Best kitchen worktops: granite, quartz, marble, laminate, glass or wood?

Want to know which are the best kitchen worktops? Get this hardworking kitchen surface just right with our expert guide to the pros and cons of each worktop material

Best kitchen worktops: Kitchen by Cave Interiors

If you're designing a new kitchen, you're probably questioning which is the best kitchen worktop material for you. You may already have your wall colours picked out, cabinets designed and an idea of what look you want from your kitchen worktop.

But which worktop material – wood or stone, concrete, composite or metal – will suit not just the look of your new kitchen, but how you will use it, too? The options may seem endless, but it’s worth taking the time to get this hardworking surface right. 

Think about how you plan to use your kitchen: will there be lots of cooking, or is your aim to entertain and impress lots of guests? If you use your kitchen primarily for cooking, what's your food preparation style – making everything from scratch with lots of cleaning in between, or is your approach more hands-off, sparing your kitchen surfaces constant cleaning and wiping? How you answer these questions will impact your choice of kitchen worktop material. Follow our guide to choosing the best kitchen worktop types for you.

Use our ultimate guide to planning, designing and budgeting for a new kitchen to get your new kitchen just right.

How to choose the best kitchen worktops

Your kitchen worktops will be used for preparing, serving and, potentially, dining and will need to withstand regular, intensive cleaning. They’re a natural focal point in your kitchen, complementing the kitchen cabinets and kitchen flooring, and have become a key part of the design process. You’re going to be using them multiple times a day, so it’s important to choose a kitchen worktop type – or types if you're picking more than one material for your kitchen – that you like the look of, as well as a surface that will suit your lifestyle.

So, as well as just considering looks, consider the following:

  • Are you prepared to maintain worktops that need it (ie, marble, wood) or do you want a maintenance-free material?
  • Do you tend to put hot pans straight on the work surface or do you tend to use a trivet?
  • Are you prepared for the upkeep of a high gloss work surface or would a matt finish be better suited to your family (ie, you have small children who like to touch everything)?

Picking the right kitchen worktop material

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The primary factor to consider when looking at the best kitchen worktops is material. The most common options are stone, wood, man-made composite and laminate, each coming with its own unique properties.

Natural stone and wood, with their varied colours and markings, look stunning in a traditional kitchen, but can scratch and stain, requiring sealing and regular maintenance. 

A fuss-free alternative is a man-made composite material, such as quartz or Corian, which blend natural minerals with resin to create highly durable surfaces that are non-porous and easy to clean. However, these can be costly and require specialist fitting.

If you’re on a budget, laminates are the best choice. Comprising a plastic overlay and design layer bonded to man-made board, they can mimic hundreds of finishes, from weathered wood to veined marble, at a fraction of the price, while being water resistant. 

Alternatively, zinc, stainless steel and concrete are becoming increasingly popular as a way to achieve an on-trend industrial look.

Granite kitchen worktops

Granite is one of the most popular choices for kitchen worktops. It’s stylish, beautiful and is associated with luxurious kitchen design schemes.

Pros:

  • Hard-wearing
  • Heat resistant
  • Antibacterial
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Very heavy
  • Expensive

What is granite? 

‘Granite is the result of cooling pressurised magma over millions of years resulting in a rock that is both heat and scratch resistant. When sealed properly it is also stain resistant and, once installed, requires no more maintenance,’ says Jon Brewer, managing director and founder of Purple Granite.

How good is it as a kitchen worktop?

Granite is an all-round winner kitchen worktop material. It is far the most low-maintenance choice, so sturdy that it's unlikely to chip or scratch, and only needs to be resealed once a decade. Supremely heat-resistant, granite can easily withstand all your hot pans placed on top of it. 

Ease of maintenance?

It's easy to keep clean too, just needs a wipe with a soft microfibre cloth, warm water and a mild soap or specialised granite spray. Avoid any harsh or abrasive cleaners and sponges.

Downsides?

The only thing to be mindful of is that you'll be that little bit more limited in your choice of a splashback: you can't have a coved backsplash in granite, so typically you'll need to go for a full-height panel splashback instead.  

Plus you need to consider that this is a pretty pricey choice of kitchen worktop material. The price per square metre for a granite worktop is on average £270, although high-end granites may cost as much as £450 per square metre. But also bear in mind that stone lasts, and if you look after and maintain it, it should last a lifetime (or at least your kitchen's lifetime).

Blue and yellow kitchen

(Image: © Conran)

Quartz kitchen worktops

As Jon Stanley, VP Marketing for Caesarstone explains, quartz 'mirrors the complexity, emotion and nuance of natural stone whilst delivering superior quality and durability.' 

