I’ll confidently chat way about paints, primers and polyfilla. Interior trends I’m always up to date with and I can reel off places to buy great side tables. Yet, when a client asked me to advise her on what would be the best worktop for her new kitchen, I will hold my hands up to the fact that I was pretty stumped to give her an answer there and then. There is such an array of material choice and things to consider, getting your head around it all can feel like a total minefield. For example, what can be considered top, middle and low price for a kitchen worktop? Do all worktops require maintenance? Is an accompanying upstand always an option? Just what is Silestone anyway?
Trying to do some basic research on the positives and negatives of worktop materials on the internet wasn’t cutting it either. There is a lot of ‘selling’ and not much advice on why a particular worktop may not suit certain purchasers needs. Real marble may look stunning and would be perfectly suited to the busy person who eats out most of the week and just wants a mind-blowingly beautiful kitchen to enjoy at the weekend, all while heating up a ready-meal. However, it isn’t going to suit the person who owns every single Jamie Oliver cookbook and is chucking around spices and staining the marble left, right and centre.
Lets also not forget that a worktop can be a huge investment that can add value to your home. Making the wrong choice for the way you live might have large consequences. With all this in mind, what I thought would be really helpful would be to just have a list of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ to each worktop material as a bit of a reference point. A comparison guide that could help both me and you get our heads around each worktop and its level of suitability. I did a ton of research and created the below, which lists the most popular and common types of worktops. You’re welcome.
To create this comparison list I watched a lot of Instagram stories and You-Tube videos by kitchen suppliers and worktop manufacturers. However, one of the best things I did was to ask my Instagram followers if they had recently renovated or installed a new kitchen / worktop and to give me feedback on what they thought of it. I wanted to know if what they purchased was worth the money, if they felt they made the wrong (or right) choice and list any problems they encountered. Hundreds of people very kindly sent me messages and what was so interesting from the feedback is that most people suffered the same issues with each worktop material. By far the most people happy with their worktop chose quartz or granite. Those the least happy and who felt they had made the wrong choice chose hardwood.
A hardwood worktop is made from a strong, solid wood such as oak or iroko. It is particularly at home in a country kitchen paired with shaker units. Compared to stone and man-made worktops options it is relatively cheap (although, lets face it, no worktop option comes up ‘cheap’). It looks warm and inviting and as it is a natural material it will never look dated. However, the level of care and maintenance it needs is probably just too much for some people. It will need constant and consistent sanding and oiling to protect it (we are talking a good few times a year). It is also especially not good around water so can cause real issues around the sink if you are not careful. All this sanding and oiling should be taken into consideration with your budget, as if you do not have the time to keep doing this yourself paying someone to do this for you will really add-up.
If you are someone who likes to give your worktop a good bleach, hardwood cannot take such abrasive cleaning methods so this should be a consideration. If you are a bit clumsy and put down a hot pan while distracted you’ll end up with a nice big burn ring. Yet, if you had your heart set on hardwood it’s not all bad news! If your worktop does get damaged a really good sand down will bring it back to life. If you decide to change up the colour of your units you can always re-stain your worktop a different colour to match. Plus, it was mentioned that if you pay a bit more money, there is also the option to get your worktop pre-soaked saving yourself a lot of work.
The huge pull with Minerva is that it looks like real stone, especially marble. Yet unlike marble, it comes under the ‘mid’ price range rather than ‘super high’. It is of medium to high resilience against damage and quite widely available (you can buy it from places like Homebase). What I would advise is that if you are interested in Minerva you hop on over to Swoonworthy’s blog who wrote some amazing posts on why she chose and how she installed Minerva worktops, plus another on how they are holding up one year on.
Ah marble, the stuff of ultimate luxury. A natural stone, no two slabs are exactly the same. The best way to choose marble is to go down to your local stone yard and select your favourite vein pattern. A marble worktop looks gorgeous, like really gorgeous. However, it is eye-wateringly expensive and is known to stain quite badly. Spices, curry sauce and red wine will all leave marks so you need to weigh up how important the look and cost is in relation to how much use your kitchen gets.
Granite was one of the materials that most people told me they were really happy with. A natural stone, it can really take a beating. In fact the image above belongs to Rach who blogs at Raspberry Flavoured Windows , who has owned this worktop for 18 years! “Plonk a hot pan on it, make pastry on it, it’s brilliant. It doesn’t stain and all in all it has more than paid for itself”, says Rach.
Granite does need treating on occasion (yearly is advised) and the only complaint people had was that it left a lot of finger marks and smears. However, I have black granite in my own kitchen and find that Method daily granite cleaner works a treat.
Again, quartz came out top as a worktop material that people were really happy with. The durability factor played a key part while the fact it is a man-made material means it can be cut much more intricately to fit around difficult spaces such as bay windows.
What corian has over other materials is that it can be moulded to create a sink and upstand with no joins. It by far gives the most seamless and polished look, but for this you pay a price. Corian is at the top end of the price spectrum (and note that Corian is essentially plastic and not stone) but it will add value to your home. It is easy to clean but it is not as durable as granite or quartz to scratches. It’s also not heat proof and can dent if you drop something heavy on it. However, I was told via Instagram by an owner of Corian that what she loves about it is the lack of the ‘ting’ sound when you place glassware on the surface (which is what you get with stone). If you like to host friends around your kitchen island and can be aggravated by certain noises, then this is something to consider.
Hands up if you thought having a cement worktop would be a cheap option? Me too! In fact far from it, it is really expensive! I literally thought you had basic cement mixed and poured into a template in your kitchen - but that isn’t true. Concrete counters are precast elsewhere by hand to your specification. Because of this, you get a lot more choice with your colour and edge shapes, but you pay for having so many options and it being bespoke. Concrete also has to be sealed to protect it from use, but once it’s in, it is pretty robust (although expect hairline cracks - concrete is not for the perfectionist). If you like the urban look of concrete but want something less rough and ready, Caesarstone sell 9 urban/concrete inspired finishes that look just like the real thing, but with the added benefits of quartz.
I think you can compare laminate with vinyl flooring in that the technology and appearance of it has improved dramatically, yet it still has a bad rep. In fact, some laminate is now so good, you’d never think it was laminate. I was pleasantly shocked and surprised when Vicki from the blog Wheel Chic Home sent me a picture of her laminate worktop (pictured above) with all its glossy, shiny loveliness. Laminate by far is the cheapest option with little maintenance required, plus you can install it yourself saving further costs, but you need to be careful with it. Scorching hot pans will melt the surface and chopping on it without a chopping board will cause severe marks.
So there you have it - 10 worktop materials, 10 pros and cons. I really hope it has helped you narrow down a material you might want to look into further, or provided a starting point to what might work for you in your own home.
I’d love it if you could leave your review or add any comments about the worktops featured on the guide (or list any other worktop materials not mentioned!) below to contribute to the article and help other readers with their worktop decision (but no companies selling product please! You will have your comment removed.) I’d like to thank a number of people who contacted me via Instagram and whose comments and points I used within this article: @gaylechapman, @aidenkenny, @clockingorff, @cjbrough , @helgamcsituation, @gemmamacken, @charlottekelly, @spacelikethis, @itskarenalexander, @raspberryflavouredwindows , @wheelchichome, @liznylon, @hollyd20, @pinkattwentyone @claire @samsnewpad @jillieobug, @mrsmcee74, @housfolk, @srgibbon, @skirtingboardsandchandeliers, @that.middle.place, @catherinedavis70, @interioradored @xoxbexxox, @suzeevan