Engineered stone, also popularly known as quartz, is made from a high percentage of quartz (a natural material found in granite) mixed with resin. Manufacturers include Cosentino (who make Silestone), Samsung and Quartzform.
It is available in dozens of colours, a range of finishes, glossy, matt, ruffled, plain, speckled, sparkly - or even one that mimics concrete!
"Black is less popular than it has been" says Ceri. "Many people are going for grey, to tie in with the popular industrial chic look." Certain ones are recycled, which is appealing to some customers.
Advantages: It's up to five times harder than granite, mould resistant and non-porous. It's low maintenance, chip and stain resistant. Pieces can be joined together with no visible seam.
Down side: As it contains resin, it's best not to put hot pans directly on to it. if it burns or is damaged, it cannot be repaired.
Corian is a man-made material that offers a smooth, durable surface in a wide range of colours. It has a soft, satin look, and thanks to coloured glues available, the seams are virtually invisible, making it easy to form L or U-shaped worktops. Can be backlit for a really stunning effect.
Advantages: Very robust, hygenic and easy care. It can be formed into any shape, including sinks and upstands. The colour runs all the way through it, so it's possible to carve out draining boards.
Down side: It can be scratched, which is particularly visible on darker colours. The area around the sink can discolour and even crack over time. It is not resistant to heat, such as hot pans.
Choosing a Worktop...
There are dozens of worktops to choose from today, each with their own pros and cons. You want your kitchen to reflect your personality, but you also want it to be practical and suited to your needs. There's no need to limit yourself to just one finish. We can design your kitchen with one worktop on the cabinets and a different finish on the island, for example. The only limit is your imagination! We hope that this guide will help you decide on the best option for you...
Granite is a popular choice for both modern and traditional kitchens alike, bringing a quality feel to the room. It comes in a vast range of patterns and colours, making each surface unique. If your preference is for some sparkle and shine in your kitchen, then granite is a good choice!
According to Ceri Salter of Ruby Granite "Both polished and honed surfaces are available – or a polished top with a honed edge, for instance. For those who love slate, which is too soft for a worktop, it’s possible to hone dark granite to look just like it, but with a much hardier result."
Advantages: Granite is very tough, and resistant to heat and mould. "It's often less expensive than engineered stone and composites," says Ceri.
Down side: If it's damaged, it can't be repaired. "We seal our granite worktops with Liphofin after fitting, to protect it", says Ceri, "which prevents staining and acid damage". She recommends that the worktop should be re-sealed every five to six years.
Wood brings warmth and texture into a kitchen making it beautiful and timeless. Various species can be used, including walnut, oak or iroko, an alternative to teak, which has an inherent oiliness and is dark enough not to show every mark.
While in theory, marks can be sanded out, it is unadvisable unless the surface is new. It may end up looking like a Dalmatian!!
Advantages: Naturally anti-bacterial, relatively simple to install and easy to repair. Can be robust and beautiful.
Down side: Needs to be oiled every few months. Is easily scorched, scrtatched and stained. Not great with water.
Laminates have come a long way in the last twenty years. Now, they can realistically mimic other materials, such as granite or wood.
It is also the most cost-effective choice, available in a choice of matt or gloss finishes.
Advantages: Relatively low-cost, in a huge range of finishes. it's easy to create the exact look you're after. Durable and resistant to scratches, wear and tear.
Down side: The joins are visible and it can be scorched.
Porcelain Ceramic worktops are also making headway in to the market. They can withstand heat up to 1000ºC and are scratch-resistant. Available in numerous colours, they can mimic surfaces such as concrete or copper. These surfaces come in thicknesses between 12mm & 20mm. We supply Neolith to our customers.
Advantages: Lighter than aluminium, harder than stone. Resistant to heat, scratches and stains.
Down side: Only available in a satin, matt finish. Expensive.
Glass worktops are a super-slick choice best suited to contemporary and modern kitchens. It's strong and easy to maintain - even the currently popular 10mm range.
If scratches are a problem for you, then you could consider etched glass, which unlike sandblasting, doesn't create holes, so they're still easy to clean and maintain.
Advantages: More or less unlimited range of colours. Can be lit from below for special effect. Chips can be repaired by most windscreen repair firms. Heat resistant to 400ºC. Light scratches can be buffed out.
Down side: The colour is sometimes altered if the glass is very thick.Fingermarks can show up, especially on darker colours. Joins are visible and polished tops can scratch.
Concrete is usually chosen for it's look and feel - people find it hard to resist touching its tactile surface. Available in a large range of colours, it can also incorporate other materials such as glass, stone or even fossils! It can be shaped to run around pillars and used to form sinks, for instance. You can't have a seamless run as expansion joints need to be incorporated into it.
Advantages: Very stylish and "now", making an otherwise safe design look edgy. Can be repaired or stripped back to remove stains. It becomes tougher with age.
Down side: Puts you kitchen out of action for longer as it needs to be poured on site, unless you're using small, simple shapes, and can't be used for two weeks. Stains easily and needs sealing every few months.
Marble is not particularly suitable as a kitchen worktop, but certainly has the wow factor. It has a more open grain than granite, and stains easily. If you feel you simply must have it, then it works best as a section of a worktop in a different material.
As it has a cold surface, it is great for pastry-making and lining drawers in the pantry.
Advantages: Unique beauty and wow factor. Huge range of patterns and colours, each one unique.
Down side: Delicate, easily scratched or stained. Cannot be repaired. Damaged by red wine or citrus juices, vinegars or other acids.
Copper brings a beautiful warm glow to any kitchen and gives a traditional scheme a cool edge. They have traditionally been used in restaurants, because it has natural anti-bacterial properties, but are starting to appear in homes too.
It is resistant to heat, allowing you to put hot pans directly onto it. Water will cause it to oxidise, but can be wiped off with a damp cloth.
It mottles and dents over time.
Advantages: Antibacterial and easy to clean. Runs of up to 20m without a join.
Down side: Widest sheets are 950mm, so you'd need a join on an island. The metal is soft, and will get dented. It's hard work maintaining a bright finish in the long term.
Stainless steel has become more popular, probably thanks to cookery programmes and the growth in the "industrial chic" trend. It is very robust, but not indestructible. it will wear, scratch and becomne patinated.
Advantages: Modern look, very clean and can be formed into any shape and size of worktop, with integrated sinks and splashbacks.
Down side: Shows up grease and every fingerprint, which makes for a lot of work to keep it clean. It can dent, although the substrate (often plywood) will limit this.