Stone or steel: Tips for choosing the best kitchen bench
Choosing the right kitchen bench will come down to look, maintenance and budget.
There are a world of options for fitting out your kitchen bench. Here are just a few:
Granite and marble are the most common types of stone for benchtops. Granite is superior for strength and durability, while marble is usually the more expensive of the two.
Because both are natural, they both have variation in colour and texture. Simon Potter from Pacific Stone says: “A slab of granite can have one end that’s got almost no colour and one end that’s got quite a lot.”
Marble is a costly option, prized for its lustre and beauty.
Both also require regular resealing to maintain their appearance. This can be a DIY job or done by a professional.
Those who want the feel of granite but want a lower maintenance option with a uniform appearance, often go for engineered stone. A composite material, it is a mix of quartz and a resin compound formed under high pressure, making it strong and durable.
“If you closed your eyes and touched a piece of granite and some engineered stone, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” Potter says.
Engineered stone is non porous and antibacterial, and comes in a wide range of colours and finishes.
Lee Fenton from Benchtop Concepts says the cost varies depending on the size and thickness required. “Each supplier has different slab sizes so it pays to shop around.”
Caesarstone is an engineered stone made by mixing of quartz aggregates, pigments and polymer resins.
ACRYLIC SOLID SURFACE
Fenton says acrylic solid surfaces are their most popular product. “They give a seamless finish with no visible joins and they can be repaired or buffed up again to look as good as new.” Made from moulded acrylic resin, these surfaces are hygienic and durable and can be made into any thickness, shape or length. Moulded sinks can also be added without joins.
Plain white acrylics are generally at the cheaper end of the scale, while those with graining or other textures are more costly.
HIGH PRESSURE LAMINATE
The least expensive option of all the benchtops, high pressure laminate is another material with a wide range of brands and levels of quality. At the top end they are durable and low maintenance, and can look quite similar to engineered stone.
This stainless steel benchtop has been polished with an orbital sander to give it a more organic look.
Fenton says their customers sometimes choose stone for their main bench and then a matching laminate for the pantry or scullery to save money.
Admired for its industrial look, concrete can be coloured, finished and textured to suit different tastes. It can crack however and, like granite and marble, requires regular sealing to keep it from staining and growing bacteria.
Used in commercial kitchens thanks to its excellent antibacterial properties and ease of cleaning, stainless steel is another option that has its pros and cons. While it is durable and available in almost any size, it is prone to scratches and scuffs.
Timber has a warm look and is less noisy when glasses are placed on it.
Chosen by those who love the warm aesthetic and soft touch of wood, timber is another popular choice. Timber benchtops do require regular resealing and are less resistant to scratches, dents and staining. A bit more care needs to be taken to keep them looking their best.