Installing new worktops can completely transform the look of your kitchen, while working out far cheaper than a total refit.
Whereas laminate once reigned supreme in the average home, today there are many more materials within affordable range for the average household. Solid laminate, quartz, solid wood and even concrete are increasingly popular options – your choice depends on the tone you want to set for the room. A rustic oak or walnut finish will perfectly complement a cottagecore-inspired scheme, while concrete or metal will bring sleek glamour to an industrial-look kitchen.
Although they’re cheaper than a full kitchen renovation, worktops are still a significant investment, and so it’s worth careful consideration before you commit to a purchase that should last a decade or more. Read on for our tips on what to consider when shopping for new worktops.
And for a brand new look on a budget, check out our guide to vinyl wrapping a worktop!
How to choose the right worktop for you
Know what you want from your worktop
This may seem obvious, but the more time you spend in the planning stage, the better the result is likely to be and the less likely you are to find yourself wondering if you made the right choice six months down the line.
Work out what you need from your worktops, considering what tasks you regularly carry out in the kitchen and where. If you’re a keen cook or just need to feed a busy family, check out hard-wearing, stain-resistant materials like Worktop Express’s solid surface range.
Think about things like join types to connect your chosen pieces, including straight, diagonal and curved. You don’t just have to stick to rectangular designs – add rounded table units to create new dining spaces or a breakfast bar.
Consider what kind of finish you want on your worktop edges, too – square, rounded, bevelled PP effect, aluminium?
There are a number of online design and planning tools to help you plan your worktop style and layout. For instance, Worktop Express offers a bespoke cutting service so worktops arrive ready for hassle-free installation.
Or, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, just use paper and pencil to sketch out various options and ideas. Many manufacturers or builders will happily work with you from your own drawings.
Spend time in showrooms and looking at magazines and websites to get ideas. Build a picture of your ideal kitchen so that you know what you are ultimately looking for – visualiser tools are a great help if you’re not a visual thinker!
Take time choosing exactly the surface you want. Think about laminate versus solid surfaces and read up about the differences if you are not sure. Browse styles and colours, make shortlists, order lots of samples – they are often free and nothing beats actually being able to feel and touch the material you will be living with. Avoid overtly trendy or outrageous colours or styles – think about how you will feel living with that lime green fluorescent worktop in two years time when brights are out of fashion.
Price versus quality
At the bottom end of the market you can buy ‘lengths’, which can then be cut on-site and fitted by your builder or kitchen fitter. Think about pre-cut tap holes, draining grooves, bespoke and made-to-fit units versus flat lengths. Ask lots of questions from your supplier – pre-cut pieces and pre-prepared joins make it much easier to install your new worktop, whether you’d like to install it yourself, or ask your builder to do it for you.
Get accurate cost estimates
Make sure you have included everything you will need and that you have a cost estimate in writing. You’d be amazed at how many people end up accepting a verbal cost estimate that then escalates ever upwards as the project develops. Plan carefully, make sure you have thought of everything and get a written cost estimate. Don’t forget to include VAT where relevant – otherwise that can add a nasty surprise at the end of the day.
Consider the fitting
Will you be fitting yourself or using a builder or kitchen fitter? The most important tip we can give you here is to be honest about your capabilities and decide accordingly. Even if you’re a dab hand at everyday DIY, this is a job you’ll want to get just right – a sloppy finish will take the shine off even the finest material.
Check the manufacturer’s guarantees
Make sure you are clear about guarantees in case of problems later. Many quality companies will offer guarantees that span several years but other cheaper ‘bought by length’ worktops may only be guaranteed for a year – if at all.
Nailed your kitchen surfaces? Check out our guide to how to choose the right bathroom worktop for your home.