Laminate vs. Stone Benchtops. What is the Difference?
Laminate has been the most popular benchtop material in Australia for many years due to its affordability, accessibility, and range of finishes and colours available. Laminate benchtops are created by compressing layers of toughened plastic with engineered wood like particleboard or medium-density fibreboard, making them easy to fit into most kitchens and can be cut to size readily on-site.
Stone benchtops, on the other hand, can be either natural or engineered. Marble and granite are the two most common natural stones used, with Carrara and Calacatta marble being the most popular choices due to their elegant and timeless appearance. Granite is another popular choice due to its durability and the wide range of colours and patterns available.
Although natural stone benchtops provide a luxurious appeal to your kitchen, they come with a significant price tag. As a result, some customers may opt for engineered stone, a man-made material that provides a hard and durable surface similar to natural stone. Engineered stone is less porous than natural stone and is typically made from a combination of quartz, shells, glass, and a bonding agent. Behind plastic laminates, composite stone benches are the most popular of the man-made materials used for kitchen benches.
Pros and Cons
A laminate benchtop is a versatile and easy-to-maintain option. With a wide range of finishes, styles, and colours, it's an excellent choice for achieving your desired aesthetic, and its increasing popularity makes it a cost-effective option. It is also lightweight and easy to install, making the process quicker and more affordable than other materials. Some downside to a laminate benchtop is that it is similar to wood in behaviour, and fluctuations in humidity can cause them to shrink or expand. Despite it being water-resistant, there is still a chance of water and moisture seeping through the cracks or scratches and with heavy use or misuse, such as cutting directly on the surface can cause irreparable damage to your benchtop. Laminates are not as heat resistant as other materials so directly placing hot pots or pans can leave burn marks on the surface or warp the material. If a laminate benchtop is damaged, it is difficult to repair, and replacing the entire benchtop may be necessary.
Installing a natural stone benchtop can increase the resale value of a home, as it is considered a high-end feature. It is highly durable and can withstand heavy use and impact without getting scratched or chipped. Another key advantage of a natural stone benchtop is that this material is highly heat-resistant making it very ideal for use in the kitchen. You might think that your colour and pattern options would be limited with natural stone but there are also lesser-known options such as onyx, quartzite, and dolomite. While this may seem all good, there are drawbacks too like any other material. Natural stone is porous and can absorb liquids, which can cause staining or damage if not properly sealed. It requires regular maintenance, such as sealing and polishing to keep it looking its best. As for installation, the weight can make the installation difficult as it requires additional structural support which jacks up the cost even more.
With engineered stone, consistency in pattern and colour throughout the benchtop is ensured because this is a man-made material. It comes in a variety of colours and patterns, allowing for a range of design options, unlike natural stone. This material is non-porous and does not need to be sealed like natural stone. Although engineered stone is heat-resistant, exposure to high temperatures can cause damage, such as discoloration or cracking. Another drawback is that the manufacturing process of engineered stone can have a negative impact on the environment, with some brands containing harmful substances.
Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and it's essential to consider them when choosing the best benchtop for your home. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and budget.
What are the price points?
Aside from the aesthetics, one of the most significant factors to consider when choosing a benchtop is the cost. The price points for benchtops vary depending on several factors such as the material's quality, thickness, design, and size of the benchtop, as well as the region and availability of the materials.
There is a substantial price difference between laminate and stone benchtops. However, thanks to technological advancements, laminate has become a popular alternative to stone as it can imitate the appearance and keep costs lower.
Specific prices can vary widely depending on the brand, design, and quality of the material, as well as the location of the supplier and installer. It is recommended to get quotes from multiple suppliers and installers and to compare their pricing and services to ensure you get the best value for your money.
What is the best installation method for these benchtops?
The installation method for laminate benchtops depends on various factors such as size, shape, cabinetry, and design. However, the most common way is to use adhesive to attach the benchtop to the cabinets. Another option is to use brackets or clips for additional support, especially for larger or heavier surfaces. It's vital to hire a professional installer experienced in laminate benchtop installation for a proper and secure installation.
For natural stone benchtops, hiring a professional stone fabricator or installer with experience in working with the specific type of stone is essential. The installation process involves measuring and cutting the stone, placing it on a sturdy base, securing it with adhesive and brackets, and sealing the surface to protect it from damage.
Similarly, the installation method for engineered stone benchtops is like that of natural stone. A professional installer will carefully plan, measure, and assess the levelness of the base, apply adhesive, and use clamps to hold the countertop in place until the adhesive cures. Once cured, the excess adhesive will be removed, and the edges finished to match the desired profile. Professional installation is highly recommended for the longevity and durability of the engineered stone benchtop.
What is my sink cut out?
The best sink cut out for a benchtop depends on the type of sink you plan to install and the size of your benchtop. For laminate benchtops, it is recommended to use a top-mount sink as it is more practical for the type of material. For natural stone and engineered stone benchtops, under-mount, top mount, or flush mount sinks can be used, but under-mount sinks are more popular as they create a seamless look with the benchtop.
Always ensure that the sink cut out is accurately measured and cut to fit the sink properly. If the cut out is too big, the sink may not sit properly and can be prone to leaking. If it's too small, the sink may not fit at all. It is vital to hire a professional to measure and cut the sink cut out to ensure accuracy and avoid damage to both the benchtop and the sink.
Where should I place my mixer?
