Contributors: Donna Webeck, Joanna Mathers
Kitchens are called the heart of the home for a very valid reason – it’s where the family congregates, friends gather and where unforgettable memories are made.
It also stands to reason then that the kitchen is always a key focus for renovators, propelling this hub of the home back into the modern era. While it is, of course, critical to lock down important decisions regarding layout, color scheme and appliances, it’s the hero of this highly-popular room which needs the most attention: the not-so-humble kitchen bench.
With a myriad of options available to renovators, starting from lower-end laminates, through to mid-range stone and beyond into the ultra-luxurious marble and granite finishes, there are a variety of kitchen benchtop choices to suit every person’s budget. We’ve broken down your choices by basic, mid-range and high-end, to help solve your kitchen benchtop renovation queries.
“A basic laminate benchtop can be ordered, measured and cut via a kitchen provider or sub-trade. These are a cost-effective option providing a nice fresh finish that can be upgraded easily,” advises renovation specialist, Rob McEwan. “Utilising a good builder with a finishing saw, a blank top can be purchased from any of the major hardware stores for about half the price and fitted within a day.”
Starting from approx. $80 per sq. ft., this trusted surface type is a perennially popular choice when on a budget.
For further inspiration, take a look at this Laminex benchtop.
Cost of a laminate kitchen benchtop
From $80 per sq. ft.
If you are seeking the warmth of a timber finish for your kitchen, why not opt for a bamboo benchtop? At approx. $130 per sq. ft, it will be far friendlier on your hip pocket than many of its other hardwood counterparts.
The warm caramel tone of Moso bamboo creates a real impact when used as a kitchen countertop. The Enspire range of Moso bamboo is sourced from sustainable suppliers (and pandas don’t eat it) so it is a great choice for environmentally conscious renovators.
Crafted from strips of bamboo that are laminated together both vertically and horizontally, these benchtops are extremely hard and versatile and distinctive in appearance.
David Speedy from Gibson Veneer and Plywood (a wholesaler that stocks the Enspire range) says that bamboo stacks up well against other hardwoods. “Bamboo is 30 percent harder than oak and 17 percent harder than maple,” he shares. “It’s strong, straight and very hard-wearing.”
The ends of the benchtop have a distinctive striped appearance, which is ideal for retro or 70s-inspired kitchens, and the finish is smooth and even in texture.
For inspiration on how a wood benchtop could enhance your kitchen, check out these solid oak benchtops.
Cost of a bamboo kitchen benchtop
From $130 per sq. ft.
You could look to install stainless-steel, which starts from around $200 per sq. ft., depending on the finish.
The standard for any commercial kitchen benchtop, stainless steel is becoming an increasingly popular option for residential kitchens. Non-porous and very hygienic, stainless steel comes in a range of textures, although the traditionally polished look tends to be the most popular.
Cleaning of stainless steel benchtops is simple – simply wiping with a cloth will do the trick – and the sheen of steel creates a crisp, clean look in the kitchen. Stainless steel benchtops can be made to customer orders, following the plans of a kitchen designer.
John Bryant of Classic Stainless says that once their company has such a design, and the customer decides on the finish and texture they want, it takes around three to five weeks to complete the manufacture of stainless steel benchtops.
“Stainless steel can become marked after a few years, but this adds to its character,” he says. “But we do offer a repolishing service for people who want to restore the original character of their benchtops.”
Cost of a stainless steel kitchen benchtop
From $200 per sq. ft.
“To create the kitchen of your dreams on a mid-range budget, I would recommend engineered stone benchtops,” says renovation specialist Carla Simmonds. “It is a strong and durable product, with a reasonable heat and impact resistance. It is non-porous, and its antibacterial properties inhibit the growth of bacteria. The Engineered stone range offers a good color selection and gives you that natural and luxurious look and at an affordable price range.”
Silestone is a good example of engineered stone: 94 percent quartz and six percent resin, it offers the best of both nature and technology. Another great feature of Silestone is its antibacterial qualities, which come from the addition of silver to the stone mix.
Tim Richards of Silestone says that the stone has other features that make it excellent for use as a benchtop. “We import jumbo-sized slabs of Silestone (3.2 x 1.8m) which means people who want a very large counter can achieve this without joins. There is a wide range of color options, and it is more resistant to wear and tear than natural stone.”
Caesarstone is another form of engineered stone, also made from quartz. This material is virtually non-porous, as well as being free of mold and bacteria – making it ideal for food work surfaces.
Engineered stone can be worked to a client’s specifications by fabricators following a designer’s plan, and usually costs from around $215 per sq. ft.
If you are interested in an engineered stone benchtop, check out this villa’s engineered stone benchtop.
Cost of engineered stone kitchen benchtops
From $215 per sq. ft.
“Granite is the most popular high-end benchtop,” Rob reveals. “What isn’t often appreciated is that granite comes in different grades. A mid-range (C) grade granite can be similar if not a bit cheaper than engineered stone. As a result, the last two kitchens I’ve done used granite.”
Granite starts from around $300 per sq. ft.
Looking for inspiration? Check out this kitchen renovation featuring a granite benchtop.
Cost of granite kitchen benchtops
From $300 per sq. ft.
Polished concrete benchtops are another popular choice in the high-end price bracket. Super solid and adored by those who boast an industrial influence in their homes, it can be fabricated with a wide variety of textures, colors, shapes and inlays to add a unique feel to your kitchen. And while concrete itself is an inexpensive material, due to its labor-intensive creation process, expect to pay anywhere from $280 sq. ft., depending on size, finish and aggregates used.
Peter Housiaux from Concrete Doctors says that there are a number of finishes people can opt for in their kitchen countertop.
“There is a basic finish, which is basically what appears once the concrete is cast, but cleaned and sealed. A semi-grind and polish finish reveals a bit of the texture of the concrete. With a heavy-grind and polish, the texture of the aggregate is revealed.”
Concrete benchtops are easy to maintain, but it’s worth noting that cracks may occur. These are not structural, however, and can lend a certain deconstructed charm to the countertop’s appearance.
Cost of concrete kitchen benchtops
From $280 sq. ft
It may not seem an obvious choice for benchtops, but glass can create a real impact in the kitchen. One company that has been exploring the potential of glass for benchtops is Graphic Glass.
They create bespoke benchtops, with the customers’ choice of design, finish and texture, for high-end kitchens throughout the country.
The pricing of the glass benchtops depends on the text and finish that is required, and the glass can be toughened or non-toughened depending on the intended level of strength needed. There are also ranges of textures that can be used depending on the look that’s desired.
Bespoke glass benchtops aren’t for the budget-conscious, however, and sit at the top end of the market in terms of price.
Graphic glass countertops range in price from around $215 per sq. ft., depending on image, texture and finish.
Cost of glass kitchen benchtops
From $215 per sq. ft.
Note: the costs within this article are rough estimates only and are subject to change. For a quote accurate to your specific project, please consult your local renovation specialist.
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