Getting on top of worktops - Prestons Kitchens

Getting on top of worktops

getting on top of worktops
laminate, quartz, granite and corian

worktops

getting on top of worktops
laminate, quartz, granite and corian

worktops

Continuous board

Laminate work surfaces supplied in blank lengths usually with a rounded or “post formed” front edge. Often sold by DIY outlets but is also used as a cost-effective alternative by some High Street retailers.

This type of blank length worktop is usually manufactured by a process commonly known as continuous board. As the name suggests the chipboard core and the laminate surface material meet under a roller that moves constantly producing a continuous length of work surface. On the plus side it is a relatively cheap manufacturing process which works quite well for those kitchens that are straight forward galley, L or U shaped.

On the minus side, because the laminate has to be thin enough to bend beneath the roller it is usually thinner than the more expensive HPL laminate worktops. The casualty in achieving said thinner laminate is often the top layers that contain the texture or graining that adds to the finished appeal of the surface. There will still be some graining or texture but it will usually be less profiled or sharp.

If you look, at eye level along a length of continuous worktop it is sometimes possible to see the very slight undulations created by the roller during the manufacturing process.

If Continuous Laminate worktops are correctly installed then they will work perfectly well throughout their working life. They can be scratched but are quite resilient. The devil is in the CORRECTLY INSTALLED bit. Given that these worktops are usually sold as blank lengths, any joints, cut outs or finished edges will have to be created on site by the installer which will rarely as good or resilient as a factory produced finish.

If the installer is doing the job correctly then he or she will have a worktop jointing jig, router, jointing biscuits and jointing bolts together with EVA glue and sealant.

It is worth asking your supplier or installer if they will be creating the joints using ALL of the afore mentioned elements. If the answer is NO to any of these elements, then the likelihood of the joint failing and the worktop joint swelling is quite high. Even then the installer is going to have to cover any visible worktop ends with a laminate edging strip which is only usually ironed into place, less than ideal and almost guaranteed to eventually fail.

POSITIVES

Most cost-effective price point but not as competitive as it may first appear as you will have to purchase full blank lengths, most commonly 4.1 metres regardless of the amount of worktop required. For example, taking a U shaped kitchen with a horizontal length of 3.4m, one leg at 2.7m and the other at 2.5m, you would need to purchase 3 full 4.1 metre lengths with a wastage left over of 3.7 metres.

NEGATIVES

Will not include most of the features most of the features include with HPL worktops detailed below. Must be installed correctly to avoid failure. Very difficult if not impossible to create the same standard of cuts, joints and edges as a factory can produce. Very little flexibility in design or shape of the worktop.

High pressure laminate

High pressure, or HPL for short, is usually supplied through specialist worktop fabricators, or from the kitchen manufacturer themselves. Most German and French kitchen manufacturers will fabricate HPL worktops to be supplied with their cabinets.

HPL laminate is probably more than twice the price of continuous board when calculate as straight lengths but, because the worktops are fabricated to order you only pay for the amount of worktop used, it is normally charged at 100mm increments, so no wastage unlike continuous board. This often means that the difference in price against continuous board ends up being much less.

If the HPL worktop is produced by one of the better-quality companies such as Resopal or Duropal, then the following features will also be included.

German quality standards legislation require a laminate worktop to be able to withstand the impact of a 1 Kilo steel ball dropped from a height of 1 metre without damaging the surface. They achieve this by creating the chipboard core in 3 layers. The top and bottom layers are very tightly packed but the middle layer is less dense and it is this central layer that will flex and absorb the impact
They are also required to be able to withstand a heat of 180 degrees centigrade without scorching or otherwise damaging the surface.

Because the laminate surface is bonded on a press rather than having to travel through a roller it can be much more rigid and therefore have more layers of laminate. The main benefit of this is the ability to produce deeper and sharper grained finishes to the surface. You can actually try to scratch a HPL surface with a 2 pence coin and find that you will wear the coin to a flat edge without scratching the laminate.

Fabricators and kitchen manufacturers will charge for joints, cut outs and edges etc but they are relatively cheap, certainly less than what your installer may charge and can be produced to the highest standards possible in the factory, certainly much better than what is achievable from even the best installers.

POSITIVES

More resilient finished surface. Much greater flexibility. Only pay for what you need. Highly engineered joints, cut outs and edges etc.

NEGATIVES

More expensive than continuous board but not by as much as you may think.

Slimline solid laminate worktops

A relative newcomer to the worktop scene and the laminate worktop manufacturers response to the trend for slimmer worktops that has been created by the quartz and granite manufacturers.

Slim line worktops should include most of the benefits mentioned in the HPL section earlier. There are no real downsides other than the very limited flexibility of the product.

Being a mixture of laminate and polymers there is usually no chipboard core so are virtually impervious to water.

Usually only available in lengths up to 3 metres and very limited in depth, if you are lucky enough to have a large kitchen you will be unlikely to be able to use solid laminate worktops without having to join 2 pieces for any long runs.
More expensive than traditional laminate worktops due to the manufacturing process and limited volume.