Pros:

  • Hard-wearing
  • Antibacterial
  • Easy to clean
  • Unrestricted range of colour

Best kitchen worktops: Lucern Lake quartz kitchen worktop, priced from £280.00 per m2, Radianz

Lucern Lake quartz kitchen worktop, priced from £280 per m2, Radianz 

(Image: © Radianz)

Cons:

  • Very heavy
  • Expensive

What is quartz?

A man-made alternative to materials such as granite and marble, industrial tecniques are used to fortify natural quartz with resin to create a truly hard-wearing and customisable worktop.

‘Quartz has become ever more popular over the years and offers a more uniform, contemporary stone work-surface. It is naturally resistant to staining and scratching, but is less heat-resistant than granite, ‘ adds Jon Brewer of Purple Granite.

How good is it as a kitchen worktop? 

One of the most attractive features of a quartz worktop is the combination of a natural stone look and feel with the low-maintenance properties that are usually expected from synthetic materials. Quartz is actually even more durable than granite, in the sense that it is even less prone to chipping and requires only occasional resealing. However unlike granite, it's not great with heat, so it won't be suitable for you keeping hot pans or trays on. 

Ease of maintenance

As with granite though, quartz surfaces are pretty easy to clean and maintain; for every day cleaning all you will need is a cloth and warm soapy water. 

Downsides?

The biggest downside of a quartz worktop is the cost; expect to pay around £500 per square metre, and that's before installation costs. There may be a way around this, as some companies, such as Granite Tranformations, offer 'topper' worktops made from granite or quartz. The 10mm-thick worktop simply fits on top of the existing worktop. 

Best kitchen worktops: kitchen with dark cabinets and white marble effect quartz worktops and kitchen islands by caesarstone

Empira White by Caesarstone has a stylish, polished finish and is available in two different thicknesses, 20mm and 30mm. It is made from premium engineered quartz stone which, unlike real marble, is stain, scratch, crack and chip resistant

(Image: © Caesarstone)

Hard wood kitchen worktops

Whether you are after a contemporary or traditional kitchen, hard wood is a great solution, as long as you are willing to put the work into its maintenance (see below). 

Pros:

  • Cheaper than stone options
  • Variety of wood grains and colours
  • Antibacterial if maintained
  • Looks great with age

Cons:

  • Requires bi-annual maintenance
  • Can become stained
  • Can scratch

What is a hard wood worktop made from?

For achieving a traditional look, maple, oak and beech work well. For a slightly more exotic feel, Wenge, bamboo or iroko are good options. Just make sure you always choose a sustainable hardwood, preferably from an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accredited source.

How good is it as a kitchen worktop?

In terms of price, wooden worktops can be pretty budget friendly, starting from around £120 per metre, depending on what type of wood you choose. If hardwoods are properly sealed and maintained they can last for ages, but the wood will change subtly over time, fading in bright sunlight in some cases or becoming deeper and richer with oiling. However, you may see this as a benefit as the worktop will gain a beautiful patina and character. Plus, when it does come to scratches and stains, you can sand them away, which is not an option with other worktop surfaces. 

Ease of maintenance

Make sure you wipe you any spills straight away and don't let the worktops come into contact with water for too long. Clean your wooden worktops with warm water, washing-up liquid and a soft cloth. Avoid using any abrasive and chemical-filled cleaning products and any harsh or wire scouring pads. See our guide to cleaning and maintaining wooden worktops for more on this.

The downsides?

The drawback with wood compared to stone or composite options is that it requires biannual oiling to keep away stains and damage. And, of course, you can't use the worktop as a chopping board, or place any hot pans directly onto the wood, as it can scorch. 

All white kitchen

Laminate kitchen worktops

Laminate is a cost effective and versatile worktop solution and has become the most popular option on the market.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Antibacterial
  • Can be made to look like more expensive materials
  • Easy to maintain
  • Easy to clean
  • Hard-wearing, scratch and heat-resistant
  • Suits any style of kitchen, from contemporary to classic

Cons:

  • Peel
  • Burn or even melt
  • Scratch and become unhygienic

What is laminate? 

Laminate is made by bonding a stiff sheet (which might have the appearance of wood, stone or manmade materials) on to a wooden particleboard core. 

How good is it as a kitchen worktop?

Laminate worktops start from as little as £35 per metre, so if you are doing up a kitchen on a budget they are a good option. The upsides are that they're pretty resilient to stains and come in a vast range of finishes and colours, too. A big plus of laminate worktops? You can fit them yourself, even if you aren't a DIY expert. 

