December 12, 2012

Timber Countertop

Countertops can be made from an array of materials including plastic, timber, composite, metal and concrete. They typically overhang cabinets by approximately 30mm although you’ll find that this dimension varies as fashions come and go.

Plastic Countertops
Countertops composed of solid plastic all the way through are called solid-surface countertops whereas those built up in layers are called laminate countertops.

Plastic laminate countertops are inexpensive, hardwearing, stain resistant and they come in a wide choice of colors, patterns and edge options. There are two main types of plastic laminate countertops; high-pressure and direct-pressure laminates, with high-pressure being the better quality of the two. Laminate countertops cannot be repaired if damaged and it is not wise to use them a cutting surface or to place hot pans on them. Joins in laminate countertops are also very visible – particularly with paler colours, and glossy laminate countertops show up scratches more easily than matt ones. . The standard thickness for this type of counter is 38mm and the standard depth is 600mm but 65mm and 900mm wide versions are also available. The 600mm wide version will have just one profiled (post-formed) edged whereas the 665 and 900mm version will have both edges profiled. Two lengths are typically available; 36mmm and 4100mm. Some brand names on the market include Formica, Nevamar and Wilsonart

Laminate countertops can be finished with the following profiles; bevel, half bullnose, quarter round or straight. If the edge is straight it can be finished with a plastic, timber or metal edging.

Solid-surface countertops are hardwearing, resistant to scratches, scorching and heat and if you do manage to damage one it can easily be repaired. These countertops are a mix of acrylic, resin and minerals and are durable and super-hygienic because they’re non-porous and seamless. They comes in a wide range of colors and styles and although the product is expensive most suppliers will give you a good guarantee when you buy it. Most solid-surface countertops can be sculpted to any shape meaning that sinks, draining boards, counters and splashbacks can flow seamlessly into each other. Corian is the most famous brand of solid-surface material, having been around for about 30 years. Avonite and Durat are more recent names on the market. Durat is a stylish material made from recycled plastic that can be made into bespoke forms and comes in a range of colours. It is easy to clean, resistant to chemicals and, like Corian, if it gets scratched, it can be renewed by sanding.

Stone Countertops
Most natural stone countertops have to be quite thick in order to avoid cracking. This can make stone countertops very heavy and therefore challenging and costly to supply and install. Scratches are impossible to remove from stone as they can’t be sanded down or re-polished once in place and if a sealer is applied it will need to be reapplied periodically to maintain water and stain resistance. Stone countertops can have draining boards routed into them.

Granite is a dense, durable, heat-resistant material, making it one of the most popular stones for countertops. It is typically scratch resistant although if over-scoured it can become porous and more liable to staining. It may need to be sealed to deter stains particularly by acids like vinegar and lemon juice. Granite is available in a huge range of colours, openness and texture. Cost wise natural stone is currently on a par with some solid-surface materials, but the cost of your granite worktop will largely depend on the type of granite you choose, together with scale and detail of your kitchen.

Tip: Small samples of granite are only representative of and not indicative of selected material. If you are choosing either a pearl or veined granite make sure that you discuss shading and grain variation with the supplier.

The golden shades of limestone make it another popular countertop material. It is a porous stone and some acids may turn cause a polished limestone countertop to become matt.

Despite its beauty and resistance to heat and water marble is not often seen as a countertop material in today’s kitchens due to its expensive, need for regular sealing and its susceptibility to staining and scratching. Marble countertops come in a range of shades although white or pastel with grey veining is most popular for traditional kitchens.

Slate countertops come in variety of grey and if sealed properly it adds a sleek, modern look to a kitchen.

Soapstone  is generally a dark gray stone with a smooth feel and is typically seen in historic buildings. It is generally stain resistant but requires regular applications of mineral oil to keep it at its best. It may also crack and darken over time.

Quartz stone is a manufactured alternative to natural stone. It is composed of metamorphosed sandstone (quartz), resin, binders and pigments. It is made by combining crystals with resin and colour and heating to bind and harden. It is highly durable material and is resistant to scratches, stains, heat, acids and oils. Also because the material is non-porous it is very hygienic and does not need to be sealed. It is available in an array of neutral and bright colors and with a variety of crystal sizes. Quartz stone countertops can be precision-cut and are fairly seamless, although integrated splashbacks aren’t possible. They are quite expensive to buy but they typically come with a decent warranty. Some brands on the market include DuPont Zodiaq®, LG Viatera®, Cambria Quartz, and Silestone®.

