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Bench tops

Benchtops for Kitchens, Bathrooms and Laundry's

The surfaces you choose for your kitchen worktop and wet area counter tops will make a large contribution to the feel and style of your home. Whether you want a bright sunny beach house feel, an industrial kitchen or a country farmhouse, the kitchen surfaces play a large role in creating this image.
Benchtops come in an array of prices and finishes. There are a few tips when choosing your benchtop. As a rule light colours hide more dirt and scratches than dark colours, a pattern will also help to hide dirt or damage, preferably a random/ speckled pattern. Remember an off white pattern on a white benchtop will look white from a distance.Marble Benchtop with undermount sink
Consider your expectations of your benchtop:
  • Life expectancy
  • Heat resistance
  • Baking trays straight from the Oven
  • Hygienic integrity
  • Resistance to chemicals (normally laundry’s)
  • Environmentally responsible product
  • Repair-ability
  • Stain Resistance
  • Luxury
There are a number of ways to order your work surfaces.
If you are working with a Builder there will be a standard specification for your home or reno. If you want to upgrade the work surfaces to a different product, choose the one you require and either have your builder quote on additional costs to supply and install (recommended) or have the benchtops deleted from your contract (and credited) and order the work surfaces yourself. If you proceed this way remember you will have to have the benchtops installed prior to completion and if they are damaged it is very hard to ascertain who damaged them. The tops will not be insured by the builders insurance. If they are solid surface tops, templates will be required for the sink and hotplate, these cutouts will be at your expense.
There are two main benchtop categories below:
  • Natural products
  • Man made products

Natural products

The beauty of a natural product is hard to beat, unpredictable depth of colour and natural flaws create a unique finish. Being natural they are usually an environmentally sound choice.

Granite

Granite is recommended for Kitchens due to its strength, resilience and heat resistance. It is also great in bathrooms and laundry’s
  • A vast array of colors with every slab being unique
  • You can choose the slab you want from the yard
  • Natural metallic fleck in some granites
  • Expensive
  • The hardest benchtop available –Long lasting
  • Timeless- will not date
  • Different edge profiles available
  • Different edge thicknesses available
  • Can get matching granite splashback
  • Perfect for semi recessed basins and under slung basins
  • Can be resurfaced/buffed
  • May require reinforced cupboard support

Marble

  • There are some truly unique colours and patterns available in marble. It can be a quite plain or very dramatic
  • Recommended for bathrooms/powder rooms
  • Not as hard as Granite therefore reduced perfomance in kitchens and laundries where harsh usage is expected.
  • Not heat/stain resistant
  • Can be back lit
  • Requires sealing

Solid timber

Solid Timber benchtops can be specified through a Cabinetmaker. You will need to specify the timber you want and the edge profile.
  • Any hard wood is suitable for benchtops, there are options in both pale and dark woods (sheoak, jarrah, Tasmanian oak etc).
  • Normally made from solid or laminated timber (thin pieces of timber glued together under pressure)
  • Needs to be polished and sealed
  • Will need some care and maintenance
  • Not heat or scratch resistant
  • Can become waterlogged and unhygienic if seal is compromised
  • Beauty of natural wood
  • Any damage can be sanded out and resealed very easily

Man made products

Laminate

Laminate benchtops will be manufactured by your Cabinetmaker, however there are quite a few different manufacturers so you might want to check out all of the available ranges before you decide. Tile shops have displays of one or two ranges but get online and see which ones you like and the combinations put together by the laminate company's designers.
  • Laminates are manufactured by compressing high quality print paper, Kraft paper and resins under both heat and pressure. This creates a laminate which is then applied to a substrate to form a benchtop
  • Available in a vast array of colours and patterns
  • Available in matt or gloss finish, (Gloss not normally recommended for Kitchens and heavy usage areas,)
  • Many suppliers within each cost bracket
  • Can be cut and self edged but a dark glue line is visible at the join,
  •  PVC edge (ABS) is available
  • Suitable for contrast laminate edge i.e. brushed stainless steel
  • Can be posted formed (curved over the edge) post forming available in bull nose (round) or soft edge square, be aware that where 2x post formed edges meet, a corner plaque will need to be installed to cover the join, or one side cut square.
  • Stain and heat resistant for standard use
  • Can be subject to warping if seal is compromised and water gets in
  • Specialty laminates are available with superior heat, scratch and hygiene properties
  • Inexpensive

