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There are four common materials used for kitchen benchtops.
Laminate has the widest range of colours and textures. It's available in solid colours, various timber looks, and stone-type designs. There are options for gloss or matte finishes and it comes with square or slightly rounded edges. The latest innovation is their availability in 20mm thick profiles – allowing you to have the sleek, modern look of thin stone without the price tag.
Laminate benchtops are very D.I.Y. friendly. They can be purchased in straight lengths that you can cut, edge and join yourself. To make life easier, Bunnings has a range of cutting services, including cutting to length, edging the short ends or cutting the joins. There are different lengths, widths and finishes available depending on the cutting service you require.
Laminate is easy to clean, however, it can chip and scratch so always use a cutting board when preparing food.
Although prices vary depending on the width and finish selected, laminate is the most affordable benchtop material.
Timber has a warm and natural feel unlike other materials. It ranges from the yellowish colour of ash through to the darker tones of European walnut. Bamboo is light in colour and has a very distinctive grain pattern.
Available in modular lengths, which come unfinished and are cut to suit your specification. Custom lengths can suit longer runs and widths up to 1200mm. Timber benchtops can be installed by the D.I.Yer or you can have them professionally installed.
Timber must be sealed to prevent staining and to help repel water. An oil finish will need to be reapplied every 12 months to maintain its effectiveness, but it's not a big job to do.
Timber sits in the mid-range of benchtop prices.
Stone has a sleek, modern look and a range to suit most contemporary styles. That's why it's the most popular choice in kitchen benchtops. It really suits a kitchen island with a waterfall edge – where the benchtop continues down the sides of the cabinets; it also works well with sinks mounted under the benchtops. The latest trend is for thin, 20mm thick benchtops that reduce the ‘chunkiness' of the benchtop and offers a cleaner, slimmer line.
Due to the precision required when ordering and installing, stone is best left to the professionals.
A non-porous material that is very durable and virtually maintenance free.
Stone is at the upper end of benchtop materials, however, given its appeal, many people opt to save money on other fixtures not so visible to the eye, such as hardware, in order to afford a stone benchtop.
While similar in appearance to stone, the difference with solid surface benchtops is that the joins are virtually invisible, making it seem like its one big slab. You can also include sinks made out of the same material; with no joins or seams to trap dirt and water. Solid surface is also warm to the touch, unlike stone, which feels cold.
Solid surface benchtops should be professionally installed.
A standard clean with soap and water is generally all that's required.
Solid surface benchtops are similarly priced to stone.