Kitchen Advice: Choosing the right worktop for your kitchen

February 18th, 2020 - Posted by in-toto Cambridge

Planning a new kitchen is a great endeavour, with so many different styles of cabinet doors, almost unlimited colour choices, thousands of tile options, multiple material worktops all with different properties. This can all be very daunting and overwhelming but don’t panic, because that’s what our in-toto kitchen designers are here for, to safely guide you through this labyrinth and assist you to find your preferred style and requirements.

Choosing a kitchen worktop can heavily impact the overall style of your kitchen but also its practical use. A worktop is the workhorse of any kitchen being used for preparing, serving and potentially dining and entertaining and after all that will need to withstand regular or intensive cleaning. As such you should consider the practical use of your worktop as well as its impact on the overall scheme of the kitchen.

in toto Solihull island

Here are a few things you should consider before investing in a countertop:

Budget: Kitchen worktops can fit most budgets, but realistically your choice is largely governed by how much you would like to spend.

Maintenance: Are you prepared to maintain worktops that require regular attention (example; wood worktops need to be treated two or three times a year, or as needed)

Cleaning: Are you prepared for the upkeep of a high-gloss work surface or would a matt finish be better suited (i.e. consider fingerprints if you have small children who like to touch everything). Do you clean and wipe up spills immediately as some worktops can be easily damaged through spills and staining whereas others are more if not completely resistant.

Specialised cooking: If you like to do a lot of baking or chocolate making you may want to consider a stone or marble worktop. Stone and especially Marble absorbs heat quicker than wood or plastic (what type of plastic are you referring to? How about laminate?), which means it helps cool chocolate quicker and keeps pastry cool as you work with it.

Zoning: Mixing of materials is a great way to define kitchen zones and even save money. This could be achieved by placing a more expensive stone in harder working areas such as around the cooker and sink area, whilst using a less costly material such as laminate or wood for the remaining areas. Personally, I like using stone materials for working everyday worktops and adding wood features like a Breakfast bar to add character and warmth to the overall scheme.

Island Size: Having a kitchen island will often result in being a focal point of the design and the last thing you want is a joint running down the middle. Certain materials have limitations on the maximum length. The material you choose could dictate the maximum size of your island or vice versa the size of the island may limit your material options.

We hope to enlighten you on the different properties of worktop materials available from in-toto Kitchens and their pros and cons. You can see an overview of our worksurface materials here. 

Overview of the different types of worktop surfaces available for kitchens:

       Granite    Quartz
   Corian Ceramic
     Glass  Wood
  LaminateStainless Steel
ConcreteMarble

We would like to introduce some of the most popular choices in more detail to you.

Granite
Granite is created from the process of cooling pressurised magma over millions of years. It is an igneous rock composed up of primarily 10 to 50% quartz and 65 to 90% total feldspar. Granite is a popular choice by many due to its natural veining and colouring unique to each slab and often associated with luxurious kitchen schemes. Because it is a natural stone, the more beautiful and rarer the stone the higher the price tag.

Striking worktops Explosion Blue.JPG

Advantages of granite worktops
·         Incredible durability – hard wearing
·         Heat resistant
·         Naturally resistance to bacteria
·         Often cheaper than composites
          (unless you’re seeking the rare colours)
·         Easy to clean

Disadvantages of granite worktops
·         Needs to be resealed at least once a year
·         It is a heavy material and requires full support
          from the cabinets once fitted
·         It can’t be repaired if damaged
·         Cannot be used as a cutting surface
·         Cannot take hot pans straight from the hob or oven onto surface

Care and Maintenance of Granite worktops:
Controversial to popular belief you can’t put your hot cookware straight onto the worktop. Although Granite is a heat resistance material, due to its natural heritage it has impurities and veins running through the material which if a thermal shock is applied can cause the slab to snap. 
Granite is easy to clean, using a damp cloth and mild detergent. Avoid any abrasive products as this will break down the sealant treatment.

Quartz

Quartz is classed as engineered or man-made stone. This hugely practical, sleek and stylish material is an ideal choice for contemporary kitchens. 
Quartz worktops are fabricated from natural quartz, the 4th hardest mineral according to Mohs scale of mineral hardness, with small amounts of glass or metallic fleck added to create variety. It contains about 90-94% natural quartz crystals mixed with a small percentage of binders.

