Bench Top and Door Choices

We know there's a lot of choice when it comes to bench tops and doors. That's why customers can find it quite confusing.

What we will do here is cover the range of materials available and try to demystify the choice by talking about the advantages, disadvantages and relative pricing of each product. While we intend to be unbiased we must acknowledge that everyone may not agree with our assessment.

When advising you on bench top and door options we need to start with a discussion about your lifestyle and likely budget.

A family with active young children has very different needs in terms of durability than a couple whose grown up children have left home. A young couple starting out in their first home are likely to have a lower budget to work with than someone building or renovating a high end property.

One of the questions we will ask you is whether you are likely to be selling your home in the short to medium term. Intending buyers have definite expectations about what materials a kitchen should be constructed from depending on the value of the house they are purchasing. A rule of thumb is that once a property is selling for more than $800,000 buyers are likely to expect that a stone top of some type is included.

Once the price exceeds $950,000 the cabinet doors would usually be upgraded to acrylic, lacquer or a wrapped vinyl finish.

The most cost effective combination of materials is melamine cabinets and a laminate bench top. Most customers choosing to upgrade from this combination tend to spend additional money on upgrading to a stone bench top.

While it might seem unusual, cabinet door finishes tend to become less durable as you spend more. In contrast bench tops tend to become more durable as you spend more moving up from laminate to stone.

Bench Top Comparisons

MaterialAdvantagesDisadvantages
High Pressure Laminate

Formica, Wilsonart, Laminex, Duropal
The most cost effective product.
Huge Colour selection (over 300).
Bench top arrives with kitchen cabinets so no delay in installation.
More prone to heat and impact damage compared to other products.
Can be perceived as a cheap alternative in more expensive homes.
Stainless SteelReasonably priced if used in straight runs.
Available in a range of different finishes.
Very impact and heat resistant.
Can become an expensive alternative if site joins (welds) are required.
Brushed and polished stainless are reflective and show scratches.
There is a time delay between cabinet and bench installation.
Natural GraniteSome colours are very competitively priced.
A good colour selection.
Good heat and impact resistance.
Some colours are expensive.
Light colours can show stains if not regularly resealed.
Some people find surface too hard to work on.
There is a time delay between cabinet and bench installation.
Engineered Stone

Caesarstone, Silestone, Smart Stone
Depending on thickness price can almost compete with laminate.
A good colour selection.
Reasonable heat and impact resistance.
Gives a contemporary look.
Thick tops can be relatively expensive.
Less heat and impact resistance than granite and stainless.
Dark colours can look flat when compared with granite.
There is a time delay between cabinet and bench installation.
Acrylic

Corian, Hi-Macs, Infinity
Similar in price to granite and engineered stone.
Has no visible joins so long bench tops are possible.
A good colour selection.
Can be repaired and repolished.
Scratches easier than stone and concrete bench tops.
There is a time delay between cabinet and bench installation.
ConcreteSimilar in price to higher priced stone.
Good heat and impact resistance.
Can be coloured to suit.
Gives a contemporary industrial look.
Can be expensive compared to granite.
Can stain if not resealed on a regular basis.
Can develop small cracks that are cosmetic rather than structural.
There is a time delay between cabinet and bench installation.
TimberGives a warm natural look.
Can be used as a highlight when mixed with other bench top materials.
Expensive compared to most other alternatives.
Timber surface bruises easier than most other products.

Concrete bench tops

Tops are typically manufactured in a factory and delivered to site ready to install.


Patinaform Concrete bench tops

Patinaform Concrete bench tops


The product is obviously strong and can give a contemporary, industrial look to your kitchen. However, while they are very strong, concrete tops do need resealing with wax on a regular basis. They are prone to superficial cracks that do not affect the strength of the top.

Timber bench tops

Timber tops are typically laminated out of strips of solid timber before being finished with either oil or a two pot polyurethane product.


Woodsmiths Jarrah Timber bench top

Woodsmiths Jarrah Timber bench top


There are a wide variety of timbers available ranging from New Zealand natives to Australian and other more exotic overseas varieties. Some softer timbers such as Rimu can be prone to bruising while hardwoods can be extremely impact resistant.

If you use an oil finished product, a regular application of oil is required, but the advantage is any scratches or chips can easily be disguised. Some of the two pot finishes are extremely tough as you would have evidenced in their use in commercial bar and restaurant applications.

A good quality timber top tends to be at the top end of bench top pricing.

