How to select a kitchen benchtop

Your kitchen benchtop can often be the single most expensive item for a kitchen renovation and it is therefore really important that you get this choice right, both in terms of practicality for you and your family and in terms of colour and design for the look that you want to achieve.  A fact for many of us too is that budget constraints will also play a role, but there is a lot of choice – sometimes too much – so don’t despair there will be a solution that is right for you.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Caesarstone Alpine Mist

The Natural choice for a kitchen benchtop

Natural stone is beautiful and can really make a statement.  A granite benchtop is extremely durable and in a simple black is a great choice for a long lasting, classic style look.  Lovers of warm neutral brown schemes will also find that there are granites available that will suit this palette and again this is a very classic and homely kitchen look.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – House Tweaking

Popular at the moment of course is marble, which looks really stunning.  You do have to really love it though as it can make quite a bold statement and you need to remember that although you love this now, 10 years on it may not give the classic look that you had hoped for.  Don’t let me put you off – I absolutely love the style – but you must too as it is a big investment.  Of course there are many different types of marble and you can choose one that has less dominant veins throughout if you want a more understated look.

How to select a kitchen benchtop

Think carefully about your colour scheme as marble comes in lots of variations, not just the classic white and black and the veins running through the piece will vary greatly too and will include whites, varying tones of grey and lovely rich browns.

How to select a kitchen benchtop

A great selling point for marble is that it is beautifully cool to the touch so if you are a cook, and in particular love to bake, then a marble bench top is great to work with.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Style at Home

There are two really important points to remember when selecting a natural stone:

Firstly, you must look at the slab or slabs that will be used in your scheme.  As this is a natural product it will vary greatly and a piece that you fell in love with from a small sample may bear no relation to the end product installed in your kitchen.  This can entail a bit of legwork but it is worth it or you can engage a designer to do this for you.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Arizona Tile

Secondly, natural stone will stain so you need to appreciate that this type of benchtop will need more maintenance and you will need to ensure that you wipe up spills immediately, particularly from foods that are acidic like tomatoes, citrus and vinegar.

This is therefore not a great option for a rental property or holiday home that is shared throughout the family.  I don’t want this to put you off though as it just takes a little more care.  A honed finish does provide a little more protection as it is less porous but it is still a natural product that will mark. Natural stone can also be sealed to offer more protection.

Some people do not let this worry them though and beautiful slabs of marble are passed throughout families in Italy and transported from home to home.  It really depends on how much of a perfectionist you are and whether small marks will bug you or remind you of a great party or family gathering!

Kitchen benchtops of engineered stone

The market will always respond to these challenges and reconstituted quartz stone is a great alternative to natural stone.  These stones have a high density and are non-porous and resistant to cracks and chips.  This is not to say that they are completely impervious – nothing is – but they do withstand a fair amount of wear and tear.

There are a lot of manufacturers on the market now who offer a wide range of colours from pure white through to imitations of natural marble.  Depending upon the look there are cost implications with some suppliers having a wide range of prices.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Caesarstone Statuario Maximus

A simple black or white engineered stone with a slight fleck is a timeless look that is also very durable.  My clients love the pure whites and blacks but remember that if you have a slight fleck throughout, the benchtop is a lot more forgiving.  So if over time you have the odd chip or stubborn mark it is less obvious.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Smartstone

Laminate kitchen benchtops

Laminate bench tops have played second fiddle to stone and are seen as the poor relation but a good quality simple laminate can be a great solution.  I like the plain colours or ones with just a hint of a design.

They just provide a very effective, long lasting and durable benchtop that will look good for years.

Laminate benchtops don’t break the bank and leave you more funds to furnish your kitchen with beautiful artworks, rugs and furniture that bring great personality to a space.  So don’t feel pressured to select a stone if it is financially out of reach as this is not something that you absolutely need to have.  Remember that less can be more and a kitchen doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive to be beautiful and practical.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Polytec

Timber kitchen benchtops

I am starting to see a lot more timber benchtops in kitchens which I love as it is such a beautiful warm and natural product.  Of course, a timber benchtop will mark but if you are careful and use chopping boards and heat resistant pads – as you should with any benchtop – then you will have years of use from this.

The beauty with natural timber is that it can be sanded and re-finished to update the kitchen when necessary.

You can of course just opt for timber on an island bench and use a more practical stone or laminate for the working areas.  This is a great way to introduce a point of difference and makes the island more like a piece of furniture.

