Arguably one of the most important features of a room, the surface material of a benchtop or vanity can transform your space. Here, we discuss the differences between four main surface types to help you decide which is best for you
The surface material you choose for your benchtops and vanities can make or break a room. As anything and everything will be placed on the surface, it must be able to withstand a high amount of usage. Longevity of the material, easy maintenance and factors such as being chip and scratch resistant are all vital considerations. Kitchen benchtops face the wear and tear of cookie-laden baking trays, spilled wines and as a resting spot for children when on the go.
Bathroom vanities need to be particularly heavy duty. They need to meet the challenge of a humid environment combined with enduring the variety of creams and liquids that are often spilled on them. Knowing which surface can have a straightening iron placed directly on it, or is easy to clean, is crucial. Especially if maintaining a bathroom that is high functioning and aesthetically pleasing if central to your agenda. From neutral tones and eye-catching marbling to rugged industrial textures, there is a surface for every home design.
Image credit: Rugged Concrete by Caesarstone
Besides having an appealing industrial aesthetic that can give any space a raw edge, concrete is an extremely durable surface. It is strong enough to support skyscrapers, and it certainly has the strength to support any household’s kitchen or bathroom demands. When sealed, the surface is heat, stain, scratch and chip resistant. So, no need to fear any wine spills or toothpaste remnants! Concrete is easy to clean, simply wipe down with warm, soapy water to wash away any spillages or crumbs.
It is extremely important to ensure your concrete surface is sealed from first installation. Concrete is a highly porous material and without proper sealing, strong heat, stains and bacterial growth can cause unwanted problems. Despite being more affordable than many other surface types, there are some upkeep costs that can arise from the recommended resealing of the concrete every one to three years. We advise hiring an experienced installer to place the joins, as they will require fillers to keep their sleek appearance.
Soften concrete’s raw industrial edge with natural marble-inspired designs and beautiful timber finishes. Neutral palettes can soften any harshness that may arise from concrete’s eye-catching appearance and can provide a smooth finish to this rugged material. Alternatively, embrace industrial vibes, using dusky greens and weathered wood as the backdrop of your kitchen or bathroom. Hanging pendant lamps or aluminium light bulb cages, as well as copper accessories (think tapware!), are the perfect finishing touches to your urban-styled room.
Rugged Concrete by Caesarstone is an engineered stone that delivers the authentic look of a hand-poured concrete benchtop with a robust, industrial-inspired design. Each Caesarstone slab is unique; the colour variations arising from a mixture of white haze surface patina and the new “rough” matt surface finish.
This engineered stone is exceptionally functional with many of the same sturdy qualities as concrete and it is resistant to stains, scratches and chips. The rough, low-reflective, matt surface finish is more susceptible to showing everyday marks and spills, but this just means a little bit of extra care when cleaning may be required. Caesarstone’s Rugged Concrete is heat resistant but not heat proof. It is recommended to place hot pans or baking trays onto a chopping board to best preserve the material and avoid scorch marks.
2. Natural Stone:
Image credit: Sensa Orinoco benchtop by Cosentino
Natural stone such as granite is one of the hardest materials on the market and is extremely heat resistant, perfect placing the family roast or a hot hair dryer onto. Natural stone is also unique in appearance — no two slabs will look the same, as the veins that run through the rock are created from nature in action. It offers a dramatic beauty that can tie a bathroom or kitchen together.
Because of the valuable properties of authentic natural stone, the price often reflects the quality of the product and uniqueness in composition. Due to the porous nature of the stone, marble benchtops are prone to being scratched or stained. They might be difficult to repair. Natural stone should be resealed periodically to keep the stone looking as polished and protected as possible.
Natural stone goes well with almost everything. Showcase a sleek, modern kitchen with marbled countertops, a more uniform base cabinet and a shiny coffee maker. Alternatively, for a more rustic and European-style kitchen, choose wooden accents for window frames and pantry doors, or add some contrast with timber flooring.
Sensa by Cosentino® is a range of granite surfaces that provides exclusive stain-resistant protection, combating the stone’s major weakness of high porosity. These surfaces repel liquids such as water and oil, perfect for both kitchens and bathrooms, and are a maintenance-free and durable material. The stunning collection of granite is unique and versatile, suitable for either classic or traditional designs.
3. Solid surfaces:
Image credit: Designed by Shaynna Blaze, Corian Charging benchtop by CASF
Cost effective and low maintenance, solid surfaces have many advantages. Ideal for a bathroom or kitchen, solid surfaces are durable, water resistant and easy to clean. The surface itself is warm to the touch, and perfect for the chillier winter months. Solid surfaces can also be joined seamlessly, so are great for long island benches or curves where no ugly joins can be seen.
There aren’t too many disadvantages of solid surfaces, as the material is composed largely of natural minerals and a high-performance acrylic binder. Aesthetically, solid surfaces can look homogenous or unnatural, as they are normally uniform in appearance. However, this can be a plus for a homeowner who doesn’t want the unpredictability of natural stone. Like many finishes, darker colours tend to show more everyday wear and tear, especially in high-use areas such as the kitchen.
Anything you’d like! For every room, there is a solid surface colour or style to match. There are numerous finish options such as matt, satin or gloss. For a more natural look, we advocate a neutral benchtop that mimics a stone’s natural veining, complemented with modern accessories.
CASF’s Corian® Wireless Charging Surface uses the latest technology in benchtop surfaces. It offers unique and highly practical functioning of charging your phone while it is placed over the pre-installed charging station.
A simple solution to decluttering your power board and benchtops and fuelled by state-of-the-art technology, this wireless charging option is more affordable than expected, coming in at $180 plus GST for the transmitter unit. Newer phone models have the wireless charging function built in, while older models have the option of a charging ring: you can buy this separately to enable the same wireless function.
Image credit: Designed by Kim Duffin for Sublime Architectural Interiors. Spotted gum veneer benchtop.
Timber is a classic material that suits both country- and modern-style kitchens. Wooden benchtops or vanities are warmer to the touch — something that many stone surfaces are not able to achieve. They are also warm to look at. Their earthy, natural tones perfect for turning a kitchen into a welcoming family area. There are many environmental benefits of timber. You can also buy recycled or salvaged wood at a fraction of the cost. Plus, for the DIY-savvy homeowner, at the end of a countertop’s life, you can re-purpose the timber for shelves or window frames.
Timber is a soft material and, consequently, scratches and spills can cause more damage. However, with the right care and maintenance, it can last a long time. Imperfections that arise from frequent use can be easily sanded away and resealed to leave the surface looking fresh and clean. Timber does require a bit more upkeep as, depending on the sealant, you may need to reapply the finish two or three times a year to add longevity to the life of the surface.
Wooden accents and soft pastels create an inviting space where the family can gather. Black or white tiled floors in the bathroom look particularly sleek. Due to a combination of such tiles with a timber vanity, a modern space with homely charm can be achieved.
Jarrah timber is glossy and chic, suiting a range of kitchens and bathrooms. Its dark wooden tones pair well with a lighter colour scheme, drawing the eye to the benchtop or vanity. This Australian tree can be sourced from environmentally responsible suppliers that are carbon friendly, so that when a tree is cut down, the carbon that is normally released will be captured.
Written by Cassie Haywood
Originally in Kitchens & Bathrooms Quarterly Volume 25 Issue 1