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Working area is one of the most valuable commodities in our kitchens. You can never have enough real-estate to prepare ingredients, accommodate your latest kitchen gadgets or simply gather around at parties. Whatever you do in your kitchen, the worktop is the star of the show (after your Shaws sink, obviously). Just like your carpet needs to complement your curtains, so to speak, your work surface needs to work in harmony with your kitchen.
While cabinetry may be the main style decision you make for your kitchen, your choice of worktop will have a huge impact on the overall scheme. Any worktop needs to be tough and practical to use, as well as decorative. The good news is that there is a greater choice than ever before.
With thanks to Sustainable Kitchens, Loud Architects and Treyone Kitchens for providing their beautiful imagery featuring some of our Fireclay sinks.
Worktop materials have evolved radically over the last decade, with new materials offering exciting new options. High-tech composites offer virtually indestructible options for the busiest of kitchens. Meanwhile, the trend for large kitchen islands has increased the demand for super-luxurious stone worktops for those with mega-budgets.
Today’s kitchen buyer can consider laminates, granite, wood, stone composites, stainless steel, copper and even glass (yes, glass). Each material will have pros and cons depending on your needs, so it’s well worth doing your homework. Some of the made-to-measure worktops – marble, concrete, Corian® – are a major investment and may prove unrealistic if you’re on a tight budget. Pre-cut laminate worktops lack glamour but offer a durable alternative on a much lower price tag. The depth of worktop you choose can also alter the look of a kitchen. The standard thickness is 30mm, but a less expensive 10 or 20mm surface can be made to look more luxurious by adding a 50mm veneer to the front edge.
When it comes to fitting your worktops consider the cost of the fitting. Some materials like marble and granite require specialist tools to cut and are best left to experts. This means every corner cut or cut-out for a hob or under-mount sink (for instance) adds to the budget. Straight surfaces are cheaper and easier to fit, while seamless composite materials make more sense if you have lots of corners or cuts.
For those of you who don’t necessarily know your Travertine from your Terrazzo, we have compiled this useful guide to help you decide which surface material and style works for you.
Any wooden worktop will add warmth and texture to a kitchen. They also get better with time as the wood ages and the patina and character evolve. A hardwood worktop like Walnut, Oak or Iroko is a more sensible option than ‘softer’ woods like Pine. Hardwoods are stronger and varieties like Iroko and Teak are ideal for using around the sink - the higher oil content makes them more water-resistant. However, not all of these are easily available from sustainable producers. Search for an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accredited source. Wood is relatively easy to cut and fit and if regularly sealed with Danish oil or Linseed oil they will last for a long time. Be careful not to use the worktop as a chopping board, or place hot pans directly onto the wood.
Works great with... Solid wood works well with our traditional Belfast or Butler sinks combined with aged brass taps likes these from Perrin & Rowe if you want the country kitchen look.
The very thought that natural stone has been formed over millions of years by the Earth’s elemental forces makes it an evocative choice. The individual marbling and texture that is unique to each slab makes it more beautiful, luxurious and more exclusive - and therefore more expensive.
Granite is extremely hard and of all the natural materials it is best at withstanding high temperatures and resisting water and stains. However, Granite is not totally immune to damage and any wine spillages and lemon juice must be cleaned up at once to avoid acidic staining.
Granite is very heavy, hard to position and requires specialist cutting and installation. It also requires an initial sealing, and then another every 10 years, but like composite, once fitted, you can clean it using a damp cloth and a mild detergent.
Works great with... Granite is clean and cool and suits a more luxurious and extravagant kitchen. It is also suited for use with one of our under-mounted kitchen sinks but looks equally great with one of our Aysgill sinks surface-mounted in a bathroom. For the ultimate in luxury try combining with the Provence Sink Mixer in Gold from Perrin & Rowe.
This is a composite ‘material’ (not to be confused with a ‘composite worktop’). Typically composed of about 90% natural quartz crystals mixed with a binding agent. A thin layer of this ‘Composite Stone’, as it is often called is then bonded to an MDF or chip-wood core to create a lighter ‘Composite worktop’. Confusing? It can be, but it is important to differentiate between the type of ‘material’ and the type of ‘worktop’ as some composite materials come as solid-surface worktops too, which are generally more expensive.
Extremely hard-wearing, virtually non-porous and resistant to scratches, stains, heat damage and impact, engineered stone often comes with a reassuringly long warranty. Other common types of engineered stone materials include Terrazzo, which dates back to Roman times, and Quartz. Look for brands such as Caesarstone and Silestone®.
