How to choose the right benchtop
These are the more common choices for benchtop material in New Zealand.
When it comes to Laminate benchtops most people recognize the name Formica which was the original brand back in the 1950’S.
Formica laminate is a laminated composite material invented in the United States in 1912. The word Formica refers to the company's classic product: a heat-resistant, wipe-clean laminate of paper or textile with melamine resin.
Formica has chipboard to its core and then it is laminated with the Formica on the surface.
Laminate has come along way in recent years and the variety of colours, finishes and patterns, thickness and durability has improved. And it is still a very popular choice throughout New Zealand for Kitchen and laundry benchtops.
If you are considering a Laminate benchtop , it would pay to talk to your designer about the edge options, some square clash benchtop edge finish can be vulnerable to damage, heavy pots hitting the edge or belts and buckles can cause chipping there is an alternate called the Pencil roll finish were a tight square edge can be achieved while still having the laminate rolled continuously around the edge , this type of edge finish is generally more durable and less susceptible to chipping.
It is also recommended to top mount sinks in Laminate benchtops again to the risk of chipping of the laminate around the heavy work area of a sink. Many companies will not give a warranty on a benchtop unless the sink is top mounted.
The biggest advantage of Laminate benchtop (Formica) is the variety of colours and finishes, plus it’s a very durable and cost-effective materials for your benchtop.
The popularity of Formica and laminate benchtops has waned somewhat in recent years as the introduction of more cost-effective engineered stone finishes.
Engineered Stone benchtops
Engineered stone benchtops are now some of the most popular benchtop types in New Zealand due to an influx of cost effect slabs of stone from around the world, now being imported into New Zealand.
Engineered stone benchtops are a type of man-made material constructed using a combination of stone (typically quartz), glass or shells and a silicon or resin bonding agent.
Engineered stone is a hard, durable surface very much like natural stone. Unlike most natural stones with a engineered stone the pattern is reliably regular, throughout the benchtop, so there’s no unexpected surprises in the finished benchtop the bench will resemble the stone sample you made your choice on. These benchtops generally come in 20mm or 30mm slabs and can be made up to whatever thickness or look you are after. Keeping your benchtop area to just one or two slabs of stone can keep this option in the very affordable range.
While engineered stone is a very hard surface it can still scratch and stain if it is not looked after carefully.
STAINLESS STEEL BENCHTOPS
The stainless-steel kitchen benchtop is a great favorite in Kiwi homes and commercial kitchens.
Stainless steel gives an aura of impenetrability and there’s nothing like the smooth gleam of a freshly wiped stainless benchtop! A traditional favorite once upon a time in New Zealand its cost has impacted on the popularity in recent years.
These stainless-steel benchtops are tough, resilient and will practically last forever.
Yet they are prone to scratching and pitting and the gauge of the steel is important for the rigidity of the benchtop and plays a role in preventing dents.
Stainless steel benchtops are not cheap, as there is a worldwide shortage of steel and every benchtop shape is different, so each stainless-steel benchtop will be made to suit.
Most people will be very happy with the look of their stainless-steel benchtop well into the future and as the pristine look is replaced by an attractive patina of scratches and wear, it snuggles neatly into the overall industrial look of your new kitchen.
Granite was traditionally an expensive choice for kitchen benchtops.
But in recent years as granite has been sourced from all over the world it has come down in price and there is now some very cost effective colour ranges to suit most budgets.
Today, most granite comes from Brazil, India, China, and Canada.
Granite is formed by magma, boiling molten rock that is found deep below the earth’s surface. Intense heat causes the buildup of pressure, making the magma rise through the earth’s crust to the surface. When it cools, it becomes the granite that is then mined and cut into slabs for use for countertops and flooring. No two slabs are the same, so each benchtop is unique.
It pays if you are choosing a granite benchtop to take the time to visit the factory that is fabricating your granite benchtops, to inspect & choose the slab, that way you know what to expect on the day your benchtop arrives, and no big surprises!
Granite can give a lovely unique feature to your kitchen and you can be confident that no other kitchen benchtop will be the same as yours. Traditional yet contemporary there is a granite for every Kitchen look.
Just a quick note, Granite while very tough can still chip and pit if not looked after properly and it will need polishing over the years to keep it looking its best.
An all-time favorite are luxurious timber benchtops, warm, lacquered, shiny, you just want to run your hands over them.
Timber benchtops suit all types of kitchens, contemporary, modern and traditional.
You can bring a touch of warmth and character to your kitchen with timber when you’re using colder materials like glass and stainless steel elsewhere in the kitchen. The wide variety of available species means you can go light with the yellowish colours of ash or contrast light-colored doors with the darker tones of walnut. Timber needs to be coated with either food-safe oil or polyurethane to protect it. Oil needs to be reapplied every year or so to remain effective.
While polyurethane lasts longer, recoating involves sanding back the entire benchtop first before applying a new coat.
A timber benchtop is made of many lengths of carefully prepared timber that are glued together under pressure (laminated). Once laminated into an oversize block, the benchtop is cut to size, finished and given a protective coating of lacquer or oil.
Timber benchtops bruise easily and can crack and split and warp in certain conditions (heat and sunlight are the worst enemy of Timber) as they are a natural timber product. It pays to choose your timber benchtop for its quality & from a reputable supplier with a decent warranty.
Careful use is required and re finishing with polyurethane at regular intervals or frequently re oiling is required. Your Kitchen supplier should supply you with detailed care instructions for your beautiful timber benchtop.
Finally a good relationship with an educated Kitchen specialist, who is familiar with all the kitchen products on the market, will give you the best options and allow you to weigh your options up fully informed of the pros and cons of every type of benchtop available.