I’m a man on a mission at the moment. I’ve been scouting around the news websites such as the Guardian and the Telegraph analyzing their Home articles and in particular those that cover the subject I know a bit about – Kitchens. If the Guardian hadn’t closed their comment section on their “Which Worktop Should I Choose For My New Kitchen” article I’d have added my reply but they did so below are my thoughts on the popular choices available.
Of all the components that make up a kitchen, your worktops will be the most important choice you will have to make. Worktops will become subject to an abundance of actions as you go about your daily kitchen chores, some purposeful, such as the preparation, chopping and slicing of food and some not so intentional, like food or water spillages or the accidental dropping of utensils, dinnerware or pans.
For these reasons you need to look for all the properties that make up the best worksurfaces, such as water, stain and damage resistance and aesthetics – your choice must fit in well with the surrounding design. Unfortunately, although the choices you have are greater than ever before, Perfektatop doesn’t yet exist.
So, what choices are there and what are the Pros and Cons of each? Without doubt, the single most important factor to any worktop’s longevity is the correct installation closely followed by proper use and good maintenance. So, the choice of installer to fit your worktop, in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines, can have far reaching consequences. Your own role too, in keeping your surfaces in tip top condition is vital and no matter what anyone tells you, there are certain “no-no’s” that you must adhere to. Always use a protective board when chopping, slicing or preparing food. Never place hot pans directly on to a work surface. Use a heat resistant pan stand or consider incorporating steel trivets into your worktops. For surfaces like laminate, a portable steel trivet works well and if your surface choice allows for trivet grooves fitted during fabrication – adjacent to a hob or range is a good location for obvious reasons. And so to the choices:
Laminate surfaces have come on a long since the days that Onyx laminates adorned most kitchens in the land and today they still remain the most popular option, particularly for those working to a tighter budget. Available in a wide variety of colours, styles and textures, some, as with all worktop choices, are better than others and if fitted with care and maintained well they can last a lifetime. Particular attention needs to be given over to vulnerable areas such as sink and hob cut-outs and the area behind a sink. These will require sealing efficiently in order to prevent water ingress which, should it occur, will spell the end for your worktop. Good choices are Duropal, Axiom and Getalit. Expect to pay between £30-60 per linear metre for standard 600mm depth – more if you choose specialist edge profiles. Needless to say, you can purchase laminate surfaces cheaper but I’m referring here to quality worktops.
I have to say I’m not a huge fan of wood yet recognise that for many, they are the preferred choice for their design. Correct fitting and proper aftercare are vital if you want to maintain the appearance because of all the worktop choices, wood surfaces are affected most by the temperature and humidity changes a modern kitchen is subject to. Movement can and will occur over time and particular attention must be given to allowing for this during installation in order to prevent warping. User maintenance renders that the worktops be sealed and protected regularly so it’s something you must take into account if wood is your choice. This may alienate the many traditionalists out there but so long as you accept the additional attention Wooden Worktops require then who am I to persuade you otherwise? Expect to pay between £60-200 per linear metre. Big variation here but all depends on the type of wood and the manufacturing method.
I mentioned that for all choices, some are better than others and for Granite, the same rule applies. From whom you source your Worktops is significant and there are good and bad quality Granites available to buyers so checking out a supplier’s credentials makes great sense. A recent introduction that offers Granite buyers more protection is the use of sealers that, when applied by your fabricator, will provide greater stain resistance to Granite, a porous surface. Ask your chosen fabricator about applying a suitable sealer before installation, it really is worth an application to prevent any staining issues in the future. Granite arrives in slabs and is a natural resource so be prepared for pattern and shade inconsistencies (although fans of the surface would perhaps say this is part of it’s attraction). Many fabricators now welcome clients visiting their premises to view the slabs before installation and it’s worth the trip if you have any concerns in this area. Worktop joints are visible as with Quartz worktops yet good installers will make them as inconspicuous as possible utilising a matching coloured resin adhesive.
Harder still than Granite are Engineered Stone, commonly known as Quartz worktops and among examples you may be aware of are Silestone, Caesarstone and Quartz Compac.
