cracked from the heat intolerance of the cooktop. Whilst my experience was 15 years ago, I have little knowledge as to how the product has been improved to remedy these issues, so my advice is get a water-tight guarantee and warranty.

Stone Composite [Engineered stone]

Engineered stone is one of my favorite countertop materials. It is made of crushed stone, mixed with polyester resin binder to form a very hard wearing and impervious synthetic stone. It is available in a good range of colors and design with better color color consistency than natural stone or granite and is more stain, scratch and acid resistant due to the resin.

The slabs are manufactured to a standard size, and then cut for each application.

Solid Granite

The most expensive countertop material, granite is very popular at present. It is available in a good range of colours. As granite is a purely natural material is varies from the samples somewhat. My advice is to custom pick your stone, and have it custom cut to size.

The look of polished granite is superb, is resistant to scratches and stains, and high temperatures. In its natural state, Granite is prone to erosion and staining my acid based liquids and foods such as red wine, vinegars and tomato sauce. It must be sealed with a resin to prevent liquids being absorbed into microscopic fissures, and to provide acid resistance.



 

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