Laminate is still a very popular option, especially for those on a budget.
Pros: Inexpensive; huge choice of colours and designs; easy to maintain.
Cons: Difficult to repair chips; can’t rest hot pans on or cut directly onto the surface; can’t use abrasive cleaners on it; susceptible to burns, cuts and scratches; can't usually support an undermount sink.
Cost: One of the cheapest options.
Tips: It can be sold in long lengths so there are fewer joins in the benchtop. You can also buy laminate benchtops from DIY kitchen renovation stores and install them yourself.
Stainless steel is the benchtop of choice in busy restaurants for a number of reasons — it’s easy to clean, hygienic and hard-wearing.
Pros: Hygienic; easy to clean; can withstand hot pans; can be worked to create integral sinks and draining boards.
Cons: Shows scratches, dents and fingerprints; expensive; can be noisy; can’t use abrasive cleaners.
Cost: Generally one of the most expensive options. Price varies depending on the thickness of the steel.
Tips: The newer brushed and textured finishes can camouflage fingerprint marks to some extent. Where joins are necessary the two pieces of steel can be welded and polished to give an almost invisible seam.
Solid-surface benchtops are made of a solid plastic block, so the colour and pattern are consistent throughout. One of the best known is Corian by Du Pont, which can be made to appear like marble or granite.
Pros: Resistant to staining; no visible joins; hygienic; large variety of colours and patterns; custom-made to your specifications; can be used to create integral sinks and draining boards; dents, cuts and scratches can be easily repaired.
Cons: Not heat or scratch-resistant; uniform appearance not for everyone;
Cost: More expensive than most other materials — generally more than natural or engineered stone.
Tips: Generally the plainer colours will be cheaper than those with a speckled pattern. It can be ‘coved’ up the wall as a splashback so there’s no join at the back edge.
Timber benchtops aren’t very fashionable at the moment but they’re still favoured for a rustic look.
Pros: Strong and long-lasting; won’t blunt your knives.
Cons: Not heat or scratch-resistant; requires regular resealing; relatively expensive.
Cost: Can be an expensive option depending on the type of timber you choose.
Tips: Mop up liquid spills quickly as they may damage the wood. Generally these benchtops should be oiled or resealed every year. Ready-to-install laminated timber benchtops can be bought from Ikea or other DIY kitchen renovation stores.