When deciding on the best benchtop material for your kitchen, it can be tricky to choose between hard wearing and good looking. Check out this guide to help you choose kitchen surfaces with both qualities.
When it comes to selecting the right timber for your benchtop, colour and grain is often top of mind, but it’s worth thinking about the long term, too. Softer woods are more likely to be damaged by moisture. Polyurethane coated timber benchtops can be affected by exposure to water, while unprotected timber is prone to staining from foods and liquids such as wine and fruit juices. Vulnerable to ‘cupping’, wide solid timber boards often include small laminated sections. Other solutions are heat-treated timbers or woods engineered with cross-laminated layers. Bamboo is an excellent alternative.
Increasingly popular in domestic environments, metal benchtops offer a clean, utilitarian look. Stainless steel is the material of choice for commercial kitchens for its hygienic properties and low maintenance, though it can scratch quite easily. Zinc is a popular choice in France, where this soft, dull material has been used for centuries on farmhouse tables. Most fabricators work to commercial catering dimensions where visible joins and other imperfections aren’t really an issue. Check out VeitchStainless Steel Products for its seamless benchtop installation.
Tiles transform walls, benches and splashbacks. For an organic look, handmade tiles are a beautiful choice, but their irregularity means they’ll require a bigger grouting joint – not such a problem for walls, but they can be hard to clean. Prone to oil stains, on-trend matt cement tiles and natural stone tiles require sealing, and work better on floors. For a low-maintenance solution, select glazed and full-body porcelain tiles as they don’t need sealing. With their consistent colouring, they can be cut and joined like stone and are now being made up to 180cm long and 100cm wide.
The unique qualities of natural stone is highly sought after and is almost impossible to replicate. It comes in a huge variety of colours and textures. Marbles are popular for their colour variations and rich veining but stones, such as limestone and granite, have their own particular beauty. All stone can stain and needs sealing and ongoing care. Engineered options made from real stone and resin are popular choices. Smartstone’s quartz- and marble-based range mirrors stone and is a more durable material than its natural counterparts.
Australian brand Axolotl creates custom finishes for incredibly luxe surfaces. The finishes can defy nature – copper plated timber – or follow it, as seen in the aged-metal finishes the company has become known for. A new concrete look style creates lightweight benchtops with inlay options. All of its finishes are applied in the factory over MDF, timber or glass substrates and are sealed with a polyurethane coating. Totally customisable, the surfaces offer an authentic look at a fraction of the weight and cost.
For more kitchen renovating tips and ideas try:
>> kitchen splashbacks: 8 ideas almost too hot to handle
>> kitchen confidential: smart design ideas
>> Shaun’s kitchen design advice
>> renovation solutions: tricky kitchen floorplans