This highly practical material creates a clean, cool look and is available in a wide range of colours to suit both contemporary and traditional kitchens. It requires specialist cutting and installation, but once fitted requires very little maintenance beyond a wipe with a soft, damp cloth and a mild detergent.
Works great with... Composite is perfect for a clean, cool look. It is suited perfectly for use with one of our under-mounted sinks like a Brindle or a Belthorn. Complete the look with a surface-mounted Oasis Mixer Tap designed by iconic craftsman Mark Wilkinson and available from Perrin & Rowe.
Like engineered stone, solid-surface worktops are made of a composite material created by blending acrylic resins, minerals and colourings. The difference between solid-surface worktops and composite worktop is that a solid-surface worktop is exactly that – solid! It is 100% composite material and has no wooden core. This makes it heavier and generally more expensive. They are often referred to as Corian® (after the leading brand owned by DuPont® who invented the material), but like Hoover vacuum cleaners, many similar alternatives are available from other manufacturers.
Warm to the touch, yet smooth with a soft sheen, solid-surfaces are stain and water-resistant and heat-resistant to 250°C. Corian® is an extremely versatile material, available in a wide range of colours that can be thermoformed into creative curves, and even have the sink pre-moulded into the material before fitting. It is best suited to modern design schemes and contemporary kitchen islands.
Works great with... Best suited to a modern design scheme that requires a creative more contemporary solution. We suggest using with under-mounted sinks like a Brindle or a Belthorn or one of our https://shawsofdarwen.com/kitchen-sinks/inset-undermount/inset sinks.
These mass-produced, man-made worktops are the best budget option. Laminates are cheap, non-porous and come in lots of design and colour choices. Made by fusing multiple layers of impregnated paper under high pressure and temperature, bonded to a base material, they are resistant to impact, scratching and moisture. Think of laminate flooring versus solid wood flooring. Laminated work surfaces often mimic other materials, including granite, slate and wood, but shop carefully - some budget versions look cheap and ‘plasticky’. Opt for a thicker, high-pressure version to ensure durability.
One advantage of laminate is that it can be easily fitted by a DIY enthusiast rather than a specialist kitchen professional as it is light, easy to cut and requires no treatment or maintenance.
Works great with... Laminate is easy to cut making it perfect for or one of our Inset sinks as it hides the cut edges that expose the wooden base material inside.
We think of glass as a delicate, fragile material, but toughened safety glass is far from it. Glass is a highly reflective, non-porous material that is resistant to stains and liquid, making it easy to clean and very hygienic. The glass needs to be fitted by an experienced professional because cutting can be problematic. However, it does not require a protective treatment to be effective. Like windows, glass worktops can smear when wiped but can be kept streak-free with a good glass cleaner.
Works great with... Modern kitchens that require a hygienic minimal look. We suggest using with under-mounted sinks like a Brindle or a Belthorn or one of our Inset sinks.
The material of choice in professional kitchens. Steel surfaces (like our sinks) are very strong, heat and acid resistant, anti-bacterial and impervious to water. Stainless steel has a high Chromium content that makes it resistant to rusting. But it can be dented or marked if a heavy pan is dropped.
It is easy to cut and fit by a skilled DIY enthusiast, although may look better if fitted professionally. It is also easy to keep clean with a stainless-steel cleaner, and buffing with baby oil keeps it looking super shiny.
Works great with... The perfect choice if you want the industrial look in your own kitchen. Shaws makes sinks for industrial use, in hospitals and labs - its antibacterial qualities and high resistance to impact, chemicals and heat make it an ideal workhorse. So a Shaws sink is a natural choice for authentic industrial chic. Match with a practical modern tap like this Juliet Pulldown to complete the look.
An increasingly popular material in contemporary kitchens, polished concrete is smooth and robust, creating a cool industrial aesthetic. Modern concrete comes in many shades of grey – at least fifty – but can be mixed with pigments for stronger colours. As an extremely porous material, Concrete can stain and scratch easily. Using a good food-grade sealer or finishing wax will prevent water and stain absorption, but not scratching. Concrete is an incredibly heavy-duty material. The emphasis here is on heavy, so extra reinforcement may be needed to support the weight.
Works great with... The ultra-hip urban loft look. It is raw, rugged and cool. Polished concrete works really well with most Shaws sinks because of the refined industrial aesthetic of our products.
A new kitchen is a big investment, so take the time to visit a showroom and feel any materials for yourself to see what suits you best. Whatever worktop and sink combination you choose, we hope you enjoy it for many years to come.
Have you created a kitchen or bathroom with a Shaws sink? Or are you planning to? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line, or share your creation with us on social media.
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