If you are purchasing from a worktop fabricator or a kitchen manufacturer then, much the same as HPL worktops, all of the joints cut-outs and edging can be pre-done in the factory but, if you are purchasing them from a company that supplies the worktops in blank lengths then you will once again, just as you would with continuous board ,be at the mercy of the ability of the installer to replicate a factory standard finish.

Beware of some, so called, slim line worktops that are actually just thinner standard laminate worktops that still have a chipboard core but a solid slim line price.

POSITIVES

The ability to produce an “on trend” sleek finish to your kitchen. Virtually impervious to moisture, so much so that you can fit underslung sinks and have drainer grooves routed into the surface.

NEGATIVES

Most expensive laminate option. Very limited colour choice. Very limited design flexibility.

Quartz

Without going into long boring technical detail Quartz worktops are basically re-constituted or synthetic stone. They are a mixture of natural quartz and other bonding materials that are heated and compressed to produce a natural stone like appearance.

Price will vary greatly depending on the colour and pattern you select but expect to pay around from two to three time the price of HPL

In most cases there is nothing to worry about in terms of longevity or resilience but it is worth bearing in mind that Quartz is not totally impervious to staining, particularly the lighter colours. It’s not something to worry about providing you clean up any spills immediately but leaving a red wine or juice spill can result in staining. Even this can be rectified but you would need a professional to sand down and refinish the stained area.

Quartz is quite brittle and it can be chipped particularly on the front edge in heavy use areas. It does not chip easily however but it is worth taking extra care when using heavy pans such as cast iron etc.

There is a huge selection of colours and designs and prices will vary quite considerably depending upon which colour or design you select.
As with slimline worktops sizes are restricted, so expect to have joints, in some cases, for any run longer than 3.1 metres. Some Quartz providers do offer a 3.5 metre option but expect to pay a hefty premium for it.

Because Quartz is a man-made product any finished surface will be consistent in its design and pattern, which is its main practical benefit when compared to natural granite.

It is also worth noting that any unsupported areas of a Quartz worksurface can break or snap as the material is quite brittle. So, if you are considering a bar or table as part of your kitchen design, then please ensure that the surface is properly supported along its length.

Never attempt to stand or put excessive weight onto areas such as the front or back of a quartz worktop that as been cut out for a sink or hob as the remaining material is very narrow and can break. The better-quality kitchen furniture manufacturers, particularly the “made to order” companies will be made aware by your kitchen designer that Quartz is being used as part of your kitchen. and They will replace the sink or hob cabinets standard front rails with steel rails to support the narrow sections of quartz.

POSITIVES

Virtually worry free and very long lasting if cared for properly. Aesthetically pleasing. Stains or chips can be professionally rectified.

NEGATIVES

Expensive when compared with even HPL worktops. Some design restrictions due to size availability. Must be cared for properly.

Granite

Very similar to Quartz in terms of its features and benefits. It might surprise you to know that it can be stained in exactly the same way as Quartz and needs a professional to rectify any stained areas.

The only potential downside against quartz can be irregularity in the design or pattern of the surface. Granite is a natural material so what comes out of the ground is what you get. The granite industry actually give these irregularities a name., They call them occlusions. Some people will view them as part of the natural beauty of the product and should be viewed as intrinsic to the look. Others may find them jarring or awkward on the eye. Safe to say that the more perfect the pattern the more it costs.

Granite prices vary hugely and this is almost entirely due to the level of the perfection of the raw slab, together with the rarity of the colour and pattern itself.
Granite is mostly imported from Africa and Asia so the distance this extremely heavy product is travelling is reflected in the price, to say nothing of the cost of getting it out of the ground in the first place.

Be careful when budgeting for Granite worktops. You will see some granite companies advertising their products on-line a £XXX per linear metre.

This is only part of the overall cost, any polished cut outs such as around an underslung sink, polished return edges and drainer grooves etc can almost double the initial cost. If you calculate the linear metre cost then double it you will not be surprised when you get your final quote.

POSITIVES

Virtually worry free and very long lasting if cared for properly. Aesthetically pleasing.

NEGATIVES

Expensive when compared with even HPL worktops. Some design restrictions due to size availability. Must be cared for properly. Inconsistency of the natural design or pattern.

Corian

Often considered as the ultimate work surface. This is because it is possible to joint the product with complete invisibility, your entire kitchen worktop areas can look like one complete piece. Corian can even be moulded to create a sink that appears to be a continuous part of the work surface.

Of course, all of this comes at a price so expect to pay several thousand pounds for even an average sized kitchen.

As with Granite and Quartz it can be stained or chipped in exactly the same way and a professional will be required to rectify any stains or chips.

POSITIVES

Ultimate finished surface with no visible joints. Very flexible design options. Repairable.

NEGATIVES

Very expensive. Can be stained and chipped.



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