Choosing the Perfect Worktop - The Pros and Cons
When walking into a kitchen, one of the first things to catch your eye is the worktops. You see how it interacts with the cabinetry and how the colours work together. As it occupies such a large surface area, it makes sense that careful consideration needs to go into choosing the perfect material.
Different materials have different properties. Depending on what is important to you will affect the type of worktop you choose. Some things to consider are:
- How tough is the material?
- Is it easy to look after?
- What colours and patterns are available?
- How big are the slabs?
At David Lisle we use a wide range of the best quality materials, all with their own pros and cons. We have highlighted these here to help our clients get a good understanding to make the best decision for their own bespoke kitchen.
Natural stone worktops offer a huge variety of colours, patterning and practicalities. They have stunning depth with defined crystals running throughout. Each slab is one-of-a-kind, making your worktops completely unique to your kitchen. The most popular choices are either granite, quartzite or marble.
Sourced from hardened magma, granite has been a popular worktop choice for decades. It is exceptionally tough, making it very practical. It has a great deal of patterning and usually has contrasting colours throughout. It is this elaborate patterning that has seen it become less popular over recent years as trends have become cleaner and more minimalistic.
This is a truly special ziricote-panelled kitchen with a breath-taking book-matched splashback in Orinoco granite.
Like granite in terms of durability, heat and stain resistance, quartzite is one of the toughest natural materials available. Whereas granites are usually darker in colour, quartzite offers paler, marble-like colours too, giving it more versatility. Quartzite often has veins running through it, which granite can lack, making it very popular currently. It can also be book-matched to produce a stunning feature splashback or waterfall island end.
Marble has a rich history in architecture and sculpture. Eventually, it made its way inside the home for use as worktops and flooring. Made from calcium-magnesium carbonate, it varies in its pattern and veining but is always composed of pale colours like whites, creams and greys. It suits almost any kitchen, modern or traditional, and can either be heavily patterned or very plain, which explains its popularity.
It is important to note that marble slabs are often not as big or as thick as other materials. This may mean that slabs need to be joined together. Marble is also quite soft, so chipping and cracking, although rare, can occur. Being an alkaline, marble can stain and etch very quickly from acidic or strongly coloured liquids, such as lemon and red wine, so spills need to be wiped up fast. This can put people off choosing marble, whilst others say the marks and scratches add character.
Not to be mistaken with quartzite, man-made quartz worktops are manufactured by grinding quartz minerals and mixing with resins and polymers. Different polymers create different effects, meaning they can mimic a wide variety of natural stones like marbles and quartzites, often at a cheaper price.
However, this man-made process has its downsides. Quartzes will never have the same depth and intricacies of natural stones. Especially with the cheaper quartzes, the patterning can look “pixelated” and of poor quality. The higher-end quartzes, usually manufactured in the Mediterranean, have improved patterning, and look more realistic. They are also not as hard-wearing or stain resistant as some other materials.
This chunky European Calacatta quartz gives a sleek finishing touch to this bright, open-plan kitchen and living space.
A more recent worktop material, porcelain has increased in popularity alongside the minimalist kitchen trend due to its contemporary style. It can be made as thin as 6mm, giving it a sleek, clean appearance. Like quartz, it can mimic natural stones, but there is also a wide choice from patinated metallic to concrete effects, which suits more industrial style kitchens. It can also struggle with the same issue of “pixilation” in some cheaper brands, however it benefits from being one of, if not the most, tough and durable work surface available.
For this industrial, contemporary kitchen, the client chose an extra thick patinated metallic porcelain with a stained oak breakfast bar.
Due to its naturally anti-bacterial properties and abundance, wood such as oak and walnut has been used as kitchen worktops for centuries. Whether having every surface in wood, or just a feature butcher’s block, it adds a sense of warmth and history to a kitchen.
Wood is porous, so we would not recommend using it around a sink or wet area, as it will quickly get damp and mouldy. It is also not heat resistant and is easily marked. Due to its softness, knives can cut directly onto the work surface, however this will create dents in the wood. With regular oiling and the occasional sanding, however, wooden worktops can last for decades. It is also easy to find responsibly, locally sourced timber, meaning it is one of the most eco-friendly worktop materials available.
Why not combine materials as in this Arts and Crafts kitchen, which includes an 80mm thick American Black Walnut chopping block to match the cabinetry below.
On a visit to our showroom in Macclesfield our clients can see many different samples of the above. Here you can feel the texture of each and see them in person. However, especially with natural stones as the patterns vary widely from block to block, we often recommend that clients visit the stone yard to see full-size slabs. They can then reserve specific slabs, making their worktops as personal and bespoke as the rest of their kitchen.