Choosing a kitchen worktop to suit your lifestyle

Remodeling and Home Design

When it comes to planning your new kitchen, counter tops probably aren’t the first thing on your mind.

You probably know that you want a breakfast bar in your dream kitchen, or perhaps a six ringed hob if you’re an avid cook, but counter tops are generally something that come into play after you’ve selected your units.

Solid wood work surfaces are currently a popular choice and striking granites in bold colours are also a current ‘trend’.

Of course, few of us want to opt for a ‘trend’ when we’re considering a 10-20 year investment. Our round-up of the most popular worktop choices will help dispel any myths, help you choose a material that suits your needs and explain a few essential maintenance considerations.

Carved wood and glass breakfast bar

Solid wood

Solid wood worktops are quite a contentious issue in kitchen design – some love the natural variety of wood and its intriguing ageing process, while others worry about the long-term care implications.

Solid wood does require more care than a hard stone surface, however, similar care principles apply with whatever surface you’re dealing with. For example, while people opposed to wood surfaces would argue that staining and burning is more of an issue, most of us would avoid placing hot pans directly on a granite surface too. Similarly common spillages (such as wine, darker sauces or oily foods) shouldn’t really be left to sit on any kitchen surface, regardless of material.

Your wood kitchen tops will be sanded and oiled by your kitchen provider, however in order to keep that sheen, regular oiling is generally recommended. Your kitchen provider will be able to advise further and it may even be possible to treat your surface with a resin or sand an existing surface. A beautiful example of a solid oak bar top can be seen in a project we carried out at the Dockyard bar, Salford Quays.

While your kitchen designer will be able to provide you with full care instructions, if you happen to have inherited a previous owner’s kitchen, the following points are worth keeping in mind:

• Don’t allow water to pool – this is particularly important around sinks

• Speak to your kitchen designer about suitable hard wood, some materials i.e. Iroko and teak are water resistant and have a high oil content.

• Embrace chopping boards, cooling racks and anything which keeps potentially damaging items off your surfaces.

Oak kitchen with burr oak doors

Composite stone

Composite is tougher than natural stone and allows for stunning, unique finishes. Composite stone is undeniably an expensive material, however for beautiful marble and quartz effects, engineered stone looks wonderful. If you’re looking for unrivalled quality, composite stone worktops, combined with hardwood units, very much achieve that ‘luxury’ look.

The major benefit of engineered stone is that colour consistency can be achieved. While many appreciate the variations in natural stone, uniform colour is ideal if you’re particular about your colour scheme.

Laminate

Laminate is considerably cheaper than granite and can pretty much offer whatever effect you desire. From granite-look-alikes to hard wood, it’s entirely possible to combine this material with high quality units for a beautiful finish.

Due to its low cost, laminate is an ideal choice if you’d like to change your surfaces after a few years. Unlike more expensive materials, a little modernisation is usually possible without damaging your existing units. Just watch out for the gloss variety – while they look good in the showroom, most tradesmen will tell you that it scratches and ages badly.

Granite

Seriously durable and effortlessly timeless, granite is the perfect choice for a please-all effect. Of course, if you’re very strict about colours, an engineered composite will achieve a similar effect with a little more colour precision, but it’s fair to say most people love the natural variation granite affords.

As well as a vast choice of colours, granite can also be selected in both matt and high shine. This is ideal for kitchens with separate breakfast bars or islands.

Solid surface material e.g. corian

Corian is created using a mix of crushed stone, acrylic resin and colour pigments. As a result surfaces are lighter than stone versions and a major benefit of corian is that it can be moulded to incorporate sinks and drainers.

Sinks and drainers created by shaping corian offer an incredibly contemporary effect, with clean lines and continuous surfaces looking very sleek in a modern kitchen.

If you would like a little more advice or inspiration regarding your kitchen design, please take a look at our domestic kitchen designs in and around Cheshire or contact us on 0161 643 4054.