Beauty or order, comfort or durability? The countertop is the “battlefield” of enthusiastic hostess and the most vulnerable element of the kitchen design. How to make the right choice?
A universal work surface, a dining table, a bar counter or a shelf for small things - no matter how you use your countertop, it always “wears out”. Therefore, the requirements for it are special. The ideal countertop should be durable, hygienic, easy to care for and resistant to mechanical damage (like DIY concrete countertops). And, of course, attractive. Visually and logically, the table top unites all the elements of the kitchen design. Is it possible to find one among the materials that we are offered?
Perhaps the most exotic option is tempered glass. Glass table tops are transparent, matte and colored. And they look very impressive, especially with good lighting. They are resistant to moisture and high temperatures, they do not absorb fat and smells, and they are easy to clean. But at the same time they are very expensive, they are quickly scratched and do not withstand strong impacts. Repair glass surface is also not subject.
The most budgetary and popular option is laminated chipboard, or postforming. A plate of MDF or chipboard with a thickness of 28-38 millimeters is pasted with plastic, which is then applied a special protective coating. As a result, an excellent heat-resistant and wear-resistant surface of almost any shape is obtained. It is not afraid of scratches, or caustic cleaners, or a large part of the dyes.
But there are drawbacks. The main enemy of this countertop is water. Accumulating in small cracks and at the joints, it leads to a gradual swelling of the chipboard. Therefore, the landlady needs to dry the surface after cleaning and closely monitor the tightness of the joints. Some dyes - iodine, manganese, paints and varnishes for hair - should be washed from the surface immediately after they hit, otherwise stains will remain. Finally, the main minus - laminated chipboard is not amenable to restoration. The only way out is a replacement. True, rather fast, cheap and affordable.
The steel table top is considered exotic in some countries. Queen of professional cuisine, favorite chefs, steel - one of the most hygienic materials. And it’s strong, damp and durable. Thin stainless sheets are fastened with liquid nails on the chipboard or MDF and bend the edges around the edge adjacent to the wall. Stitches are brewed and polished. Most manufacturers offer so far only rectangular options without bends. Angle structures are joined from two parts, fastened with ties. There are more interesting options, but all of them are done on a piece by individual sketch.
The surface of the steel countertop can be matte, mirror or with a simple embossed pattern. The most popular and optimal is matte. It does not show dirt and any scratch can be easily eliminated with a hard skin without any masters. The most capricious is the mirror one. It requires careful washing and wiping - otherwise it may become dull over time, and scratches on it can not be eliminated. Another significant disadvantage of steel: it does not stand the “point” blows. It is possible to restore the stain, but the track will still be noticeable.
The most capricious of his fellows, but also the most charming countertop idea, this material can decorate the interior of any kitchen - from the hi-tech style to the classics. But cares will demand like no other. Wooden countertops are made from hardboard glued panels: from alder and beech to larch and teak. The edges of this countertop are milled, the surface and edges are deeply impregnated with a special protective oil.
On the wooden tabletop, even teak, you can not put hot and wet dishes, wash it with potent chemicals (let’s say only a weak soap solution), shed dye on it - from rich red wine to coffee, not to mention iodine and manganese. Once or twice a month, it needs to be covered with protective wax or polish. The cost of a wooden countertop can be comparable with a steel one, and can approach the cost of a natural stone - it all depends on the shape and wood you have chosen. But such a surface is easy to restore and very nobly aging.
Almost ideal material for the designer - warm and pleasant to the touch, with a huge variety of colors and textures and the widest possibilities for experiments. From acrylic, you can create any shape without visible seams. Appearing in the light in the 60's in the laboratory of the corporation DuPont, it received the name of corian and made a real breakthrough in the architecture and design of furniture and interiors.
In the 90th the invention of the inventive patent ended, and a whole family of materials appeared on the market that were close to the Corian in terms of properties: crystallite, axilane, varicor, and others. At the heart of all these materials are mineral filler, pigments and acrylic resin. They are not porous, that is, they do not absorb moisture, resistant to chemicals and exceptionally hygienic - there is nowhere to form a fungus on a smooth surface and to retain bacteria. Most of the damage can easily be repaired with the help of a visiting wizard. And the price gradually becomes available. But there are disadvantages too. Acrylic is resistant to shock, but it is easily scratched. And does not withstand high temperatures - for frying pans and kettles need supports.
From a consumer point of view, the agglomerate is a cross between artificial and natural stone. Unlike acrylic, the natural component in it can be up to 90 percent - it’s stone and mineral crumbs. Often add quartz crushed stone, hence the second name - quartz stone. Therefore, both externally and by its properties the agglomerate is very similar to the real stone. Only much more unpretentious. He is not afraid of strong blows, ultraviolet radiation and high temperatures. But if the damage does happen, it will be very difficult to restore it, like a natural stone. The surface of the agglomerate is as cold to the touch as granite. A “seamless” method until you can make a table top not more than three meters in length and an exceptionally rectangular shape.
A natural stone
The luxury and beauty of this material is comparable only with its sky-high price. The streaks and color transitions of the natural pattern can be considered for hours. For table-tops, plates of hard rock are taken - most often granite and basalt, much less often - softer and exotic marble and travertine. They are very capricious and cannot stand even the test of coffee and lemon juice, but they give a wide range of shades and textures.
Like wood, a stone countertop needs regular treatment with protective compounds. When chips, cracks or spots appear, the surface cannot be restored. When ordering and installing both the kitchen itself and the countertops, you need to remember that the natural stone construction weighs a lot, and take into account the possibilities of kitchen cabinets.
The best way to decorate the countertop for lovers of Provence, Mediterranean and rustic interiors - tiles. Do not forget to take care of the antibacterial grout and find out from the manufacturer how well the chosen tile is cut: you or your team will have to process holes of complex shape for the built-in kitchen appliances and a sink.
There is another plus: you can build a kitchen entirely from water-resistant chipboard, plywood or drywall. You just need to make a frame of metal guides and choose suitable facades. The result can exceed all your expectations - in fact you will think up a kitchen to yourself and fill it as it is convenient for you. But you will not be able to save much on this. The facing of the kitchen is considered by the master tilers to be the most complex kind of work and is estimated at a substantial amount.
As Concrete Countertop Solutions got noted, perhaps, the trendiest tendency in Europe is the kitchen DIY concrete countertops. As a rule, such proposals concern mostly non-standard individual projects. Nevertheless, thanks to the huge decorative possibilities, concrete countertops are sure to be a great future. Manufacturing technology is so simple that many take matters into their own hands: slabs are cast in a form - of cement, sand, water, stone, pigment and reinforcement.
DIY concrete countertops can be painted, polished, sanded, shaped, and added with various textures and inserted with unusual blotches - from colored glass to shells. It is resistant to high temperatures, it is difficult to scratch or damage. However, it is necessary to process protective impregnation and immediately to wipe coloring substances from a surface - it can absorb them. But manufacturers are working on this problem. Another disadvantage of the DIY concrete countertops is the complexity of the installation. If the installation is incorrect, the concrete countertop can crack. But it looks very original and can be restored.
All the options considered in the article have their pros and cons. Your choice can be different. The main thing is that it should be conscious. If you cook a lot and often, do not order a tabletop that is afraid of dyes and high temperatures. If you love order, but do not like to aim it too often, do not look at glass and steel - you need to constantly rub these surfaces to keep them neat. Any countertop can become ideal if you know its advantages and disadvantages and do not forget to take care of it accordingly.