Worktops, what difference does it make?

Question from Charlotte in London…

Worktops! I know that worktop prices vary enormously depending on if they’re granite, composite, metal or ordinary laminate – but what are the basic advantages (or disadvantages) of each?

Laminate worktops have always been the most popular and therefore most cost effective surface solution, but they still suffer from the lingering image of the 1970’s where laminate worktops where only available in straight lengths and required ugly metal strips wherever they were jointed. These days laminate worktops come in varying qualities from the straight lengths available from DIY outlets to the bespoke designer ranges available from kitchen specialists.

The modern bespoke designer ranges can be cut and shaped to virtually any size or shape, including circular, and are available in many different colours and designs. The only time you would need to joint this type of worktop is when going around a corner and even then this can be achieved with a proper mitre that only leaves a hair line joint. The main advantage of the designer bespoke worktops is that they are usually manufactured to the designer’s plans in the factory and produced to very high tolerances and standards. Long gone are the days when the kitchen fitter would attempt to cut and shape such worktops by hand. Laminates, although much tougher than the 1970’s versions can scratch and it is usually recommended to include a cutting board with a kitchen featuring laminate worktops.

Composite worktops fall into two camps, basically the entry level product is similar to laminate in that joints will still be visible and sinks cannot be moulded from the product. They look nice and are very hard wearing but they can still stain, and as I mentioned earlier the joints still show. Expect to pay around three times the price of a good quality laminate worktop.

The top end of the market for composites feature seamless joints and moulded sinks looks fabulous but expect to pay at least five times the cost of good quality laminate. Composites can and do stain, particularly with liquids such as red wine or fruit juice, if not removed immediately but this can usually be sanded out, some people would be happy to attempt this themselves but many would prefer to call in a professional from the composite company.

Granite as I am sure you know is a natural material and there is some talk within the industry regarding the ethicacy of using what is a finite resource in domestic kitchens. In most ways granite performs in a very similar way to composites. Joints will still be visible and again sinks cannot be moulded from it. Price is difficult to estimate as it will vary considerably depending upon the thickness, rarity of the colour and how many polished edges, cut outs, and drainer grooves etc, are required. You will see granite advertised from as little as £150.00 per running metre but be aware that templating, fitting, cut outs and polished edges etc will normally at least triple the final price. You should expect to pay between three and five times the price of a good quality laminate.

Given that composites or granite can typically cost between £3,000 and £6,000 and, as such, constitute such a huge proportion of most peoples overall kitchen budget. Many people today are selecting a good quality laminate, with a view to replacing it with a composite or granite four or five years down the road.

All the best,

The Kitchen Guru