The material and design of the countertop has a decisive influence on the functionality and aesthetics of our kitchen. We can invest up to 20% of our budget in the kitchen counter top.
The wide variety of materials, style and prices complicate the choice but, on the other hand, the growing number of options also helps to solve different aesthetic and functional needs of each project. The first question to ask ourselves is what the actual functionality of the countertop will concretely be: will it be exposed to intense use? Will it have to sustain hot materials? Will it get water overflows or fat splashes? And additional questions we can think up before making the optimal choice.
The kitchen is an important area, but the intensity of use is not the same in a household with kids compared to a single's household. In the latter it will not be used as intensively, there will be less cooking and the countertop will be treated less aggressively. Children will treat the counter top with less care and it will be subject to daily spilling of liquids and fat-containing food. Therefore, in this case, the material of the top should be strong, water-repellent and easy to clean.
There is a wide range of natural and artificial materials used in the composition of kitchen countertops, though stone and wood dominate the designs. Those man-made are the result of different manufacturing processes and ingredients. We can find counter tops made from crystal to mineral compositions, laminates, resins, micro cements, steel or porcelain stones.
Ideally, the most resistant materials for the vulnerable zones (cooking and washing) should be chosen; while for the storage or counter tops to eat, natural woods are ideal (which will also bring warmth to the environment).
- Wood: solid woods such as oak, beech, walnut or ash are normally used, which can be protected by a polyurethane varnish or an oiled finish. We also have the listed versions, which result from the union of small glued slats and can also be polished several times during its useful life to preserve an impeccable appearance.
- Laminates: depending on the finish, they are more or less resistant to abrasion. The maintenance is to ensure a perfect isolation in edges and joints, based on silicone, to prevent water from penetrating inside.
- Quartz, resin and glass compact: they usually have 94% natural quartz, polymer resins and crystals among their ingredients. They are resistant and insensitive to daily wear.
- Acrylic resin compounds: can be moulded with heat. Therefore, they allow for making the sink and the countertop in one single piece without visible joints. They are easy to clean and stains do not penetrate the surface.
- Synthetic resin compounds: they are made with aluminium dioxide and acrylic fibre, which results in a pore-free material and easy to clean (with the basic detergents commonly used in the kitchen). Moreover, they are available in a wide range of colours.
- Micro cement: they are often used in bathrooms, but they are totally usable for kitchens. They allow for an integrated sink of the same material. It is important to keep the surface layer in a perfect condition but they can be easily cleaned with neutral detergent and water.
- Porcelain tiles: they are made with mineral substances heated at more than 1200ºC. They do not change their appearance with heat, nor with liquid spills or daily use. They are available in much reduced thickness.
- Stainless steel: is most commonly used in restaurant kitchens. Some manufacturers make these work tops exactly to size and with integrated elements like sinks, hobs, fryer, baking tray, colander, or whatever the customer desires.
- Glass: matching counter tops are now also available, next to coloured or lacquered glass doors. We advise to only select those that show excellent resistance to high temperatures and impacts.
How much does a kitchen counter top cost?
The prices of the countertops usually range between 70€ per square meter to over 400€; consequently, an average countertop of 5m2 could cost anywhere between 350€ to 1800€. You should take into consideration extras such as openings for cooking plates, sink, faucets and the subsequent installation in your home.
For instance, those who decide on a postformed melamine model, which is the most economical option, can set aside a portion of the budget to renovate certain appliances, although special care should be taken to keep it like brand new over the years.
The most resistant types of granite and some mineral compounds of the latest technology are heat-resistant, non-vulnerable to water or any other type of potential kitchen-hazards.