Remember when selecting the timber to use that there are varying levels of hardness which can make an enormous difference to the durability of the piece so ask this question before you commit.

How to select a kitchen benchtop

Stainless steel kitchen benchtops

Undoubtedly, this is the choice of the professional chef.

Stainless steel benchtops abound in commercial environments and for the true home cook, this can also be a great solution.  Cool to the touch, durable and heat resistant, stainless steel is the obvious choice for anyone who loves to give their kitchen a good workout.

Depending upon the style of cabinetry, this choice of benchtop can look super contemporary or can fit into a cottage country style.  Clearly a great choice for an upmarket New York style loft apartment and great for anyone who loves the industrial look.  I particularly like stainless steel partnered with timber.

This way you have the durability and convenience of stainless steel for the working areas and the beauty and warmth of natural timber for the island and servery section of the kitchen.

How to select a kitchen benchtop

Acrylic Kitchen benchtops

Corian is the best known amongst the makers of acrylic surfaces and I absolutely love to work with these.  The beauty of Corian is that it is a seamless product.  Joins are invisible and therefore if you have an extra-long or wide stretch of bench top you can have a finish that is completely seamless.

Corian is also very malleable which is why it is such a great commercial product and an excellent choice for healthcare and education environments.  For the humble kitchen it offers a lot more than many other types of benchtop.  As it is so malleable and seamless you can have your kitchen sink made from the same product as your benchtop which means there are no nooks or crannies for bacteria to hide in and you can also extend your benchtop to work as a splashback.  Be careful though as you do see the join at this point unless you use a pure white.

The downsides are that it is not as heat resistant as stone, however as I have mentioned, I wouldn’t put anything hot down directly onto any surface.  Corian does also scratch more easily but the beauty with it is that any marks, stains, cigarette burns or scratches can be easily repaired. I know people who have had this style of benchtop for years and with a little care and renovation keep it looking good.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Corian

A matt or a polished kitchen benchtop?

There is something about a matt black bench top that I find really appealing.  Using a strong colour on the bench top, particularly if you partner it with white cabinetry, can be quite confronting but I feel that when you have a honed matt finish with black, the look is softer and although provides a great tonal contrast is not as obvious as a highly polished finish would give you.

As mentioned before, honed natural stone surfaces can be less porous so this can also be a practical solution.  It really boils down to the look that you like and the overall mood and style that you want to create for your home.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Cheshire Furniture Company

Selecting colours for a kitchen benchtop

I have touched on colour but what I really wanted to say is that a benchtop can either provide a strong statement and tonal variation to the cabinetry or you can select one that is the same colour.

White on white is very popular and gives you a timeless, classic look that will be popular for years.  However if you want a point of difference, the benchtop colour is a great way to introduce this and varying degrees of tonal variation can give the kitchen a nice lift.  You do need to consider this as part of the entire look, so do take into account your splashback ideas too.

How to select a kitchen benchtop
Image – Caesarstone Cosmopolitan White

I would love to hear about your kitchen dilemmas and benchtop choices and it would be great if you followed me on Pinterest where I have a lot more kitchen inspiration.  Hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

How to select a kitchen benchtop

21 thoughts on “How to select a kitchen benchtop

  1. Avatar
    John says:

    Agree with the article that stone can make for a really good-looking benchtop. The article mentions too that durability is the hallmark of a stone benchtop. Are there different benefits that come from a specific type of stone you use? I’d be curious to know.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      HI John My clients are starting to go back to granite as it is so tough – they love marble but are concerned about staining. Some see the appeal of anti-bacterial properties of some of the reconstituted stone on the market. There seem to be pros and cons with all stone but definitely more pros!

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      I love polished concrete – it’s very durable but you need to ensure that it is laid by a professional. If it isn’t done correctly at the start it will crack. You can have it plain or showing the aggregate, which I love. Lots of options but you do need an expert involved.

  2. Avatar
    Sue says:

    We are considering using Dekton for the kitchen benchtop in our new house. Do you have any experience with this product? We are looking for a semi industrial look and will have polished concrete floors. Not sure about colours yet for the upper and lower cupboards, island and benchtops but are thinking of using two different colours.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Sue I haven’t specified this product before but have seen it in the showroom. The products from Cosentino are very good and I have used their Silestone in the past. They really seem to be at the cutting edge of technology and were there in the early days of matt stone surfaces which I love. 2 colours for your kitchen work well but you will need to consider the benchtop colour too and how much of a statement you will make with this. Perhaps tie your lower cabinetry into the colour of the polished concrete or link this somewhere else in the kitchen so that you don’t have too many different colours in the room. Sounds interesting – I hope it goes well. Samantha

  3. Avatar
    Paula Maharaj says:

    I’m installing white carerra mable countertops in my kitchen and bathroom. My husband likes polished, while I prefer honed. What are the pros and cons, and what is your personal preference?
    Thank you!

