Avoid the boring ones, please!
Benchtop options are only limited by your imagination and a material's ability to be made waterproof. There are many hardwearing options on the market that look great in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms and are not expensive.
Some typical options
Stone composite benchtops
Stone composite products are generally made up of reconstituted stones, shells or glass (etc.) and are mixed with a resin or silicon base.
The products are so ld in a slab form and are usually imported. Composite slabs are comparable in price to natural stone.
Brand names – Ceasarstone, Essastone, Stone Italiana & Silestone.
Advantages – It is a presealed product and it is warm and flexible. It generally comes in two different thicknesses: 18mm and 28mm. The slab can me mitre cut for neat and deep benchtop edges.
Disadvantages – Excessive heat will permanently mark the surface.
Some stones benchtops can be extremely expensive: up to $2,500 per square metre.
Types – Travertine (limestone), granite, sandstone, marble, slate, soapstone
Disadvantages – Some stones are naturally porous and may chip. Stone benchtops are hard so you are more likely to break crockery on them. Granites are cold products, very reactive to heat and will crack if not cared for correctly.
Laminates are by far the most economical mass produced benchtop product on the market. Laminates are made from melamine resin. The thickness of the laminated benchtops are determined by the number of layers used. The laminating process combines the durability of melamine resins with the aesthetics of embedded decorative paper creating a surfacing material that has been a popular choice for over forty years.
Brand names – Polytec, Duropal, Formica, Wilsonart
Advantages – Versatile product and long lasting if you care for the product. Countless finishes and colours
Disadvantages – Reacts adversly to heat. Relatively easy to scratch, stain or mark.
Formed resin benchtops
This product is a solid resin product and is very durable and flexible and can be made into any shape that you can think of.
Brand names – Corian, Freestyle
Disadvantages – Can look plastic but is not cheap. Originally used in labs it has found its way into the domestic market. Heat will mark the surface.
Advantages – Warm, flexible, resistant to cracking, comes in many colours and finishes
The emerging options
Formed concrete benchtops
Formed concrete looks so cool…... What more do I need to say?
You will need to look after your concrete bench. It should not be left unsealed. It should be sealed with a polyurethane coating or something similar.
See this YouTube video on a classic concrete bench.
The American market has been using tiles as standard benchtop coverings for centuries. It looks great as part of a "French Provincial decor" that is currently fashionable in the kitchen market.
Advantages – Very economical and a DIYers dream. An entire kitchen benchtop can cost as little as $200.
Disadvantages – Bacteria can build up in grout joins so if you have the option ensure plenty of direct sunlight penetrates onto your benches. Like most products tiles will crack if they come in contact with high heat. A smaller tile looks best and allows for movement.
Copper has all the qualities of stainless steel but looks so much classier. Unfortunately it is also very expensive.
Advantages – A very easy to clean, hygienic surface that will not crack due to heat.
Disadvantages – As with stainless steel it scratches easily but it does not change in appearance once the entire surface has been scuffed.
Embossed stainless steel benchtops
Regular stainless steel will show every scratch until it hass been worn in - but there is a new product on the market that eliminates the waiting time. Embossed stainless steel comes in many patterns and hides scratches. It will require more cleaning than a regular stainless steel bench, but check out the industrial pattern on this website... very cool
So, in short...
Let your mind run wild and don't limit your choice with mass market options. The list of possible options go on and on - timber flooring, glass, aluminium sheeting, timber slabs...