Finding a suitable work surface for your kitchen can be an incredibly confusing task, with many pros and cons — including style-versus-practicality factors — to consider.
You’re so vein. Marble features large in this kitchen, but there’s still space for a slab of wood. Australian Interior Design Awards
If you’re planning on getting a new kitchen, here’s an introduction with some of the facts you will need to know.
Precut or bespoke
You can buy either solid wood or laminate worktops ‘off-the-shelf’ from DIY stores and online.
Duropal offers some classy options in laminates
The dimensions differ slightly, so you just need to check your measurements, make sure you’re equipped to fit it (or have commissioned someone who can), and buy. There will probably be a degree of cutting and joining to be done, so plan your layout before you shop. In addition, check that the width of the worktop will cover your kitchen units – some only come in 60cm widths which don’t stretch to a wider cabinet carcass (such as the Metod-frame kitchens from Ikea).
Buy it, cut it, install it. B&Q offer an easy solution with their pre-cut worktops
The great advantages to using a precut work surface are firstly the cost, and secondly that you don’t have to wait to have them measured, made and installed.
Solid hunk of wood for minimal cost. Ikea’s Karlby
Bespoke worktops come in pretty much any material you can imagine: wood of course;
Wood as icing/ stunning worktop effect featured on Dwell
lots of different types of stone, such as granite,
What’s black and white and well-bred all over? This kitchen from County Stone Granite
Simply marbellous/ by Darlinghurst pty featured on Behance
Tones of stone/ photo credited to Daniella Witte’s blog
man-made plastic and stone composites such as Corian, Hi Mac
A casual drape/ LG HiMac USA
and Staron (sometimes called ‘solid surfaces’);
The answer is staron you in the face…/ Puzzle Table by composite manufacturer Staron
The photographer forgot that he’d left his coffee mug in the shot/ Stainless steel worktop in Annaleenas Hem (blog)
A shining example from Stainless Steel Direct UK
Recycled glass worktop found on Indulgy
Translucent. 21st Century Village Glass worktop
Operate transparently/ ThinkGlass Residential project
or polished concrete.
The builders were in such a hurry after pouring the concrete they left their bucket behind/ image from vtwonen, credit Jitske Hagens, Cleo Scheulderman
Concrete example of decor in greyscale/ Jane Cameron Architects on Desire to Inspire
You are likely to have to pay considerably more than you would for the precut offerings, but of course you can design them to a precise specification and fit them exactly (and seamlessly) to your kitchen. Fitting a bespoke worktop normally entails waiting until the kitchen cabinets and appliances are built and in position, after which you get an on-site measure, and then up to a six-week wait for the product to be cut, finished and delivered. You can have sinks set into the counter,
or even moulded out of the same material if you’re going for a plastic-based composite.
Since the military plants had arrived, washing up liquid had taken to spending most of his day hiding in the sink/ Moulded sinks in Corian from Jones Britain
Wraparound surfaces look spectacular,
Curves? No problem. Slo Gen desk made of Hi-Macs from Archiproducts
and sharp corners can be softened or rounded.
Bar levitates in Hi-Macs design shocker. Afflante Evolution by Sebastian Barlica
Thick or thin
You can get a really chunky piece of wood or stone as your worktop, or maybe a slimline streak of glass or steel.
Getting technical/ Granite Care Ltd develop an 80mm deep quartz
The precut worktops in laminate or wood are usually sold in thicknesses of around 4cm, although a few are made slimmer at 3cm. There are also differences to consider in your worktop edges: an abrupt square or rounded bevels.
Choices, choices…. exetermarble.co.uk sets out your options
It should go without saying that lighter colours are more likely to show stains. A lot of stone counters are porous and a stain will eventually sink down if you leave it too long.
Eek! When blueberries attack/ from Young House Love
If your kitchen is busy and you can’t guarantee every spill will be noticed or wiped up immediately, it’s worth considering a darker shade.
Can you show it a knife? Can you show it a pan? Can you show it a drop of water?
A joiner once asked me these questions after musing on the gleaming Corian work surface which had just been installed in our kitchen. I had to answer ‘No,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Yes.’
No work surface is perfect. I don’t think any worktop manufacturer would recommend chopping directly onto the surface: you should always use a board to cut and prepare food. Likewise, some surfaces are more hardy than others when it comes to direct heat – granite is obviously a bit tougher to damage than a sleek plastic or natural wood – but most suppliers would suggest using a trivet or board for your hob-fresh pans, rather than searing a charred circle into your countertop. Some materials are completely impervious to water; others swell or blacken if you don’t mop up puddles.
Don’t fear your water and hot pan marks, Capital Polishers Ltd probably do have the answer….
Maybe you already have a clear idea of the look you want for your kitchen, but if not, it’s worth asking yourself some of the questions covered above to find out what you’d value in a worktop, and what you’d consider to be just too much hassle.
Next time I’ll explore some of the different materials you can use — and give you some clever cheap alternatives too.
Slab happy/ worktop in TriBeCa, credit Ryan Korban