Your kitchen worktop goes through a lot: it’s where the shopping is unloaded, meals are prepared and homework is completed, so it’s important that it’s durable enough to take everything life throws at it. Yet it is also a key visual component of your space, so needs to look good and complement your cabinetry.

Choosing the right material for a kitchen worktop

The primary factor to consider is material, the most common options being stone, wood, man-made composite and laminate, each coming with its own unique properties.

Natural stone and wood, with their varied colours and markings, look stunning in a period home, but can scratch and stain, requiring sealing and regular maintenance. A fuss-free alternative is a man-made composite material, such as quartz or Corian, which blend natural minerals with resin to create highly durable surfaces that are non-porous and easy to clean. However, these can be costly and require specialist fitting.

If you’re on a budget, laminates are the best choice. Comprising a plastic overlay and design layer bonded to man-made board, they can mimic hundreds of finishes, from weathered wood to veined marble, at a fraction of the price, while being water resistant. Alternatively, zinc, stainless steel and concrete are becoming increasingly popular as a way to achieve an on-trend industrial look.

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Strong, durable and heat resistant, granite is a popular choice for worktops, although beware of scratching, and mop up liquid spills immediately to avoid staining. Black Anticato granite gives this bespoke, Shaker-style Nickleby kitchen by Humphrey Munson a sophisticated edge. From £35,000 for a full kitchen, with granite worktops starting at £200 per m².

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Where to buy a worktop

Specialist natural stone and composite worktops are usually included as part of a bespoke fitted kitchen and supplied by the cabinetmaker. However non-specialist laminates and some timber worktops can be bought in standard sizes or by the metre, then cut to size and fitted by a tradesperson or competent DIYer.

Maintenance

Finally, kitchen worktops are big investments so, once installed, make sure you know how to care for them. For impenetrable man-made composites and laminates, soap and water or a mild detergent is all that’s required, but timber surfaces will need oiling at least once a year.

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As well as being a practical work surface material, granite also comes in a stunning array of finishes, boasting attractive colouring and crystal formations that dazzle when polished. This rare Labradorite Grey Pearl granite island worktop, set against the muted cabinetry of this New Classic kitchen by Martin & Moore, is a show-stopper. From £3,000 per m² including installation; less rare granites start from £500 per m², fitted in bespoke kitchens from £35,000

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Like most stone, Limestone is hardwearing, yet softer than granite and marble. Pictured in this bespoke kitchen by Christopher Peters is a Cremma Brammos limestone worktop with an antiqued finish, ideal for enhancing the rustic look of a country kitchen. Fitted with a stain-stop sealer, the material costs from £235 m² as part of bespoke kitchen, from £25,000

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A blend of natural minerals and clear acrylic, Corian can be shaped into any design, including multiple-edge profiles and integrated sinks – as pictured above in this bespoke Higham kitchen. Glacier White Corian, D7cm, costs from £380 per m² as part of a full kitchen starting at £25,000

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Ideal for country kitchens, solid oak is practical and timeless, teamed perfectly here with the painted Shaker cabinetry in this Harvey Jones kitchen. Use chopping boards and trivets to protect the surface, which must be oiled once or twice a year. From £18,000 for a full kitchen with oak worktops

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A hygienic, easy-to-clean surface that will develop a worn patina over time, a zinc worktop will give a period home a modern twist. Maison du Monde’s freestanding kitchen furniture, made from mango wood, plywood and MDF, features zinc- coated tops with a grey ceruse finish. From £199 for a H85xW80xD35cm trolley

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Make a sophisticated statement by opting for the warm glow of a brass- clad surface. Best suited to secondary areas such as alcoves, the soft, non-lacquered metal, shown here in a Matrix kitchen, will scratch over time to give a delightful aged effect. Fully fitted kitchens from £30,000, including worktops

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A mix of natural stone, resin binder and pigments, Caeserstone’s engineered quartz worktops (above) are extremely hardwearing, maintenance-free and available in over 80 finishes. Pictured in this Rencraft kitchen is the light-reflecting Organic White, priced from £360 per m², while full kitchens start at £18,000

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Love the warm, natural grain of a timber worktop, but don’t have the budget or time to maintain it? Bushboard’s Natural Block Walnut Prima laminate combines the look of real wood with a non-porous, maintenance- free finish. Pictured is the new W120.5xL300cm size, £285 – perfect for fitting onto island units, or priced £45 per m

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