Ease of maintenance

They can be wiped clean with most cleaning products, but be careful with knives, because once a laminate surface has a scratch, there is no easy way of getting it out.

The downsides?

Just be aware that laminate worktops may look good on paper, but you get what you pay for. Cheaper options will damage easily, too, so make sure you shop carefully.

Best kitchen worktops: Bushboard prima laminate granite effect worktops

Glass kitchen worktops

Glass has only recently been introduced to the worksurface market. It is stylish, versatile and works perfectly in a contemporary kitchen.

Pros:

  • Can be made in any size or shape
  • Easy to clean and hygienic
  • Extremely durable
  • Heat resistant
  • Limitless range of colours
  • Looks modern, stylish and sleek

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Needs frequent cleaning

Best kitchen worktops: white glass worktops from modern glass

Glass worktops available in any RAL colour, 10mm or 19mm thickness and made to measure, POA, Modern Glass

What are glass worktops made from?

Glass for work surfaces are toughened, making them a very durable kitchen worktop. They are non-porous, and are available in a variety of colours and finishes including ‘crackled’ or opaque. Recycled glass is also an option that mimics the look and feel of quartz, because of the reflections and refractions from coloured glass chips. 

How good is it as a kitchen worktop?

We've already said that it's non-porous – in other words it won't stain. Glass also withstands moisture and spills and splashes can easily be wiped clean, making it a beautiful – and practical – kitchen worktop material. Most glass worktops are heat-resistant, too. In terms of price, glass is a pretty pricey kitchen worktop material. You'll pay from around £300 per linear metre. 

Ease of maintenance

Your glass worktops will need wiping down regularly to prevent any water marks (and get rid of the fingerprints, but they are incredibly hygienic as there are no joints or texture to allow anything unpleasant to build up. 

Downsides?

Glass worktops can be prone to scratches and show off fingerprints; the latter can of course quickly be polished smooth.

Marble kitchen worktops

Marble is visually striking due to the naturally occuring streaking in the stone. It is one of the most popular worktop materials in luxury kitchens, both traditional and contemporary.

Pros:

  • luxury look and feel
  • heat resistant 
  • cost-effective, depending on the type of marble you choose

Cons:

  • porous, so can stain
  • scratches relatively easily

What is marble?

Marble is  a hard crystalline form of limestone, historically used in architecture and sculpture, hence its associations with classical elegance and luxury. 

How good is it as a kitchen worktop?

Marble looks incredibly elegant, and should be on your radar if you want a luxury, statement kitchen. This material is also always cool to the touch (due to its poor heat conducting properties) – a valuable functional trait in a hot, steamy kitchen. It's also pretty dense and durable. Marble worktops cost £315 per square metre on average, so they are a pretty expensive option, but they will last. 

Ease of maintenance

The main problem with marble is that it is a high-maintenance material, vulnerable to staining and scratching, so may not be the best choice in a busy family kitchen. Plus it reacts to acid, so an acidic kitchen liquid like lemon juice or vinegar will etch marble, leaving a dull, whitish mark where it has slightly eaten away the surface, even after the marble has been sealed. To clean marble countertops, use a mild, non-abrasive, pH neutral (non-acidic) soap mixed with water and a soft cloth. You could also get a specialist marble worktop cleaner

The downsides?

You need to be careful when cooking with acidic foods and choose cleaning products wisely.

Best kitchen worktops: Barbara Genda kitchen

Bespoke open-plan kitchen with a Carrara marble worktop, Barbara Genda

(Image: © Barbara Genda)

Want to see what marble worktops look like as part of a luxurious kitchen design? Have a browse through our luxury kitchen design ideas.

Solid surface composite kitchen worktops

Corian and solid surface worktops create a seamless, glossy worktop that fits perfectly into a contemporary design.

Pros:

  • Heat and scratch resistant
  • Seamless
  • Stain resistant
  • Can be moulded into any shape

Cons:

  • Expensive

What are solid surface composite worktops? 

These are made by applying an acrylic resin to the top of a substrate material like wood. 

How good are they as kitchen worktops?

These solid surface materials are great for modern kitchens. Made from a blend of acrylic resins, minerals and colour(s), solid surfaces and Corian can be totally seamless, too, with one-piece runs, moulded sinks and splashbacks all possible. They are heat and scratch resistant to a point, but can’t compete with solid stone or quartz. They’re non-porous, making them hygienic and dirt/bacteria resistant but bear in mind that although the resin exterior is waterproof, if any water gets within the substrate material, it can cause irreparable damage. This, however, is unlikely. Solid worktops start from approx £300 per linear metre. 

