We are planning a renovation and our interior designer has recommended engineered stone for our benches in the kitchen and bathroom. However, with the recent adverse publicity, we think we would be advised to choose an alternative. We would appreciate information on what others, more experienced than us, suggest and the reasons for your suggestions.
Laminate is a good product that fills all the needs:
- it is durable
- comes in a wide range of colours and finishes
- it is easy to keep clean
- is much cheaper than stone
- it does not have any health or environmental hazards
- and it can be made with a coved back so you do not have a grimy crack to clean where it meets the wall.
In addition to @syncretic’s good points, laminate also can be replaced easily a future date if the benchtops age or go out of fashion. This is particular the case if the benchtops are supported by good quality cabinets.
If you are after a direct alternative to manufactured/engineered stone, there is marble or granite. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages and will have a premium price.
We have marble and have been happy with it.
Laminate is usually considered basic rather than lux. A lux-ish easy to live with option is Corian. Alternatives that are lux but require more care? Real sealed stone, ceramics, and woodblock.
Good for you!
It’s probably going to be banned in Australia in the not too distant future, too.
We renovated our kitchen 11 years ago and chose bamboo for the benchtops, because we don’t like very hard surfaces such as stone, and do like the look of timber, but wanted something a bit more robust than most natural wood. Also, we didn’t want to coat the surface with any type of varnish, so applied tung oil instead.
We haven’t regretted either choice. Bamboo has the warm appearance of timber, but is even tougher than ebony. After 11 years of daily use, ours has no significant nicks or scratches, whereas timber would certainly have collected some by now. The tung oil finish has worked well for us, and has only needed a touch-up coat a handful of times in 11 years. The area around the (top mounted) sink doesn’t show any signs of water damage, although it does get splashed.
It wasn’t an expensive option - cost less than natural timber would have.
I may be biased, but I’d recommend considering bamboo.
The other thing I’d recommend considering is glass splashbacks instead of tiles. This turned out to cost no more than tiles would have, and is far, far easier to keep clean than tiles. It’s heat-resistant, so is fine near a cooktop (unlike acrylic).
Some good suggested alternatives including some with a softer architectural look.
Our experience of bench-tops suggests laminates offer the greatest choice of colour and texture. We’ve had several kitchens from new. One for 15 years as a family home. It remained serviceable with a keen eye and good light needed to spot the wear and tear.
The polymer/acrylic bench top materials (there are several brand names) deserve greater caution as they are not as tolerant of heat or hard wearing.
For durability there is also the option of a professional kitchen bench top in stainless steel.
It may be worth assessing any choice against rough and tumble of a family and or daily home cooking. Practical vs perfection, although who isn’t drawn to the kitchens looking like works of art in home reno/beautiful.
Maybe. Is the kitchen a work room or a show room? The OP hasn’t said.
Thank you all for your prompt, most useful comments. The kitchen is a work room but we generally invite guests to join us there while we work so we also want it to look great. Our apartment was built in the 1980s and we think this is the first renovation of the kitchen and bathroom meaning we are looking for materials for both rooms. Our current plans, based on guidance from our interior designer, have us using Dekton from Cosentino in our kitchen and Silestone, also from Cosentino, in out bathroom. We want benches that are low maintenance and that retain their appearance. I hope this extra information helps.
That clears it up.
So no laminate and second thoughts about dekton a synthetic stone.
- stainless steel, very practical but the designer will say industrial
- solid surface, loved by some, hated by others
- timber, beautiful but can be marked easily, needs maintenance
- natural stone, you already have some recommendations.
What do you like?
About time by the sound of it.
Choosing a design style that is consistent with the age, design and features of the property might lead to some obvious choices for the surfaces. And even for the style of the kitchen that might last more than the next trend in modern kitchens. Hopefully with the suggested premium materials an empathetic and timeless design has been delivered.
Assume your professional in recommending Dekton provided the following information.
Have a look at Corian. We have it in our house. We have been using it for about 20 years now. And every time we get a remodel of our kitchen or bathrooms we use that product. We have had it in a small bathroom off my computer room and I have a bowel made to my size. The product is moulded. So you can have curves from the kitchen work top and up the wall, NO joins. Also very functional curves around the edges. The product is repairable and a burn on the counter top can be removed and a replacement inserted and you have to look with magnification to find the join. It can be moulded to form kitchen sinks so you have a continuous flat surface from the counter top to the included sink.
I don’t sell the stuff or have any money invested in it, I just think it is a bloody great product.
Thank you for this information - we were aware of that but appreciate being reminded. Our reason for moving away from Dekton is we no longer feel comfortable using Engineered Stone after all the recent concerns raised about its negative health impacts.
Thank you for this suggestion. We are having mirror splashbacks in the kitchen. We prefer the look of stone for the benchtops rather than the harder look of stainless steel or the softer look of bamboo or timber.
We will look at Corian and Granite. Hopefully we will quickly find something we love. We were very happy with the look and feel of the Engineered Stone we had chosen and would have preferred to use them BUT for the harm they cause tradesmen.
Note natural stones such as granite and marble also contain silica. Hence they too present a risk from dust during cutting, processing and finishing.
Corian is approx 1/3rd acrylic resin (petroleum derived). The balance is predominantly Aluminium Trihydroxide.
I’ve experience of Corian in two different situations. One for a bathroom including sheet form for the wall linings instead of tiles plus moulded basin/vanity top. Certainly durable as a lining - 15+ years.
Another as a moulded kitchen sink (previous owners choice). Excessively hot water or near boiling water when draining pasta, potatoes etc will cause damage with use. Not a negative, if one manages how the sink is used. How durable over time - might depend on how one uses and cares for the sink and basin.
The problem with engineered stone is not that it is synthetic but that it often contains much more silica than natural stone.
Granite and other natural stone contain crystalline silica in various proportions.
What is crystalline silica?
Silica is silicon dioxide, a naturally occurring and widely abundant mineral that forms the major component of most rocks and soils. There are non-crystalline and crystalline forms of silicon dioxide. The most common type of crystalline silica is quartz (CAS 14808-60-7).
Different types of rock and rock products can contain different amounts of crystalline silica, for example:
Type Amount of crystalline silica (%) Marble 2 Limestone 2 Slate 25 to 40 Shale 22 Granite 20 to 45 (typically 30) Natural sandstone 70 to 95 Engineered stone Up to 97 Aggregates, mortar and concrete various
Dekton that is said to be 5-11% silica (3-9 % in other references) will be better than some natural stones and worse than others. Depending on its content granite will probably be more of a problem than Dekton.
From a practical point of view the work practices of the cutters are as important as the silica content of whatever they are cutting.
There are other solid surface products like Corian that contain little or no silica.
Can you put hot items on it though?
How hot? Corian is bonded with acrylic plastic which melts and burns if hot enough. Others may have other formulations.
I haven’t used it but my general practice is not to put hot baking or fyjng pans on the bench no matter what material it is. I don’t see this as an important property of a bench.
Corian is specified ‘safe’ to 100C, but even the quartz products have warnings that a very hot pot (>150C +/- product dependent) can cause thermal cracks, so use an insulating board or pad.
There is another variation called Corian Endura claimed to have a >500C temperature limit!
Made of 100% natural minerals, Corian® Endura™ is uniquely engineered through compression and then heated at high temperature in a similar way to how nature forges a diamond. This process gives Corian® Endura™ the durability to withstand heat up to 1000°F, along with scratch & stain resistance; making it perfect for any kitchen.
Availability in Australia? Not that I can find, but maybe?
But isn’t Corian Endura just another engineered stone material? With a lot of silica in it with silicon containing materials?