Cost Comparison

Using an average worktops cost on 2 x 4m worktops I have made this rough guide to what you can expect to pay for a “U” shape kitchen with two worktops and the required sundries not including fitting.

  Laminate £300.00
  Solid Oak £560.00
  Acrylic £950.00
  Granite £2,200.00

Laminate worktops need a competent fitter with the normal tools for worktops such as a jig for joints and some glue and colourfill with routers, power saw, clamps and benches and he will already have these.  You may also need sink clips, sealants and heat paper but the fitter will let you have his shopping list of sundries – make sure the laminate worktops come with end strip or add this to the order when you buy.  Most competent “DIY’ers” can have a go at the mitre joint if they hire, buy or borrow a jig and have a few practices 1st but it’s fiddly and it will take time.  Reading how to do a mitre joint on the net is possible but being shown is far easier and looks neater then a metal jointing strip.  The mitre joint jig has pegs and holes and has to be flipped over and such so it can be confusing but with practice you can do this yourself (unlike Acrylic).  Laminate worktops do not come with the ends done and finished so you will have to cover the ends with end strip or glue on the end strip from the supplier.  The Formica end strip provided will be the same colour and pattern and some suppliers include this – others you have to order separately.  This is not “iron on” and needs to be glued with contact adhesive and trimmed with an electric Nibbler or metal file – without the kids running around sitting at t stool at the end of the worktop with plenty of time to slowly whittle away and get it right!  You may be fortunate and have a “galley” shaped kitchen without the need to joint and only put an end on one end yourself.  Laminate worktops are made from a Formica Sheet (.7mm thick) bonded onto a chipboard core at high temperature in factories all over the UK and the world.  Some are slightly inferior but most are sufficient for purpose and paying a good price should see you right.  The big let down is delivery – Fork trucks move these and they get hit, trucks deliver and they get knocked so make sure you inspect the delivery on arrival and get them a few weeks early.  With any worktop try and lay flat, in an area without risk of then being knocked in the garage by the kids getting the bikes out!  A few tips are – cut the sink in place as it may snap with the thin front and back rail lifting it in place and cut laminate worktops face down unless you have a reverse blade never going from the back to the front profile as the “breakout” will blister the front profile.  Laminate worktops only work with sit on/inset sinks – you cant have under mount or butler sinks as they moisture will blow the end strip where it constantly gets wet.  You must also avoid soaking the mitre joint and wipe any moisture of immediately for the same reason.  Laminate worktops will scratch and colourfill is not a quick fix – once scratched with the drunken husband making a sandwich after the pub with a steak knife – its scratched and come colours cover this better than others.  Normal worktops (standard) are 600mm front to back with just the front edge profiled for setting against a wall and breakfast bars for peninsula’s coming out at 90 degrees form the worktops are around 650mm-670mm and then 900 deep with two profiled edges.  This means the long edges are BOTH profiled and you can use these with one of the edges cut down to make say 620mm deep standard worktops if you have Ikea Kitchen units, deeper units or free standing appliances that need the fronts that stick out covered for better visual effect.  You can also buy upstands as a kind of skirting for the back of the worktop against the wall (not available in all colours of worktops with most manufacturers as well as panels for gluing on the wall typically 3000mx600 and 1200mmx1500mm at around 8mm thick instead of tiling.

