The benchtop material you choose for your kitchen needs to be strong and durable for food prep while also being attractive, as benchtops are a very prominent and visible part of the kitchen space. The benchtops also need to coordinate with all the surfaces in the kitchen, including appliances, flooring and cabinetry. To help you choose the right material for your kitchen benchtop surfaces, note a few pros and cons of some popular options.
Materials like granite, travertine, and slate are very attractive; since these are natural materials with variations in veining and mineral deposit, each slab will have a different look than the next. In turn, your granite benchtops will be different than the neighbour's granite benchtops, even if they're similar in colour.
However, stone benchtops are not as durable as many homeowners assume; they can get etched with acidic foods like citrus juice, or may show watermarks and stains. They will need consistent sealing to help reduce this risk of damage and of cracking or chipping, so be prepared for long-term maintenance if you do decide on stone benchtops.
Stainless steel is a good choice for benchtop materials, as it's very durable and very affordable. It's also easy to fabricate and bend, so you can often have sheets of steel installed right over your current benchtops, folding and then screwing the ends and corners in place. Use caution in selecting this material if you have stainless steel appliances, as this can mean too much of the same material in the kitchen.
A butcher-block benchtop is a good choice for offsetting the look of stainless steel appliances, and for toning down a ceramic tile splashback. Timber benchtops don't need to look overly rustic, as you can choose bamboo for a more exotic look; a darker cedar can also bring warmth to the kitchen and make it look upscale and rich. Using reclaimed or recycled timber is also a very eco-friendly choice for the kitchen, as this keeps wood scraps and pieces from simply being tossed in a landfill.
Laminated benchtops are very durable and strong, and very affordable, but they will have an artificial look to them that may detract from the kitchen space. Since the uppermost layer of the benchtop is glued to the surface, it can also eventually come loose, especially if you have a small kitchen and often boil water on the stovetop, as this can mean trapped humidity that loosens glue on the benchtop. Be prepared for consistent reattaching of the laminated material if you do choose this option for your home.