Ease of maintenance

They are pretty low maintenance in terms or cleaning, requiring no initial treatment; you just clean with a soft cloth and mild detergent.

The downsides?

Although it's hard to damage them, once damaged, they're not easy to repair.

Best kitchen worktops: Encore-solid-surface-mountain-haze

Encore in Mountain Haze, £652 for a full 4100x650x27 worktop from Solid Surface Kitchens

Stainless steel kitchen worktops

Stainless steel is the go-to worktop material in the commercial kitchen sector, and is perfect for industrial-style kitchens.

Pros:

  • Strong and durable
  • Naturally antibacterial
  • Easy to clean
  • Water proof
  • Heat and acid resistant
  • Very light

Cons:

  • Cold
  • Clinical
  • Difficult to integrate into large areas
Copper kitchen worktops

Copper worktops also work well as a kitchen worktop material as they are naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial. Bear in mind, however, that they can discolour and develop a patina. Although for some people this could create more of an appeal, it depends entirely on the look you are going for. 

Why a stainless steel worktop?

Stainless steel is becoming an increasingly popular kitchen worktop material with the rise of the industrial trend. You might think it's a bit much over every surface but why not use it to make a statement and take advantage of its benefits on a kitchen island or in a small workspace? Have a look at our gallery of inspiring industrial kitchens for ideas.

How good is it as a kitchen worktop? 

Stainless steel is super strong, waterproof, heat and acid resistant. It is prone to scratching, but we reckon this just adds to the worn in look, plus ageing won’t affect its anti-bacterial qualities. If you would prefer for the scratches not to be as obvious, go for a slightly matt finish. 

Ease of cleaning

It is very easy to keep clean with stainless-steel cleaner. And a great cleaning hack to get rid of inevitable fingerprints is to use a touch of baby oil to keep it looking at its shiny best. Get more tips on how to clean stainless steel in our guide.  

The downsides?

The scratches do show up, but if you can live with that as part of the look, you're home dry. 

Best kitchen worktops: Cavendish equipment domestic stainless steel worktops

Integrated stainless steel counter top, POA, Cavendish Equipment

Ceramic kitchen worktops

A great alternative to real marble, ceramic worktops with a marble-inspired finish make a luxurious addition to a kitchen and can be paired with any other material, from timber to metal.

Pros:

  • Highly durable and heat/moisture-resistant
  • Easy to maintain

Cons:

  • Prone to scratches
  • They can crack 

What's ceramic like as a kitchen worktop material?

Ceramic worktops are popular because they’re versatile and super hygienic. It's an extremely hard-wearing and durable surface which is resistant to water, mildew, mould and bacteria. Prices start from £350 per square metre. 

Ease of cleaning

Make sure you clean away any spills straight away to prevent staining. Use a damp cloth and warm water for cleaning and if needed, use a mild acidic detergent. Avoid anything that contains bleach. 

Best kitchen worktops: kitchen with ceramic marble effect worktop by crl stone

(Image: © CRL Stone)

Best kitchen worktop for DIY fitting

If you’re sufficiently handy and confident in your skills, you could fit a wood or laminate worktop yourself to save money. Stone, quartz and solid surfaces will require you to get someone in for a professional installation. Bear in mind that a stone like granite is heavy, so cabinets must offer sufficient support.

Ideal for revamping your kitchen yourself, the Skogså oak worktop from Ikea (below) can be cut to length and the edges covered with the strips included, so you can easily size it to fit. Its top layer of oak gives it interesting individual grain and colour variations. Particleboard beneath the timber makes the design less sensitive to kitchen humidity. It costs £200 for L246cm.

Best kitchen worktops: Skogsa oak kitchen worktop from Ikea

(Image: © Ikea)

Where to buy the best kitchen worktops

Specialist natural stone and composite worktops are usually included as part of a bespoke fitted kitchen and supplied by the cabinetmaker. However non-specialist laminates and some timber worktops can be bought in standard sizes or by the metre, then cut to size and fitted by a tradesperson or you, if you are fitting your own kitchen.

Maintaining and cleaning kitchen worktops

Kitchen worktops are big investments so, once installed, make sure you know how to care for them – the kitchen supplier will usually advise. For impenetrable man-made composites and laminates, soap and water or a mild detergent is all that’s required, but wooden worktops, which are easily damaged, will need oiling at least once a year. 

Follow our guide to cleaning and caring for your wooden worktops.

More kitchen design know how: