kitchen benchtops

7 kitchen benchtops that I think are tops!

When I was growing up, kitchen benchtops came in one variety – Laminex. If you were fancy you had bull-nosed edges (we didn’t) and if your house was from the 50s it probably had a groovy metal edge to it. Oh, those were simple times! These days there are a ton of kitchen bench materials to choose from across every price point and application. Here are seven to consider.

 

Laminate

You might not see them featured in glossy homes magazines much these days but laminate kitchen benchtops are still alive and well. You can choose from a variety of edge details and there are literally hundreds of colours and finishes to choose from – ranging from simple, flat colour to stone- and timber-look finishes. With some canny bench design and edge finish consideration, I reckon a stone-look laminate bench would make a big impact. And cost wise, it’s a lot cheaper than stone or manufactured stone (an 1800x600mm benchtop with a bullnose edge will cost around $250). Don’t put hot pans directly on a laminate benchtop, but otherwise maintenance is as simple as a spray cleaner.

 

Engineered stone

I’m not going to name names because there are plenty of options available if you want an engineered stone benchtop – in fact more than half of new kitchen benchtops are now engineered stone. These benches are generally made of reconstituted quartz and come in a variety of colours and textures. The big winner in the past 12 months was the version that replicated Calacatta marble – it was featured everywhere and I had it selected for my kitchen renovation until we suddenly decided to move house. Engineered stone is durable and comes in lengths up to 3000mm – keep this in mind when you’re designing your kitchen. If you’ve got a bench that’s 3200mm think about whether you really need that extra 200mm and a join or could do without it and have a single piece instead. The only thing I don’t like about it, is that it shows streaks when you clean it – I always buff my bench dry with a teatowel. #littlethings

 

Natural stone

Unless you’ve been asleep under a piece of marble, you’ll know that marble kitchen benchtops have made a huge comeback in the past year or so. I love natural stone but, be warned that it can stain easily (luckily I only drink Champagne). I had earmarked a bluestone benchtop for an outdoor kitchen project that we did a while ago. It was absolutely gorgeous matte black and would have been a real statement piece. Unfortunately, the price came back at $8000 so, that wasn’t going to happen. However, if I had the money, I think natural stone would be top of my list. I especially like the varieties that have really strong veining or fossils in them – makes a big impact and the rest of the kitchen can be very pared back.

 

Timber

If you like browsing real estate websites (hello, who doesn’t?) check out houses for sale in Tasmania – you’ll discover that timber kitchen benchtops are extremely popular down that way. They suit the natural environment of Tassie and timber is certainly plentiful. Timber benchtops are great – I love the way they wear and age, however if you like slick and modern, they might not be for you. One of the great things about this material is that you can sand it back and re-oil it if it gets too marked or stained. My sister does this with the island bench in her kitchen. Timber benches are usually made of either narrow timber pieces that have been laminated together, or larger planks that have been glued edge to edge. The edges can be honed to your choice of shapes to get a variety of looks from classic to contemporary.

 

Porcelain

Porcelain benchtops are still relatively new in Australia and I haven’t yet seen many featured. Basically, a porcelain benchtop is like a giant ceramic tile – they can be manufactured in pieces up to 3600x1200mm, which is larger than slabs of engineered stone. These benchtops can be a solid colour or may be digitally printed to mimic stone, timber or a rusty finish (for example). The porcelain is generally very thin (3mm) and very heavy, so if you go down this route, you’ll need to make sure your cabinetry is up to the job. It’s non-porous surface makes porcelain more stain resistant than marble, although, like stone, it can be chipped if you drop something heavy on it. As it’s still a new product, porcelain benchtops are still reasonably expensive – they currently cost more than engineered stone.

 

Paper

When you’re considering durable benchtops, paper is probably the last thing you’d think of. However, there’s a new kid on the benchtop block and yes, it’s made of paper! This material is made of layers of predominantly recycled paper held together by resin. It’s heat resistant up to 180C and almost impervious to water (according to the manufacturer). Personally it doesn’t float my gravy boat from a visual perspective but if you’re looking for a locally made, sustainable material, this could be worth a look.

