Choosing a benchtop material

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when renovating a new kitchen or bathroom is what type of surface to use for your benchtops. The material you select will affect the whole look and feel of the room. Luckily, there are many options to choose from, but how to actually decide which one is right for you??

When selecting what benchtop is right for you, there are two main aspects you’ll need to weigh up: what will look best, and what will be practical and suit your particular needs.

Aesthetics is subjective. Whilst some people are very clear about their likes and dislikes, others can be unsure which way to go. An experienced designer from Ultimate Kitchens & Bathrooms in Hawthorn East, Melbourne can help minimise stress and confusion by suggesting what benchtop might best suit not only the overall look of the kitchen space and also your home as a whole.  As far as practicality, it’s wise to consider such things as cleaning, maintenance, durability and of course cost. But remember: no one benchtop material is perfect – each has its good points and its limitations or downsides.

Marble benchtop and splashback in kitchen by Ultimate Kitchens & Bathrooms, Hawthorn East, Melbourne
A marble benchtop and splashback provide a classic elegance in this stunning kitchen by Ultimate Kitchens & Bathrooms, Hawthorn East, Melbourne

So, to help you navigate your way through all this, Ultimate Kitchens & Bathrooms has put together a table with some of the choices in benchtop material, along with a description of each and the main pros and cons for you to weigh up.

Material Description Main pros Main cons
Marble A natural stone, this metamorphic rock is usually derived from limestone or dolomite, with each variety having characteristic swirls and veins of colors due to various mineral impurities. Offers a beautiful, elegant and high-end look.Each piece is unique.  Relatively soft and porous, so prone to staining from liquids and acidic foods. Must be sealed regularly. Is therefore often more popular in bathrooms than kitchens.
Granite A natural stone, this igneous rock has a course-grained texture due to a matrix of lighter-coloured feldspar and quartz, with scattered darker minerals. Offers a classic and stylish look.As granite is a natural material, no two benchtops are identical in colour, pattern or character. Specimens vary, so check the actual slab, not just a showroom sample.
Acrylic eg. Corian  A man-made material consisting of a solid plastic block, that can be made to look like stone or marble. Available in a variety of custom-made and consistent colours and patterns.No visible joins and can be moulded into any shape and integrated to include sinks etc. Lacks the natural aesthetics of real stone or timber.Generally more expensive than natural or engineered stone, esp. if speckled.Comparatively soft so prone to scratching.
Polished concrete A man-made material consisting of a hardened mix of water, crushed rock, sand and cement. Semi-industrial look, with various finishes that can even be inlaid to create a range of colours and patterns.Durable.Can be moulded into any shape and integrated to include sinks etc. Heavy to work with.Porous, so prone to staining.
Engineered StoneAlso called composite stone and sold under various trade names like Caesarstone, Smartstone or Essastone A man-made mixture of up to 95% natural quartz or granite with some featuring mirror chips, shell, mother of pearl particles or different coloured glass fragments, and bound together with resin.Brands vary in quality depending on the type of resin and additives used. Offers a broad range of consistent colours and patterns.Relatively strong, hard and durable (long-lasting), resisting heat, scratches and stains. Lacks the natural aesthetics of real stone or timber.
Stainless steel Stainless steel is an iron alloy containing chromium and smaller amounts of other elements to enhance formability, strength and toughness Gives an industrial, utilitarian look.Minimal appearance of seams, and can be moulded into any shape and integrated to include sinks etc.Can withstand hot pans and is stain resistant. Easily scratched and dented, so can’t use abrasive cleaners.Shows fingerprints (esp. if not brushed or textured steel)
Solid timber A natural product of hardwood providing a range of colours, with either a satin (oiled) or gloss (polyurethane) finish.NB: Bamboo (not a timber but a type of long grass) is another option although not currently widely used and therefore tested, so it would need further research. Has a natural, warm, inviting and rustic look. Soft, so will mark and scratch easily.
LaminateSold under various trade names like Formica, Laminex or Arborite  A man-made product consisting of layers of paper and plastic (melamine resins), bonded through high heat and pressure. The most budget-friendly option.Available in a huge variety of colours, patterns and finishes, that can even mimic stone or timber.Can be postformed with heat, which allows it to curve around to create a shaped edge to the benchtop. Lacks the natural aesthetics of stone or timber.Easily damaged by heat and scratches, and difficult to repair chips.Can’t support an undermount sink.

Our showroom consultants or designers at Ultimate Kitchens & Bathrooms are happy to chat with you about which material would best meet your needs.

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Hawthorn East (cnr Canterbury Rd)

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