The most popular materials for kitchen worktops - laminate, granite, wood, glass, composite stone, stainless steel - have different advantages, so it's important to look at all the factors involved. Here's what you should consider before you buy.

 

Practicalities of kitchen worktops

Stainless steel is great for clean freaks, though it will develop a patina over time

* Think about practicalities, such as the maintenance of your worktop. If you have young children, a material that marks easily such as glass, is not ideal.

* If you like cooking, consider a heat-resistant material such as granite around your hob, so that you can move hot pans off the heat and onto the worktop.

* If hygiene is a concern, think about anti-bacterial materials, such as Corian or stainless steel. Remember that steel will scratch over time, creating a worn patina that some love, but if you want a pristine worktop, it might not be the right choice for you.

 

Hardwood

You can remove scratches on hardwood worktops using fine wire wool

Best used: Food preparation and dining areas, for example, islands and breakfast bars. Iroko and teak are ideal for using around the sink as they have a high oil content and are water resistant.
Best look: Suits all kitchen styles. Can be incorporated into a contemporary scheme using glass or stainless steel to add a warm feel.
Upkeep: Wipe up spills instantly to prevent staining. Once established, seal with Danish or linseed oil quarterly to stop drying out. Scratches can be sanded out with fine wire wool
Sealing required: Hardwoods require an initial programme of sealing using oil. Apply a coat once a day for the first week, then once a week for the next month, then once a month for a year.
Durability: If hardwoods are properly sealed and maintained they will last for a long time, but don't use the worktop as a chopping board, or place hot pans directly onto the wood, as it can scorch.
Flexibility and fitting: Wood is very easy to cut, and is suitable for use in most situation

Price per linear metre: From approx £100 per linear m. 

 

Composite

The ideal choice if you want a seamless run of worktop

Best used: A very practical and beautiful choice that can be used anywhere, including next to hobs and around the sink.
Best look: Dramatic colours such as dark grey and blue look fabulous in modern and contemporary kitchens. If your room design is quite traditional, stick to neutrals such as cream.
Upkeep: Wipe up spills to prevent marks. Keep clean with a soft, damp cloth and a mild detergent.
Sealing required: No
Durability: Composite is very tough and more durable than many natural stones. As the colour runs right the way through the material, any scratches can be sanded out.
Flexibility and fitting: This worksurface can be thermoformed into different shapes without joints to create streamlined, seamless worktop runs.
Price per linear metre: From approx £300 per linear m.

 

Granite

Granite is very low-maintenance, though wine and citric spills must be mopped up immediately

Best used: Any area of the kitchen, including around the sink and next to the hob or oven. A large expanse of glossy granite makes a striking island worktop
Best look: It's a luxury material that never falls out of fashion and suits traditional and modern styles. Choose from a classic polished finish, or a honed matt for a more contemporary look.
Upkeep: Very low maintenance. Clean using a damp cloth and a mild detergent
Sealing required: Granite requires an initial sealing, and then another about 10 years later
Durability: The best of all the natural materials, it can withstand high temperatures, is water resistant and impervious to most stains, but wine and citric acids must be cleaned up at once.
Flexibility and fitting: With advances in modern technology, granite can be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes, although it is very heavy to transport and difficult to manoeuvre.
Price per linear metre: From approx £200 per sq m.

 

Laminate

You can fit laminate worktops yourself, and they're easy to look after once installed

Best used: General usage, including food preparation areas, sink runs and around hobs and cookers.
Best look: Can accurately mimic other worktop materials, including granite, slate and wood, so will suit modern and traditional schemes.
Upkeep: Very low maintenance. Clean with mild detergent
Sealing required: No
Durability: Resistant to most stains and chemicals, but not to heat or steam. Not suitable as a cutting surface. Choose a thicker, high-pressure worktop for greater durability.
Flexibility and fitting: One of the few materials that can be cut and fitted by a DIY enthusiast rather than a kitchen professional.
Price per linear metre: From £30 per linear m.

 

Glass

Glass gives a modern look and bounces light around the room

Best used: Around the sink or for focal-point breakfast bars. As it is a very reflective surface it is useful as a feature worktop in small kitchens to increase the feeling of space.
Best look: Best used with contemporary schemes. Looks out of place in country kitchens. Can be lit from below to create an atmospheric focus.
Upkeep: Needs frequent wiping to prevent water-marking, but is very hygienic due to the lack of joints and resulting dirt traps. Keep sparkling with a glass cleaner.
Sealing required: No
Durability: Glass for work surfaces is toughened to increase durability. Heat, acid and water resistant. Can be prone to scratches, but these can be polished smooth.
Flexibility and fitting: Worktops can be cut to most shapes and can include cut outs for hobs and sinks.
Price per linear metre: From approx £300 for a standard 15mm-deep surface.

 

Corian

This easy-care option is great in wet areas

Best used: In wet areas. Perfect for a seamless integrated sink and worktop run.
Best look: Suits most schemes. Available in a variety of colours - choose bright hues for modern kitchens, white for architectural, and any pale shades for traditional rooms.
Upkeep: Low-maintenance. Clean with a soft cloth and mild detergent.
Sealing required: No
Durability: Stain and water resistant. Heat-resistant to 250°C, but best to use a trivet. As it is a solid surface material, scratches can be sanded out.
Flexibility and fitting: Can be formed into any shape without the need for ugly or unhygienic joints.
Price per linear metre: From approx £300 per linear m.

 

Stainless steel

There are good reasons why stainless steel is used in professional kitchens, including its hygienic and hard-wearing properties
Best used: Around the sink, by the hob and in all food preparation areas.
Best look: Industrial and contemporary schemes. Team with other materials to soften the look.
Upkeep: Easily the choice of commercial kitchens because of its hygienic properties. It is very easy to keep clean with stainless-steel cleaner. Use baby oil to keep it looking its best.
Sealing required: No
Durability: Very strong, waterproof, heat and acid resistant. Prone to scratching, but this won't affect its anti-bacterial nature.
Flexibility and fitting: Sinks can be incorporated into a stainless-steel run. Simple designs can be cut from a single sheet, avoiding the need for joints.
Price per linear metre: From approx £250 per linear m.


For more decorating inspiration, craft ideas and cleaning hacks don't miss our dedicated DIY guide.
 

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