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December 15, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Winter 2019 issue

The best countertop for your kitchen and how to pick it

​​Words Justine Lillie Helena

One of the most important investments we can make on our homes is something easily forgotten yet of such high priority. Our kitchen countertops.


We spend so much of our lives in the kitchen, as well as so much time cooking that our countertops are important for functionality, practicality as well as aesthetically.


We definitely need to make sure our countertops look good and work well with the colour scheme and design concept of the room. Yet even more importantly, it’s vital that they are easy to maintain and won’t start looking shabby after a few cooking sessions!


So here I short-list and discuss the different pros and cons of my favourite kitchen worktops, to make this major decision easier for you.


Here are my top 5 worktops:

1. Quartz


This man-made material has evolved over the years to become more durable and completely free of maintenance. It has even been formulated to look more and more like natural stone, therefore can even replicate the more porous marble.


When it comes to price it can be on the high side but for practicality sake could be completely worth the investment, mainly as they are non-porous, hard-wearing, require little to no maintenance and have a high melting point. Some quartz countertops also have anti-bacterial elements engineered into them making them safe and clean to use.


One downfall is the fact that it is, well, quartz, therefore man-made, and there is a certain excitement to picking a natural stone.

2. Granite


Granite on the other hand is a natural stone, yet pretty hard-wearing when you compare to other natural stones out there. It is slightly porous but still has a high melting point, therefore pretty durable to hot pans.


Out of all the natural stones, granite is definitely the most durable, therefore will be completely practical for your home or rental. The set back is that it can look a little old-fashioned but that kind of design style is definitely moving back into trend therefore don’t rule granite out just yet!


Another con is that, unlike quartz, granite will need to be sealed time and time again to keep it from being porous, but then again, some people do enjoy the slow change of a natural top, with its wear, tears and ‘wrinkles’ over the years.

3. Marble


There is nothing as beautiful as a natural stone, and in my opinion, marble hits the top of that list. So classical and timeless, comes in hundreds of different colours and vein patterns and fits any design style, be it contemporary or minimal.


Yet of course, with nature come imperfections, and there are a few cons on this list. Marble does come in different qualities, but even when you are looking at the best such as that from Carrara in Italy, it is still a weak stone and porous. Spills that are acidic especially leave etching in the marble, so a penetrative seal will always need to be applied, yet unfortunately this is still not 100% bullet proof.


With marble two different finishes look great. You’ve got polished and you’ve got honed, which is more of a matte finish. If practicality is where your head’s at, a honed finish may suit you more, as etching is much less likely to be visible. Yet polished surfaces can look grander.

 

4. Wood


Butcher block countertops are rarely seen anymore, but they definitely had their day and look like they’re making their way back into people’s homes.


Wood is an excellent choice for a countertop for a number of reasons. You are more than able to chop on it, yet this may lead to a quicker wear and tear scenario. To some extent they are heat resistant and can be sealed with mineral oil that will help keep them looking in good condition.


Hard woods would be most appropriate for countertops, such as maple, yet oak and walnut are also two good choices.


One of the main advantages of using a butcher block is that they are naturally sanitizing, therefore will kill off germs easily, not to mention using soap and a cloth to clean will be all you need to do to keep your top looking super!


One important thing to factor in when choosing your worktop is the style you are going for, as there isn’t much leeway when it comes to using this material as a countertop, as they very rarely will work with a modern or minimal aesthetic, yet if you are going for a more contemporary, classical look, this could be a fantastic choice!

5. Solid Surfaces


Solid surface countertops have been playing a part in kitchen design for over 50 years now, and have established themselves somewhere in the middle ground between laminate and more expensive man made materials.


They are perfect for those who do not wish to go for laminate, but are still looking for an affordable countertop that will stand the test of time.


Solid surfaces first originated from the famous Du Pont’s Corian, their objective being they wanted a man-made material that looked like natural stone to a certain degree, without the hassle and expense. By hassle I mainly mean the re-occurring issue of natural stone being porous.


No material is totally non-porous, but as far as they go, solid surfaces are at a pretty good standard, not to mention are excellent at keeping bacteria at bay. It is quite a hard material since it works all the way through the counter depth, rather than in layers such as a laminate, making it a much more stable countertop material to go for. Another advantage is that they can be sanded down should a scratch appear, as here’s the downside, they do scratch, therefore chopping boards are a must when installing solid surfaces.


One other con is it’s lacking ability to stand very high heat, such as dry frying pans, yet investing in trivets will easily solve this problem.


Here I have just touched base on a few of the materials available on the market for your countertops. Remember that high quality and low quality materials will always exist, so make sure that no matter what countertop you go for, you pick one that is going to make your investment worthwhile.


Make sure you also do your own research when shopping around, as suppliers may sometimes be biased to their own products so do the studying yourself.


There are so many factors that go into the worktop you choose, but budget, aesthetic and whether the space is a rental or not should also take importance and determine your final choice!

For more information about design and sustainability, like my Facebook page Lillie Helena

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