With around 50 engineered stone suppliers in Australia, it can be an overwhelming decision to choose the perfect benchtop for your home. Most large builders will have their preferred supplier choices, but if you are renovating or building with a smaller builder, the world is your oyster.
So how do you know what the best surface is for you? Let’s go through the different options:
Laminate – Cost effective and environmentally friendly, the good ole laminate benchtop is still a popular choice for budget housing, apartment and accommodation dwellings. It is the most versatile product and you can be more creative with laminate – as seen here with the collaboration between Laminex x Kennedy Nolan.
Laminate has a huge range of colours, textures, profiles and play. Think rounded benchtops, thicker 100mm, contrasting edging, even seamless colour changes. It’s environmentally friendly as most laminates (Laminex and Polytec) are both invested in low carbon emissions and manufactured here in Australia using FSC sustainably sourced timbers. The offcuts can be recycled and they are researching how to recycle the product at the end of its lifespan. #gamechanger! The only down side, it’s not the best wearing. It will scratch, the corners can chip and you can’t achieve a really thin profile.
Images via Laminex
Engineered stone – From Caesarstone, Essastone, Silestone, Q Stone, Quantum Quartz, Smartstone and many many more, engineered stone is the most popular choice. It’s cost effective, very hard wearing, it doesn’t scratch or stain and lasts a lifetime.
There has been negative publicity surrounding the impact of silicone dust with installers and manufacturers, and as such they are now investing in research to make the product safer for installers. Unfortunately, the product isn’t all that environmentally friendly. It has a high carbon footprint, they don’t use recycled material in the manufacturing process, and it can’t be recycled at the end of its life.
Some new colours have just been released by Caesarstone which are very on trend and will be huge in the coming years. They have also released UV resistant slabs for indoor/outdoor use, too.
Image via Caesarstone
Porcelain Benchtops – Making a bigger splash to the market are Porcelain benchtop sheets. With different profiles (really thin 8mm), the porcelain benchtop is the hardest wearing, absolutely no scratching, chipping, staining and the design choices are not limited. Porcelain can be replicated into nearly any design, texture or pattern. You can also seamlessly integrate porcelain for other surfaces such as floor and wall tiles for wet areas.
Manufacturing practices allow for lower carbon emissions but, again, can’t be recycled at the end of its lifespan. While the product is cheaper than engineered stone, the cutting and installation process is quite costly. Hence why builders still haven’t come to the market on including it as a “builder’s standard”.
Image via Dekton
Acrylic Benchtops – Not overly popular and mainly used commercially as they can achieve long surfaces without joins. They can also be used for curves and rounded forms. Acrylic benchtops aren’t as suitable for residential applications as there are much better products on the market. Acrylic is still used for seamless benchtops/basins in wet areas but they can stain and scratch. They can be polished to remove any scratches or stains.
Image via Corian
Natural Stone – Where do we start? The Ferrari of the benchtop world! In terms of price, you can actually get some low-quality natural marble cheaper than a marble grain engineered stone. But I wouldn’t recommend it for a kitchen benchtop. If you want a product that won’t date, is timeless, adds a wow factor to your home, then natural stone it is. Granite is the hardest wearing. Non porous and insanely good wearing, this is the most popular choice for natural stone in a kitchen. However, the design choices are limited and in fact, very dated. There are a few slabs that are edging their way back into ultra-modern kitchens but generally speaking, the high-end kitchens we see are not granite.
Then there is marble. Those gorgeous veins, in all different colours from greys to gold, blacks to browns, whites to greys to greens and burnt amber/reds, there is so much to love about marble! And don’t forget Quartzite, similar to marble, both surfaces can etch (not stain) from acid rich foods and liquids such as lemons, vinegar and wine. However, the good news is there are a few different treatments to help stop etching.
The down side to natural stone can be the pricing, the installation costs AND it’s not environmentally friendly at all (the removal, cutting, and non-recyclable at the end of its lifespan). Although the thought of stone lasting literally a lifetime is exceptional! To think that benchtops in European homes of 300 years plus are still perfect is testament to the product. So, if you are building a house for longevity, hands down Natural stone is the best choice.
Image via Mim Design