How to choose the best worktop for your kitchen

Sort it: Man-made work surfaces have improved in looks and durability

Worktops have to be durable – and good looking

Worktops have to be durable – and good looking

 

We’ve spent so much time in our kitchens over the past 12 months it’s the one area of the home getting more wear and tear than ever before. Choosing materials that are easy to keep and that are going to last should be a high priority when planning a kitchen makeover. Worktops needs to be extremely hardwearing and there is a wide range of man-made surfaces on the market. These are primary rules of thumb to apply when choosing the best material.

Durability

The two most popular man-made materials are quartz – for example, silestone – and Dekton. Both products are created in a large slab which keeps joints to a minimum. 

Quartz is made up of raw materials mixed with resin. It has high scratch, stain and heat resistance. While it is generally maintenance-free, it does require some looking after. This is due to the resin component. 

Dekton, on the other hand, is an ultra-compact surface made without resin. It is almost indestructible. It can withstand very high temperatures and is scratch resistant. You can chop directly on to it without the need for a chopping board. “Unless you take a hammer to your Dekton worktop, it’s very hard to damage it,” says Ciara McWilliams, design specialist for Cosentino Ireland which imports the product.

Like natural stone, both products come in a range of finishes, including polished, textured and suede. Unlike natural stone however, which becomes more porous the less polished the finish, both quartz and Dekton are non-porous so your choice of finish won’t impact on durability. 

Price

There are options to suit most budgets. Quartz, for example, is priced in groupings ranging from one to six, one being the least expensive and six being the most costly. The details you choose, such as specifying a recessed or fluted drainer, a recessed hob, the edge design and whether or not you go for a splashback, will all impact on the cost. 

Dekton takes longer to manufacture and requires more skill to cut than quartz. This longer fabrication time adds to the cost. It is a relatively new product, but as people are getting used to working with it, the price is coming down. Like quartz, your choice of details will add to the cost, so speak to your kitchen supplier or stonemason about the cost implications of what you are considering.

Mixing materials

Mixing finishes is a great way to make your budget go further. It’s also a great way to introduce finishes and designs that you love without worrying about durability. 

Mixing timber with man-made materials will significantly reduce the price. You might like to go for a timber feature section on an island or have a Dekton or quartz countertop. If you are mixing materials, there needs to be an expansion joint built into the countertop to allow the timber to expand otherwise the man-made material might crack.

Mixing Dekton and quartz is also becoming popular. Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with quartz but are concerned about heat in a particular area. In this case, you could choose a complementary Dekton for the places where you need extra durability and go with quartz elsewhere.

Finally, mixing materials is a great way to introduce natural stone without the worry of maintenance. You might go for a decorative natural stone as a splashback and then choose complementary man-made materials for the work surfaces.

Maintenance

Because both quartz and Dekton are non-porous, they are naturally antibacterial. It also means stains cannot penetrate, making them much easier to keep than other worksurfaces. 

The most common issue with staining around a sink is limescale. To combat limescale, try Professional Limescale Remover by HG. Apply to the area to be cleaned for five minutes and then rinse off with hot water.

For day-to-day care of silestone, McWilliams recommends Q-Action which can be purchased from a stonemason. For a more widely available product, try Cif Actifiz. 

Stay away from washing-up liquids and everyday household cleaners. This includes antibacterial sprays. These products tend to leave a film behind after cleaning which shows up as dirt after a few weeks and will need to be cleaned away to bring it back to the original polish. The best product to clean man-made work surfaces is hot water. Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach as there is a risk they will remove the polish from the countertop. For very stubborn stains like red wine or turmeric, try Barkeeper’s Friend Power Cream.  

Finally, McWilliams’s last word of advice when it comes to choosing quartz is to go with a branded product. “There are inferior materials on the market that are not as durable as the more reputable branded products, so do your research.” she says.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant @optimisedesign 

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.