Engineered solid surfaces

Engineered benchtops can either be ordered directly through a specialised craftsman or through your builder. (Remember that the builders insurance will not cover owner supplied goods) Costs vary between products.
These products are a manufactured composite using various materials,these include
  • Quartz
  • Granite
  • Minerals
  • Polymer
  • Acrylic
  • Polyester
  • Resin
This is an extremely fast growing product range, basically there 2 types of products available here. Those that consist of a large percentage (over 95%) of a natural product like quartz and natural minerals then mixed with a small amount of polymer/acrylic or resin. The quartz is incredibly hard so the higher the quartz percentage the better the quality. Quartz benchtops are cool to touch and feel similar to stone.
The other option is a polymer, acrylic, polyester or resin mix. These tops have a higher level of acrylic or polyester and are slightly warmer to touch.
Both surfaces types are considered non porous, heat resistant and scratch resistant and described as low maintenance. They are all produced in slabs and installed the same way as a granite top. However each product will vary in its performance and it is recommended that you compare the individual performance of each product you are considering. .
The questions that need to be asked in order to compare products are:
  • Is it stain resistant (to what level, beetroot, acid?)
  • Can the surface be buffed or polished back to its original sheen
  • Can it be repaired if damaged?
  • Can it be patched if chipped
  • Can it be resurfaced
  • Is it heat resistant (to what extent?)
  • Is it ovenproof? (suitable for items straight out of the oven?)
  • How many edge profiles are available
  • Thickness’ available (thicker is normally more expensive)
  • Can I have a matching sink/drainer/splashback
  • Abrasion rating
  • Pressure rating
  • Does the manufacturer have a Stated Environmental Policy
  • Country of origin, where is it being shipped from? (carbon footprint)
Check that your chosen product is colourfast if exposed to direct sunlight. Dark colours are not normally guaranteed if in direct sun.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is a great product if you are looking for that industrial feel for your benchtops.
The steel is formed over a substrate with the edges wrapped smoothly at the sides; corners are folded and welded then sanded to a smooth finish so no joins are visible.
  • Heat resistant
  • Highly hygienic
  • Sinks can be formed in so there are no joins or caulking (glue)
  • Will get superficial scratches, these add to the look but can be buffed out periodically if preferred
  • Can be dented from hard impact
  • Stain resistant

Concrete/terrazzo

This is pretty much a custom made item,
  • The concrete can be poured on site or in factory then installed. The concrete is then cured and ground down to expose aggregate/stones, which is followed by an application of high quality sealer.
  • Any combination of concrete colours and or coloured stone can be added
  • Extremely hard wearing
  • Will stain if seal is compromised
  • Not heat resistant as sealant may be compromised
  • Can get hairline cracks in in the concrete, but this adds to the rustic appeal

Cupboard handles and knobs

Cupboard doors can have handles or finger grips. Finger grips are a groove cut into the top surface of the door. Handles come in a vast array of shapes, colours and finishes, Chrome, Aluminium (anodized, polished or brushed), Nickel (brushed, satin or black), gold plated, porcelain, brass, black iron. Bear in mind drawers will need the handles fitted horizontally while cupboard door handles can be fitted horizontally or vertically. You can see handles at you cabinetmakers

Cupboard accessories

There is a fantastic array or accessories for your cupboards. These items can really make a kitchen sing. If you like to have a place for everything in your kitchen then these products will make your kitchen a place you love to be. Pull out pantry shelving, built-in rubbish bins, tea towel hangers, dish racks, corner carousels, wine racks, spice racks, cook book holders, built-in detergent dispensers, the list is endless.

Things to consider

  • Thickness of top
  • Edge profile desired
  • Does top overhang or 'wrap' around cupboard carcass (waterfall edge)

Helpful hints

  • Create a breakfast bar area for stools by overhanging the cupboards
  • Do you want an up stand to hide the sink?
  • Do you want the splashback to match the benchtops?
  • Order your tabletop made in the same product as your kitchen benchtop if you like it all to match

Related topics

Cabinetry
Splashbacks
The other option is a Polymer, Acrylic, Polyester or Resin mix. These tops have a higher level of acrylic or polyester and are warmer to touch.