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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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?