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Paula honed marble is more durable as it doesn’t stain as quickly as polished marble however they will both mark but polished or honed can also be sealed each year which is a fairly straight forward process and this should help to protect the finish. Once the stone is polished, more of the colour comes through so for Carrara marble the grey tones are more obvious and the stone appears more vibrant. Your choice will really come down to whether you want more of a laid back look in which case I would opt for a honed finish or whether you want a slick contemporary feel in which case you should go for a polished finish. Personally, I love matt finishes but it really does depend on the other materials that you are going to use – kitchen cabinetry, flooring etc. Either way – Carrara marble is gorgeous!

  4. Avatar
    Braden Bills says:

    I want to make sure that I get the right benchtops. I didn’t know that stainless steel was such a great choice! I love that they are heat resistant and easy to clean. I’ll have to see if I can have that used.

  5. Avatar
    Annika Larson says:

    Right now my husband and I are remodeling our kitchen. We want to find a benchtop that we will love that will also be low-maintenance and durable. As you mentioned, marble is a stunning choice, but you have to be sure that it is something that you will love for a long time as there are many options.

  6. Avatar
    Max Jones says:

    I’ve been looking for some new kitchen benchtops that we could have put in after we finish our remodel, and I think that I would like the fleck in in like you talked about. My kids aren’t the most responsible, so being able to have some fleck in our kitchen benchtops to hide future imperfections would be really helpful! I’m going to have to see what I can figure out and what kitchen benchtops my wife and I would like!

  7. Avatar
    Karen Thorne says:

    I have chosen a navy kitchen island (Dulux Presidential) White handleless shaker cupboards(Dulux Snowy Mountain quarter) Caesarstone calcutta nuvo benchtops. I have two splashbacks opposite sides of the kitchen. Would the marble on the splashbacks be too much and take away from the island or should I do plain white glass. Also is painting the walls white the exact same as the cabinets too white or should I paint them full strength snowy mountain.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Karen There really is no right or wrong here – it just depends how much you love the Calacutta Nuvo and how much of it you want to see. It really does make a dramatic statement as a splashback and looks gorgeous but you have to love it. If you want something simpler then glass works well and you can pick up one of the very light soft greys from the marble rather than pure white – just play around with some samples though as a glass splashback is a big investment. For your walls, again it is personal preference. If you want your kitchen to stand out more you should use a darker strength on the walls – think too about the aspect of the room, the amount of natural light and the overall mood that you want when thinking about the depth of white for the wall. Hope this helps! Samantha

  8. Avatar
    John Billows says:

    I’ve been thinking of replacing the wooden benchtop I have in my kitchen. I have seen a lot of different ideas, but I am not sure which one I like the best. I like that the marble is naturally cool, and doesn’t heat up much at all either. Thanks for the great tips on kitchen benchtops.

  9. Avatar
    Margaret says:

    Hi Samantha,

    I hope it’s not way to late for this thread as I’m seeking your advice as to weather a corian glacier white bench top would look OK with dulux vivid white joinery 60 percent gloss.

    Thanks

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Margaret I think that Corian’s Glacier White looks good in most settings – you really need to assess it too with your wall and splashback colour too – put all the whites/neutrals etc. together in a very light space so that you can see how they work together – you may need to paint a semi-gloss sample board of Vivid White to get the right effect – but do remember it is all the other things in the room that will make an impact too. Good luck Samantha

  10. Avatar
    Sonia Wee says:

    Hi Samantha
    I have just discovered your website and have found your tips and advice so helpful – I just wish you lived here in Perth so I could access your personalised advice for my home.
    Hoping you can help me with choosing the best white for kitchen cabinetry (2 pack shaker style) and walls to match caesar stone Statuario Maximus benchtops and jarrah floorboards!
    Kitchen is a separate room ( ie house is 1880 period so rooms aren’t open plan).
    Rest of house is painted in Dulux Berkshire white but thought this too creamy yellow for the statuario maximus so painted kitchen walls in natural white. But at this point I can change wall paint.
    Thank you so much for your generous time.

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