Weybridge Patagonia Quartz display

Advantages of Quartz worktops
·         Hard-wearing
·         Antibacterial
·         Easy to clean, virtually non-porous
·         Large range of colour choice
·         Colours available mimicking other materials
·         Colour is more even and consistent
·         Harder than granite
·         Heat/Stain/Impact and scratch-resistant
·         If chipped can be repaired
·         Heat resistant

Disadvantages of Quartz worktops
·         More expensive than other products
·         Very heavy
·         Can’t cut straight on the surface
·         Can’t put hot pans straight onto the worktop

Care and maintenance of Quartz worktops:
Although it is the popular belief you cannot put your hot cookware straight onto the worktop.  Man-made surfaces reduce impurities but they are still prone to thermal shock damage, potentially caused by placing hot cookware onto the quartz surface. Doing so will void the warranty and a simple test can be carried out by the manufactures to assess the cause of damage, so it is always best to be honest if heat damages happen. Although generally stain-resistant, strong-staining produces such as red wine or curry spices can stain if not wiped up within a reasonable time frame. There is no maintenance required. General care recommendations recommend to wipe up spills immediately to prevent marks. Keep your quartz worktop clean with a soft, damp cloth and mild detergents.

Corian

Corian is another man-made material produced by mixing resin and bauxite pigments. It has a warmer feel to it with a nice satin finish. Due to the high resin content, it can be thermoformed, meaning you can have a seamless worktop with no joins and moulded upstands or even moulded sinks. It opens the possibility to create unique and pioneering kitchen designs.

In Toto 1 Orchard Close by Pete Helme Photography ph14

Advantages of Corian worktops
·         Can be formed into any shape
·         Easy to clean as non-porous
·         Seamless
·         Heat and scratch resistance
·         Robust
·         Can be repaired easily due to high resin makeup

Disadvantages of Corian worktops
·         Not as hard as stone
·         More costly than other materials, additional costs for seamless finishes
·         Cannot take hot pans straight on the worktop

Care and maintenance of Corian worktops
Corian worktops do not require any specific treatments after installation. In case of damages or scratches, these can be sanded and polished out. Corian can be kept clean with soft, damp cloth and mild detergents. It is recommended to remove any spillage of strong-staining products immediately.

in toto Leicester Antolini.JPG

Ultra-compact worksurfaces
Ultra-compact worksurfaces are renowned for their durability. With resistance to intense temperatures, scratches, UV light, abrasions and stains, as well as the variety of colour options available, it’s not hard to see why so many people opt for such ultra-compact surfaces.

One of the first ultra-compact surfaces known as Dekton, was introduced by Cosentino in 2013. This man-made product is available in more than 40 colours and one of the few materials,  hot cookware can safely be placed straight onto.

Ultra-compact worktops such as Dekton are made up of a combination of quartz, porcelain and glass. A special 25,000-tonne press with the equivalent weight of  2 ½ Eiffel Towers is used to compress the raw mixed materials into slabs.

These are then placed in an oven at 1200 °C,  the same temperature as molten lava. Cosentino has basically created a process which represents an accelerated version of the metamorphic change that natural stone undergoes when subjected to high temperatures and pressure over thousands of years. Recreating the natural way Granite is created but in a more controlled environment.

Advantages of ultra-compact surface materials
·         High UV resistance means it can be used outside without the risk of colour fading
·         High scratch resistance, can only be marked by porcelain or diamond knives 
·         Highly resilient to stains thanks to its low porosity
·         Tough stains such as wine, coffee, ink, or nail varnish can be easily removed
·         Heat resistant allows for hot utensils, electrical appliances, pots and pans can all be
          placed directly onto the surface without causing any damage
·         Abrasion resistance is higher than granite, making it an ideal surface for commercial
          applications and high-traffic areas
·         Resistance to freezing and thawing, due to its low thermal expansion, coefficient
          making this material resistant to thermal shock

Disadvantages of ultra-compact worksurfaces
·         The material requires special equipment to be cut to the required size
·         Patters do not run through the entire material as they are only printed on the top
·         Due to the high pressure from the manufacturing process, the material can crack or chip
          in the resizing process if not handled according to the manufacturer guidelines

Care and maintenance of ultra-compact worksurfaces
There is no specific maintenance required. Ultra-compact worksurfaces are easy to clean with a soft, damp cloth and mild detergents.

The next step: Feel the difference of worktop materials.

You can find a wide selection of samples for different worktop finishes at your local in-toto Kitchens Design Studio, including Quartz, Corian, Granite, Ultra-compact finishes, as well as Glass, or laminate. If you are not sure which one is the best for you, we suggest checking the samples to get a feel for the different finishes.

Our expert kitchen designers will assist you in finding the perfect worktop to suit your personal needs and requirements. You can locate your nearest in-toto studio here.

Are you planning to buy a new kitchen? We have some useful tips on where to start, including a checklist of things to consider. Read our recent blog about 'how much does an in-toto kitchen cost' here.

We also offer free design consultations where you can discuss your kitchen project and ideas with an in-toto designer. Book your appointment here.


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