Becoming increasing popular in recent years concrete countertops  are typically they cast in-situ doing away with any joints and seams. Concrete is heat and scratch resistant and can be colour tinted or textured as desired. Concrete counters are normally more than 55mm to avoid cracking, making them very heavy and in need of sturdy supporting frame. Joints in concrete countertops are also visible. A concrete countertops should be left to harden over a long period before the countertop being sealed. Then 4 coats of penetrative sealant is applied followed by several coats of protective wax. Concrete is prone to staining and it must be regular polished with wax to protect the surface. Unlike pre-made concrete countertops hand-trowelled tops have an organic, leather-like tactile quality. Made-to-order concrete countertops can be made in a wide range of tones and can have personal items embedded into them during manufacture or have images imprinted into the surface.

Many factors can influence the appearance and colour of concrete countertops, including the amount of grinding and polishing employed and the type of aggregate, sand and cement used. Typically concrete countertops have a straight or vertical edge with a pencil round hand-finished corner.

The UK-based company Mass Concrete backs their concrete with foam to make it lighter than solid concrete countertops.  They also claim that their concrete countertops are more stain-resistant than traditional cast concrete countertops.

Tip: It is important to indicate if a concrete countertop is to be used outside as the mix will need to be altered to reduce the chances of cracking during freezing weather.

Stainless Steel Countertops
Stainless steel countertops are sleek, clean-lined and contemporary and can appear seamless when joints are polished out. Although lightweight it is extremely strong and resistant to corrosion and heat. As it is the only one that can safely be bleached it is also a hygienic option. On the downside it is expensive, noisy, susceptible to dents, prone to scratching and marking and requires a lot of maintenance to keep smear free.

Toughened Glass Countertops
This type of countertop is sexy, stylish and heat and shock-resistant although it is prone to scratching and may be damaged by heavy objects.

Wooden Countertops
Wood countertops are warm and clean and have a wonderful tactile beauty. They are the only countertop material that will not damage knives. Wood is not heat-resistant but most damage can be sanded out. Solid wood countertops need maintenance as they can swell, stain or warp and so need to be treated with tung, linseed or teak oil to up their waterproofing properties and prevent them drying-out. Oak, maple, cherry, red beech, walnut, teak, merbau and mahogany are all popular hardwoods for countertops. The thickness of wooden countertops varies from 27mm to 40mm depending on the look desired and the stability of the type of wood chosen.

Tip: Lengthy prolonged contact with metals such as iron and steel can cause black staining on wood.

Tip: Hardwood countertops should not be installed above radiators and other heating devices or the risk of warping is increased.

Selecting Countertops
When selecting a new countertop there are six points to look for:

  • Strength
  • Stain resistance
  • Heat resistance
  • Elegance
  • Durability
  • Price

Installing Wooden Countertops
Before wooden countertops are brought to site all wet trades should be completed all concrete or plaster should be well cured. Countertops should be installed as soon as possible after delivery but if storage is necessary, the tops must be kept in a dry and weather tight environment, at a temperature and humidity level that matches the room that it will be ultimately fitted in.

Tip: Countertops should be store flat and level, supported on battens at 500 – 600mm centres, in their original wrapping and completely away from any sources of heat or moisture. Countertops should never be stored on their edge or end as this can lead to warping or cupping.

Wooden Countertops should have a 4 – 5mm expansion gap between its rear edges/ends and the wall surfaces. This is to allow for any natural movement in the countertop. The expansion gap is best sealed with a low moduls silicone sealer, or covered with an upstand.

The underside of wooden countertops should be allowed to breathe and so it is not advisable to have them sitting flat on a solid panel and Damp Proof Membrane (DPM) should be used between wooden countertops and masonry.

Tip: The ends of wooden countertops should be sealed before the countertop is installed.

Tip: Screws in wooden countertops should be tightened fully and then loosened a quarter turn to allow the wood room to breath.

Tip: Heavy countertops will need regular and even support underneath them and so it may be necessary to fit a supporting wall rail in areas where the span between kitchen cabinet is too great.


One comment

  1. […] Also ….. Technical Information on Countertops […]

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