There are many, many others yet they are all man-made, utilising the same manufacturing process and are primarily distinguishable by the colour palettes offered. Like Granite, Quartz surfaces are available in a reflective sheen or honed finish yet they appear more uniform in pattern and colour. Some manufacturers offer a wider choice of colours and textures than others and the surfaces are non porous. Prices can vary and as more manufacturers are keen to accommodate the growing list of UK kitchen buyers, there are bargains to be had. As a general rule you can expect to purchase at similar prices to Granite. Like Granite, slab thickness’s available are 20mm, 30mm and more recently a trend for thinner surfaces has proved strangely among buyers, no doubt fueled by some radical designer fad. I’m not a fan but each to their own and some manufacturers now accommodate this trend by offering slim slabs. Surfaces deeper than 30mm, for those who prefer a chunky appearance, can be accommodated for in both Quartz and Granite worktops and are fabricated utilising a mitred downturn method that works well to conceal the joint.
Solid Surfaces such as Corian, HiMacs and Staron are so named because they are a solid core of predominantly Acrylic material throughout their thickness or gauge. These surfaces are the most versatile of all the bespoke offerings. Design possibilities using Solid Surfaces are virtually limitless and are a designer’s dream. They are however less resilient to scratches and heat than Granite or Quartz surfaces but their army of fans would point to assets such as seamless joints, seamlessly integrated sinks and the ability to thermoform the material to any shape as the reason they chose and continue to choose it as their preference. Being fully reparable should any damage occur, helps keep that popularity intact and the ability to have a seamless worktop in your kitchen only serves to strengthen the hygienic properties of Solid Surfaces above rival worktops. Because of their popularity there’s been a continuous attempt to muscle into this market, again with thinner alternatives yet the price differences between the real thing and the thin pretenders is pretty negligible, when all things, such as fabrication and installation are considered. For cost efficiency I’d advise you choose the real thing. For Solid Surfaces, expect to pay between £100-300 per linear metre
There are of course many more choices available such as Stainless Steel, Glass and Concrete and many will disagree with my analysis of the options above. My comment section never shuts so post your replies.
If I could impart a few important tips to worktop buyers it would be the following:
1. Carefully read the guarantees offered. To do this, as with most warranties or T&C’s, you will require a magnifying glass. Despite a popular belief that any damage is covered for by a worktop warranty, it isn’t. Worktop warranties only cover a buyer for manufacturing defects and on the rare occasion you might discover a defect, it will only be determined as such by the manufacturer. That being said, some warranties are better than others. Some transferable, others not. Make good use of that magnifying glass and read the small print.
2. For all round cover against accidental damage, I strongly advise that you tag your worktop purchase on to an existing or new household policy.
3. Consider making your purchase using a Credit Card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, you are protected for purchases between £100 and £30,000, more than enough to cover your worktops unless you’re fitting out an area the size of a football pitch. Debit cards too may offer you some protection on purchases but check first with your provider.
4. Obtain 3 or 4 quotes after carrying out some research on the providers. Prices may vary quite significantly and that’s only to be expected at a time when there’s a greater urgency among worktop providers to secure your orders.
5. Avoid using price per square, linear or any other metre a good barometer of the overall cost from a supplier. It can bear little relevance to the overall cost of a worktop project when you take into account the varied costs of fabrication, delivery and installation.
6. Ensure each quotation you receive is like for like. You’d be surprised how many providers may overlook calculating the cost for a worktop they didn’t quite spot on your kitchen plan or sketch.
So, until Perfaktatop hits the stores and dependent on your budget, my recommendations remain as those named above and if I had to choose one surface above the rest on a cost efficiency basis, it would have to be laminate on condition it was installed, sealed and maintained correctly. That however, can prove difficult without researching and discovering a quality installer. For those with bigger budgets my choices would be Quartz, Solid Surface and Granite provided that it arrives with a quality stain protection coating.
The good news is there’s never been a better time to secure a great deal for any of the choices I’ve outlined as competition among providers is at an all time high. Good luck in your search and I hope my response proves helpful to you
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