From DT Online
A wide range of materials are available from which to make Kitchen Worktops, each with their own advantages and disadvantages with regard to cost, ease of fitting, hygiene, durability and maintenance. Although common practice is to have the same work-surface throughout the kitchen, an interesting, cost-effective and practical alternative to to consider varying this in some areas (e.g. round hobs and cookers, near sinks, or on island units)
Features and Applications
- made from Chipboard coated with a plastic Laminate comprising a layer of melamine formaldehyde, a layer of paper containing the printed design and then a layer of phenol formaldehyde.
- Melamine is clear and resistant to scratching : both plastics used are thermosetting and resistant to heat.
- the most popular and affordable choice of worktop;
- leading edges are sometimes Post-Formed (rounded) to remove sharp corners;
- can be self-fitted and easily worked with normal tools;
- available in a wide range of colours and patterns;
- surface layer is easy to keep clean;
- soon degrades if water is allowed to be absorbed into the chipboard core around joins and cut edges.
- easily cut and worked with normal tools;
- needs regular maintenance and sealing;
- tends to get water stains around sinks;
- will scorch if hot pans are placed on directly.
- Solid Surface
- a Chipboard or MDF core upon which has been attached a solid acrylic resin surface layer;
- available as brand names such as Corian;
- can be fitted with seamless joints if done by a specialist;
- drainer grooves, integral sinks, and up-stands for example can be moulded in;
- reasonably stain free but easy marked and damaged by hot items being placed on them.
- (aka ‘engineered worktops’ or ‘quartz worktops’) these are a type of man-made material in which finely ground quartz is combined with a resin binder and coloured dyes to produce a more even and uniform appearance than natural stone;
- they require specialist manufacture but can be moulded so that the sink, and drainer are an integral part of the worktop;
- easy to clean with soap and warm water and do not require any sealing;
- they can be chipped if anything heavy is dropped on on them and the resin will scorch if very hot pans are put down on them.
- Granite or Marble
- natural stone worktops are best cut with specialist tools and equipment (e.g. diamond saws);
- tops are cut to a Template (e.g. made from paper, card or hardboard, etc.) which can be provided by the customer;
- these worktops are very heavy (e.g an average 3 metre long stone worktop needs at least 3 people to lift it safely) so under-frames need to be strong;
- very hard-wearing and easy to keep clean but can be stained by some spillages such as red wine, tea and coffee (dark granite less so);
- generally heat resistant but very hot pans should not be placed directly on to any worktop.
- Stainless steel
- bending and folding of up-stands etc. is best done with specialist equipment but minor cutting and drilling for final fitting is easily achieved with normal tools;
- virtually indestructible;
- hygienic and first choice for catering kitchens;
- may be considered too clinical for domestic use?
- can look very striking;
- available in rectangular lengths;
- some simple shaping and drilling of holes possible (e.g. cut-outs for hobs and sinks);
- can be lit from below to create dramatic effects;
- heat, acid and water resistant;
- easy to clean and maintain but can scratch and chip.
In addition to those listed, other materials have been used, or are now being explored, as suitable materials for work-tops. These include: ceramic tiles, slate, recycled timber (e.g. scaffolding planks), concrete and copper - a metal which is known to have antibacterial properties.
Safety Point! Although Galvanised Steel can be seen in use in cold storage racking, seafood counters and water pipes for example, it is best avoided in domestic food preparation. Zinc is generally 'safe' (it's an essential nutrient, not a toxin), but the metal is not considered 'food-safe' because it dissolves in acidic foods forming salts that are readily absorbed by the body and, in excess, could cause sickness. Heating zinc sufficiently may release fumes and these could cause what welders know as Fume Fever.
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