The GENERAL ASPECTS that regards all the existing countertops:
- The thickness can vary from a min. h1 cm (0,39 inch) up to a max. h15 cm (5,90 inch). The used scale is usually 1-2-3-4-6-8-10-12-15 cm. For modern kitchens are mainly used very thin countertops, those in th. 1-2-3-4 cm (0.39-0.78-1.18-1.57 inch) and those very thick, particularly for industrial design styles or lofts h.10-12-15 cm (3.93-4.72-5.90 inch); while for classical models are using mainly medium thickness, that will allow shaping different edge profiles, such as h4-6-8 cm (1.57-2.36-3.14 inch).
- The edge profile can be simple or sophisticated, depending on the material of the countertop, its thickness, and the kitchen style. For modern kitchens are best: square, double chamfer, rounded, shark nose, stingray, and blade. For traditional kitchens, best recommended are round, beveled, half bullnose, full bullnose, demi bullnose, ogee, radius ogee, DuPont, and a mix of the above.
- The countertop finishing can also make a significant difference in the way your countertop looks, feels, and performs. Especially when it comes to natural stone countertops, it can change the reflectiveness, water-repellency capacity, decrease the visibility of stain and maintenance requirements. The most popular types of stone countertop finishes are natural, polished, honed, flamed, leathered, and aged.
1.LAMINAM® STONEWARE is made of porcelain stoneware; natural materials such as quarried clay, granite rocks and ceramic pigments are wet-ground and compacted, then hybrid-cooked in an electric oven at temperatures above 1220° to guarantee product uniformity. These slabs are the biggest and slimmest ceramic surface ever produced, with perfectly linear square-edging, available in sizes from 1000×3000 mm to 1620×3240 mm in variable thickness between 3 and 20 mm.
The worktop usually consists of a 3 mm thick generic base layer bonded to a support structure which in turn consists of a 6 mm cement layer (with two-part epoxy putty) and an approximately 30 mm plywood panel (with elastic polyurethane putty). This has the same shape as the surface layer, which increases its stability and strength. For worktops higher than 40 mm (i.e. 60 mm or 120 mm), a plywood frame is added to the support structure.
Laminam ® stoneware is resistant to organic and inorganic solvents, disinfectants and detergents. It is extremely easy to clean, free of organic pigments and resistant to UV rays, making sure that the colors will not change over time. It is resistant to freezing and can adapt to any climatic conditions. It is also highly resistant to fire and high temperatures, but in the event of a fire it does not release smoke and toxic substances. It is however recommended to avoid placing extremely hot pans directly on the surface. The only product that can attack the worktop is hydrofluoric acid.
Laminam ® porcelain stoneware is produced using technology which is sustainable and completely environmentally friendly.
2.LAYERED HPL H1,2 CM (4.7 INCH) WITH SQUARED EDGE is a stratified worktop, made of layers of kraft paper impregnated with thermosetting amyloplast resins conforming to the EN 438 and ISO 4586 standards, and subjected to a high-pressure process at 9 MPa and 150°C in appropriate multi-compartment presses, where polycondensation resins additives with flame-retardant substances create this non-porous material.
It is available in two finishes: one has a black or brown profile (core), where its interior is formed by layers of black or brown cellulose, covered on the upper part by the sheet of the chosen color (you’ll see a dark core on the edges); while the other version has a matching color (matching core) because the paper used is of the same color as the surface decorative finish, creating a uniform top (on the edges too).
It is a product designed to prevent damages caused by water, steam or oil infiltrations, has high resistance to chemical and organic agents, resistant to heat (up to 170°C), non-toxic and suitable for contact with food, Eco-compatible. HPL stratified panels suffer moderate changes in size due to natural phenomena: they contract with low humidity and expand with high humidity. Neutral detergents should be used for daily cleaning, strictly avoid using abrasive or scratching substances. These tops should always be kept dry.
3.STAINLESS STEEL worktop is made of a particleboard support (Class E1) coated with a grade AISI 304 steel plate thick 1 mm, that is tough and scratch resistant, and can be of matte or shiny finish. A significant advantage of this worktop is that the sink bowls and the hob are welded directly to create a continuous surface free of joints; this makes it perfectly resistant to stains and is fully hygienic for treating foodstuffs.
In fact, you will often see stainless steel in restaurants and professional kitchens because it is non-porous, easy to clean and heat resistant properties. It can be wiped down with almost anything, but it can be damaged by bleach. Be careful not to use detergents containing chlorine or compounds of the latter, or abrasive materials (creams, powder detergents, steel wool, etc.), as steel tends to scratch easily.
4.COPPER worktops is another great choice for an “industrial vibe” but of a warm and more unique appeal. It is not often used, so it is made to order, thus quite pricy (but less than natural stones). It gives a feel and an aesthetics of having something rare and quite special.
5.A BUTCHER BLOCK worktop will give a rustic look to your interior and can be commissioned to any wood-working laboratory or even DIY home made. Typically, are made from rock maple (an extremely dense and hard wood), but teak, olive, walnut, cherry, bamboo and oak are also used. There are mainly three styles: 1/ edge-grain, made of long, thick strips of wood glued together with the edge grain facing up, 2/ end-grain, made of relatively short, square sticks of wood that are joined together with the thought end grain facing up, 3/ wide-plank, made by edge-gluing wide boards together.