The placement of the mixer on a benchtop depends on personal preference, but there are some guidelines to follow. For laminate, the mixer can be installed directly on the benchtop. However, It is important to ensure that the cut out for the mixer is properly cut and sealed to avoid damaging the laminate. Another option would be going for a tap landing sink so the mixer will not sit directly on the benchtop should leaks occur. For natural stone and engineered stone benchtops, mixers can be installed in whichever way you prefer. It is important to consult with a professional installer to determine the best placement for your specific benchtop.
What does Silica Dust mean for homeowners considering engineered stone benchtops?
If you’re considering an engineered stone benchtop, chances are you’ve already seen silica dust in the news. In the past few years, engineered stone benchtops have gained immense popularity due to their affordability and durability compared to natural stone. However, as the hazards of engineered stone and its negative impact on stonemasons have received considerable media attention, people are now getting worried about silicosis.
It is important to keep in mind that engineered stone doesn't pose any health risks after it's been fabricated and installed in your home because the silica dust is mostly generated during the cutting, grinding, and polishing process. Once the stone is in its final form and installed, the risk of exposure to silica dust is significantly reduced. Therefore, you can safely enjoy your engineered stone benchtops without worrying about health hazards!
Maintenance and Warranty
How do I maintain my benchtops?
Laminate benchtops offer a relatively low-maintenance option compared to surfaces like stone. It's essential to wipe up spills and messes as soon as possible to prevent any staining or damage. Use a mild detergent and warm water with a soft cloth to clean the surface regularly. Avoid using abrasive or harsh cleaners, as they can scratch the surface. To remove stains, use a mixture of baking soda and water, or a specialized laminate cleaner. Do not cut directly on the surface or place hot pots and pans on the benchtop.
Stone benchtops require more attention to keep them in pristine condition. It's important to seal the surface regularly, especially if it is a porous stone such as marble or limestone. Use a specialized stone cleaner and a soft cloth to clean the surface regularly. Avoid using acidic or abrasive cleaners, as they can etch or scratch the surface. Wipe up spills as soon as possible to prevent staining and use cutting boards and trivets to avoid scratches or heat damage.
Although the maintenance required for different materials is usually manageable, it's essential to understand the specific maintenance needs of each material before making a purchase. Overall, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for care and maintenance for each type of benchtop. Regular cleaning and proper use can help extend the life of your benchtop and keep it looking its best.
How to reduce the risk of water damage to laminate benchtops
While a laminate benchtop is a popular option due to its versatility and ease of maintenance, it is still susceptible to water damage through cracks or scratches. To minimize this risk, some laminate benchtop suppliers may require the installation of a sink with a tap landing. It is likely because they have had previous experiences with water damage to laminate benchtops and want to ensure that their products are installed in a way that minimizes this risk.
A tap landing sink is a sink with a small platform or a landing where the mixer can be installed directly on top. These types of sinks are better in reducing the risk of water damage to laminate benchtops because they help prevent water from seeping into the substrate. When water repeatedly comes into contact with the laminate surface, it can cause the substrate material to swell and warp which can lead to damage, potentially costly repairs, and possibly a voided warranty. With a tap landing sink, a barrier between the water and the substrate is provided and allows the water to drain directly into the sink rather than pooling on the laminate surface. With a laminate benchtop, investing in a tap landing sink can be worthwhile to extend the life of your benchtop and protect it from water damage.
It is also crucial to follow the supplier's guidelines and terms and conditions when installing a laminate benchtop to maintain its warranty or guarantee. If you're uncertain about whether your benchtop requires a tap landing sink or have questions about installation, it is recommended to contact the supplier or manufacturer directly for clarification.
What is a typical benchtop warranty?
Warranties can vary depending on the manufacturer and the installer, this will most likely not cover damage caused by improper use, installation, or maintenance.
Laminate benchtops typically come with a warranty ranging from 5 to 10 years, covering defects in materials and workmanship. Natural and engineered stone benchtops usually come with a limited warranty, ranging from 10 to 25 years, covering defects in the stone itself. It is important to note that the warranty may be voided if the benchtop is not installed by a certified installer or if the recommended maintenance and care instructions are not followed.
Choosing the Perfect Benchtop
When it comes to selecting the ideal benchtop for your kitchen, laundry, or bathroom, it's natural to feel a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of options available. However, with a systematic approach, you can break down the decision-making process into smaller, more manageable steps.
Begin by considering the factors that are most important to you. Laminate benchtops offer a cost-effective and versatile option with a wide range of colours and styles but may not be as durable as other materials and have limited repair options. Natural stone benchtops are highly durable and can increase the resale value of your home but require regular maintenance and can be costly to install. Engineered stone offers consistency in pattern and colour, a variety of design options, and is non-porous, but may be less heat resistant.
Consider your preferences and the overall design of your space. And, of course, take into account the maintenance requirements of each benchtop material. Lastly, understanding the warranty coverage provided by the manufacturer is crucial. It's important to be aware of any terms and conditions that may affect your warranty. By following the recommended maintenance guidelines and caring for your benchtop appropriately, you can protect your investment and enjoy a functional and visually appealing space for many years to come.
Bring your dream house to life with Buildmat!
Buildmat provides a wide range of options for enhancing your kitchen, laundry, or bathroom with high precision handmade stainless steel sinks and high quality basins.
To explore the available options, you can conveniently shop online on Buildmat's website. Should you prefer a more hands-on experience, you can visit us at our Melbourne showroom, where you can see and appreciate the sinks and basins in person. If you have any questions or need assistance, you can quickly reach our team through a call or an email. We’d be more than happy to assist!