 

Stainless steel

It’s mandatory in restaurant kitchens because you can keep it super clean and stainless steel has also made its presence felt in residential kitchens. The fingermark issue would drive me beserk but these benches can work well in a variety of settings. They’re practically indestructible and you could even use restaurant units to create a modular kitchen. Modular units are very affordable and I reckon I’d use these as option during a renovation, but wouldn’t go full stainless for a kitchen renovation.

PS: That benchtop in the blog title image? Concrete that was poured on-site by the Open Plan Living team and is internally heated #colourmejealous

 

What type of kitchen benchtops would you go for? Have you had a bad kitchen benchtop experience?
Do you remember the laminex in your grandparents’ kitchen?

16 Comments

  • Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers

    Ooooh, interesting post given we are about to start renovating our kitchen! Sadly given our budget we are relying on the kindness of our friend who happens to be a joiner to provide us with the best kitchen for the price we have to work with (my husband painted his house for free so he’s doing our kitchen in exchange!) so beggars can’t be choosers! We’ll see what we end up with! #TeamIBOT

    • alix@thebuilderette.com

      A kitchen reno – how exciting! So many great options out there – I hope you get some input into colours, if not the actual finish – good luck and have fun.

  • Vicki @ Boiled Eggs & Soldiers

    We are in the middle of a renovation and I’ve just put in a marble look stone benchtop. I’ve also got a butlers pantry which I actually used laminate in and it’s come up a treat.

    • alix@thebuilderette.com

      OOOh, so jealous of your butler’s pantry. That’s a great place to use laminate and save a bit of dosh. Nice work!

  • Nicole @ The Builder's Wife

    When we were children, Mum and Dad built a home. We had moved interstate to Brisbane to build this home and it was during the 80’s when money was very scarce especially for a tradie. I can recall our temporary kitchen having chipboard benches covered in contact, because it was meant only to be for a short time (ended up being a few years) so as not to waste money. Now days we have engineered stone and love it! I have been throwing around the idea of marble for the new kitchen, but will probably stick to the engineered stone.

    • alix@thebuilderette.com

      Chipboard covered in contact is a good solution when times are tough. I’d love a really dramatic stone for a new kitchen – not that we have any plans for one. Did you see there was a new “marble” out from Caesarstone this week? It’s gorgeous!

  • EssentiallyJess

    Paper? Really? I would love to know what that looks like.

    • alix@thebuilderette.com

      Hi Jess, there’s a link there to show you what it looks like – layers basically and the colours seem to be a bit limited at the moment. I think it’s a great concept but needs to be developed further to hit the visual sweet spot (assuming it’s technically sound). Cheers.

  • Jo @ You had us at hello

    We have essa Stone in the kitchen and a copy cat version of laminate in the Butler’s pantry. Love it! the stone is so forgiving! The paper layer bench top sounds interesting. I always thought I’d have stainless steel but we opted for that as a pressed tin splash back instead. Gotta love oogling at different styled kitchens 🙂

    • alix@thebuilderette.com

      Hi! Great idea having the copycat version in laminate. A pressed tin splashback sounds cool – is it a colour or pattern or the stainless steel look?

  • Amanda

    Hi

    Great article!

    Are there any things to watch or be aware of when fitting steel bench tops? Had some quotes that are massively different (one a commercial kitchen guy & one a sheet metal guy). Not sure if we’ll get the same effect with the cheaper sheet metal guy!
    Thanks

  • Bec Senyard

    Great post yet again. We have a laminate benchtop – not by choice – but because it was installed in the display home we bought. I’ve never done a kitchen renovation, but if and when we do, I’d choose an engineered stone. Shock horror I’m not a fan of marble. Only in small doses like homewares.

    • alix@thebuilderette.com

      Thanks! Yep, I think engineered stone is a bit of a winner and I’m sure they’ll continue to bring out great new colours/patterns too. I had a marble benchtop in a house I bought once – left a pineapple on the bench for a bit and I guess it started to go off. The acid (?) from the base of the pineapple actually ate into the marble! Thank god it was in a dark corner where you couldn’t really see it and not front and centre on the island bench. Yikes!!

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