Occasional oiling and a special finish will make the surface more water- and heat-resistant. In fact, a study made in 1993 of the University of Wisconsin, in which microbiologists intentionally contaminated wooden cutting boards, testing showed that 99.9% of the bacteria introduced died within 3 minutes of exposure to the wood-s surface. Moreover, the study found that wood cutting boards are safer, bacteria-wise, than plastic ones. So, with any doubt, food can be prepared directly on the counter!
6.VENEERED WOOD countertops are often chosen for their timeless and classic look. There is a pretty wide range of pricing, depending on the wood type, its country of origin, thickness and the producer brand. Here are some very popular models from Ikea and some from Italian producers:
Sealing them makes them more durable, though they will show some wear over time. It is also advised to regularly apply a layer of special oiling as a treatment to keep the surfaces’ good looking.
7.FENIX NTM ™ is a brand interior design product developed by Arpa Industriale and is 100% Made in Italy, made by applying heat (around 150°C) and high pressure (> 7 MPa) to obtain a non-porous very dense material.
Using the most modern resins, this intelligent material stands out for the extraordinary characteristics of its surface: resistance to scratches and abrasion, enhanced anti-bacterial properties, high resistance to acid solvents and household reagents, mold-resistant, antistatic, dimensional stability even at high temperature changes and resistance to dry heat, excellent intensity and color depth. The matt surface has an exceptionally low reflectivity (specular reflection index: 1.5 and 60°) and is highly resistant to hand and fingerprints. The material uses nanotechnology to enable micro-scratches to be healed thermally, and it also has a very pleasant soft touch effect. Moreover, it is fixed on waterproof fiberboard and the top is trimmed on visible sides with 1 mm polypropylene in matching color.
8.TEMPERED GLASS is a unique countertop because it combines a strong aesthetic appeal with hygienic properties due to the non-porous surfaces, resistance to torsion and knocks and – finally – high resistance to wear and aesthetic deterioration over time. The materials used include usually: a 12 mm thick glass, 28 mm thick E1 melamine faced V100 water-repellent support, lacquered finish made with lead-free paint and special binding agents. This countertop can be lacquered in any of the RAL color palette.
Avoid placing on the worktop any hot or overheated items, or materials that have been in direct contact with open flames, such as: pots, coffee pots, griddles, steak pans, grills, irons, etc. Avoid bumping blunt objects (utensils, bottles, pots, etc.) against the worktop, as their hardness may chip the surface. The worktops can be cleaned using normal glass detergents. Avoid using acids or similar substances, or abrasive sponges which may scratch the glass.
9.UNICOLOR LAMINATE is available in more colors and patterns than ever before. It can be made to look like anything, since advanced technologies make some laminates hard to distinguish from stone, bamboo, wood, or marble. It is one of the least expensive kitchen countertops options to purchase, install and maintain.
Boasting excellent mechanical, physical and chemical resistance properties, it is easy to work and to maintain; it is made up of cellulose-based materials, layers of colored and impregnated (60-70%) paper, with thermosetting resins (30-40%); this panel is then subjected to the combined action of heat (>=120°C) and high pressure (>=5 MPa) under special presses for a specific time that varies in relation to the type of laminate. This procedure yields a stable, uniform, non-porous, high-density material with physical and chemical properties, it can withstand the aggressive action of foodstuffs and household chemical agents. Unicolor laminate possesses excellent hardness and resistance to scratches, knocks, abrasions, and heat. However, do not leave hot pans, clothing irons or any other heat source on the surface, to avoid burns and cracks on the laminate. Cutting directly on it easily and permanently damages laminate, so use a cutting board.
The surface must be cleaned regularly but does not require any special maintenance. Almost all normal household detergents or disinfectants can be used, provided they are not abrasive or very alkaline, with a sponge; avoid cleaning the top with steel wool or highly acidic substances as they may stain the surface.
If you have a property house and a budget that allows it, then choose unique natural stones to enhance the beauty, create scenography, and add value to your estate. You have so many options to choose from, but especially look for: onyx, gemstone, marble, granite, and quartzite. If you have big spaces, islands, and good natural lighting to emphasize the beauty of colors and contrasts, then choose particular color slabs with sculptural veining and unique pigmentations. Still, if the kitchen size is quite small, I would recommend opting among the classical stones in white, beige, or black, because a colorful plate will not have enough scenography, and it can actually load a little too much the small spaces.
If, however, you love natural stones but at same time are also looking for more durable and technological materials, then take a look at composite materials, such as DuPont ™ Corian, Okite, Dekton® by Consentino, Quartz, Silestone®, and Betacryl®.
Or, in other cases, when you love natural stones, but you have a tighter budget, look for the options that are partially made of natural stones, but other parts are different components; such materials are marble agglomerates, terrazzo, and also the concrete.
For a moderate cost, but always natural, stylish, and durable materials for a timeless look, choose one of these: stainless steel, copper, butches block, veneered wood, and even lamina stoneware (made of porcelain) or tempered glass.
Last but not least, there are many budget-friendly colors and textures alternatives to choose from in Fenix NTM ™ and unicolor laminate.
I wish you good luck with your choices, and if I can be of any help, let me know in the comments or contact me directly.
Have a great day! And see you soon with my next tips and design subjects.