Acrylic bench tops

Acrylic bench tops are another option available. There are a number of brands available with Corian, Hi-Macs and Infinity being the best known.


Acrylic bench top

Acrylic bench top


Acrylic tops come in a good range of colours and have the advantage that joins are not visible. This enables you to have a seamless top whether going around a corner or wanting a particularly long bench top that would require a butt join in other products.

The product is moderately heat resistant and has the advantage that it can be repaired in the event of impact damage. It tends to be less abrasion resistant than other products but any scratches can be buffed out.

Acrylic bench tops are a similar price to engineered stone.

Read more about some of the popular brands of acrylic bench tops - Hi-Macs NZ, Corian

Engineered Stone tops

Engineered Stone tops are the most popular choice for customers upgrading from high pressure laminate.


Stoneology bench top

Engineered Stone bench top


Engineered Stone, also referred to as Composite Stone, is a product that has been gaining in popularity over the last ten years. The product is a man made mixture of chipped up quartz stone and granite mixed with resins to bind the stone together and seal it off.

The finished product comes in sheet form and varies in thickness from approximately 7mm to 30mm. The thinner products are typically built up with a timber base to a finished thickness of 40mm to 60mm and sometimes even thicker. The 30mm thick products are often used as a solid top with no extra build-up.

There are a number of different brands of engineered stone available with Caesarstone and Silestone being the better known. There is a good range of colours spread between the different brands.

The product is abrasion proof, stain resistant but not as heatproof as natural granite. It is important that any composite stone you purchase has a stone content of at least 90% as more than 10% resin makes for a bench top that is too soft and prone to scratching.

Granite is often used in more classic looking kitchens, while engineered stone is used in more contemporary designs.

Read more about some of the popular brands of engineered stone bench tops - Silestone, Caesarstone

Granite bench tops

Graniteis a popular choice for customers upgrading from high pressure laminate.


Absolute Black Granite bench top

Absolute Black Granite bench top


Granite is a natural stone product that is sourced from many different countries. It is a very strong product that stands up well to heat and abrasion.

Prices vary depending on the country of origin with the more expensive granites coming from countries like Norway that have high mining and processing costs. Scarcity of a particular stone and the difficulty of quarrying are also reflected in the price. Cheaper granites come from lower cost economies such as India or Africa. It is often assumed that the price of granite is an indication of the quality. This is not necessarily true as there is some stunning looking, first grade granites available at very affordable prices.

Granite at 30mm thick tends to be more heatproof than engineered or composite stone products. Light coloured granites can be more susceptible to staining if not resealed on a regular basis so it may more be sensible to opt for an engineered stone if you are unlikely to carry out regular maintenance.

Being a natural product there is variation in the colour between shipments of granite so we typically arrange a visit to our granite supplier so you can choose your own piece of stone. Each piece of stone has its own character and it’s a great feeling to pick your own piece of stone that has been millions of years in the making.

Stainless Steel bench tops

Stainless Steel tops are obviously very heat resistant and could be described as almost bullet proof. They can be very stylish as well as practical if the right profile and finish is chosen.


Linen Coil Stainless Steel bench top

Linen Coil Stainless Steel bench top


Stainless is sometimes eliminated as a bench top choice because it is reflective and tends to show scratches. With a brushed stainless top you do tend to be conscious of initial scratches but it tends not to be an issue after a year or so. Like a new car “the first scratch is the worst scratch.” After a year or so a stainless top will be covered by a myriad of tiny scratches and take on its own patina. Stainless tops also come in a variety of patterned surfaces and these do not show scratches or reflect light to the same extent as brushed or polished stainless.

Stainless tops are more expensive than high pressure laminate but can still be cost effective.

Read more on stainless steel benchtops here - RH King & Sons

High Pressure Laminate (Formica)

High Pressure Laminates such as Formica are still the number one choice for bench tops in New Zealand.


Laminex Laminate benchtops

Laminex Laminate benchtop


The product is very cost effective, comes in a huge range of colours and is very durable providing it is treated with respect. Laminates have been around for over fifty years and it is not unusual for us to replace a twenty year old kitchen with a top still looking in reasonable condition. The secret of looking after laminates is not to place hot pots directly onto the surface and not to cut without a chopping board.

It is possible to design a great looking, cost effective kitchen while still using a laminate bench top. Once you move to a more expensive stone or stainless steel bench top you can expect more heat and impact resistance.

Read more about some of the popular brands of laminate bench tops - Wilsonart, Formica

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