Why not have a natural material and embrace the older well tested methods and use solid wood made of staves of wood glued together and make for the rustic look and feel and this is a well balanced way of ensuring a consistent worktop once fitted? You can and should as solid wood is great apart from a but messy to fit and oil.    Some people do want a worktop 4m long and 900 wide in “one piece” of wood but this would be a very big tree, hence another reason for smaller staves of wood glued together.  With the staved wood construction the best pieces of wood can be selected and the knotty bits discarded for other purposes.  A competent fitter or better still a joiner can fit these for about the same labour charge as laminate worktops but may need routers for forming the front profile (you can choose the shape this way).  These solid wood worktops normally have very square cut edges so you can choose the profile, sand or router a shape or leave it square.  Part of the fun and involvement is that you can oil this yourself in preparation for the installation, saving some fitting costs and having them ready for the day the fitter comes to fit them (and save money).  You need at least three coats of oil rubbed in with a lint free cloth and buying latex gloves are a good idea too as the oil will stain your hands. You will need to buy bolts for joints, sand paper and budget for the initial oiling and then sanding and oiling each year thereafter as they need re-oiling each year.  The oil is absorbed in to the wood itself protecting it so more than three coats will ensure a better seal against stains and moisture. The fitter will have to re-oil any open ends he cuts as well as around the sink as well as protective paper over appliances that have worktops over them for heat and moisture reasons.  Solid wood worktops have “life” and a natural property that man made countertops don’t have – If you scratch, dent, burn or stain simply sand it out and the material has a history and story to it just like the butchers block in the butchers shop with years of shaping and sanding.  Look into what wood you want as Beech is softer, Oak is hard and Iroko is amazingly tough.  Do be careful of samples and showrooms colours as light and the oil after time will make it look different to the day you fitted it.  Iroko looks red on the sample, but ends up almost black after a few years in service.  Do realise that if you are fitting yourself a lot of solid wood comes deeper than the 600mm laminate depths so a lot of people need to run a block off the back of say 30mm-40mm so make sure you have a the ability to do this – the off cut does make a nice back block “Upstand” for the back sometimes too!   Not many suppliers make upstands for the back of the worktop and it may be worth buying bigger and making yourself out of off-cuts maybe?  With solid wood (as long as you oil it) you can have under mount and butler style sinks as well as sit on options unlike the laminates that may fail as the laminate lifts with too much constant moisture.  Joints may need silicone but doesn’t need colourfill and requires a very good fit to avoid the ingress of moisture.

The very tough, durable and renewable  acrylic solid surface worktops needs a solid surface fitter who may charge a little more than the standard fitter as he would have done a days training at one of the manufacturers or distributors but it has some big plus points.  He would also have to invest in expensive sanders with integrated dust extractors and profile shapers, clamps and other tools to fit acrylic worktops.  With the worktops being more expensive in the 1st place he has the risk of having to pay for the replacement as the fitter if he does make a mistake so his risks are higher.  You also have the added expense of Installation kit with disks and fluids and acrylic ends for exposed worktops.  He may have the gun to decant the adhesive for the joints, if he doesn’t have the gun one will be needed if your doing jointing.  Specific adhesive to suit the gun is needed along with the bolts, an after care kit and some sundries and you can check this with the supplier before hand.  Acrylic is great and on the up in 2010 by 40% as it’s repairable and renewable unlike other materials that once damaged may need replacing.  The real sexy bit about solid surface acrylic worktops are the inconspicuous joints (we used to say invisible but not allowed many more (probably taken to court by an American or something)).  Acrylic worktops are Acrylic poured sheets, cured and bonded on to a very dense chipboard base for the smoothest finish, cold to the touch and as hygienic as it could be.  This means that we can make the material that joins (the sealant) the same material so it’s a perfect match for the base material.  If you manage to scratch the surface (and its hard to do) you can simply sand out the affected area and polish to bring it back to normal in the same way you could a wooden worktop.  If you want to get it to a high gloss finish the fitter can buff this up for you when he has installed – and they you can keep buffing it up yourself for years to come.  This is great for when you want to sell the house as you can simply renew the look by buffing them up before you show the house!  Solid Acrylic worktops are very heavy and you need to make sure they are stored for 24 hours in the same room or humidity and temperature as the kitchen they are being installed in.  If you have 2 or more worktops you need to check they are exactly the same colour before you fit as you can very rarely find a slight deviation from batches due to the way they are mixed/made.  Some come with one or both ends already finished, and breakfast bars may well have ends with square or radius ends but you can buy the material in strips to glue on and trim with the tools mentioned (that’s equipment not a slur on the fitter).  Acrylic worktops mostly come 650mm front to back with breakfast bars at 900mm but you can make any depth you want under 900 as you cut and re-edge with end strip and make good.  You can even make a 1200mm deep breakfast bar worktop – or bigger by jointing together due to the fact you wont see the joint!

Granite or stone is cut from a rock face and imported in wooden crates then sold to stonemasons and suppliers to be worked in to beautiful smooth countertops for large and small kitchens to add to the weight and value of any kitchen installation.  It’s polished and worked to form a durable and rugged option for the hardest wearing surfaces and does command respect from visitors coming to ogle your new kitchen installation.  You have the delivery issue to pay for as specific vans are needed and access labour force to carry them in along with only few specialist fitting companies in each town but most towns are serviced by more than one company.  Fitting is truly bespoke but prices have come down a lot in the last decade.  Templating is required and it can be a little messy and this is no way a DIY project,  Special cutting and polishing tools are needed and experienced staff on a good wage does mean a premium for the granite but a great investment.  You will see the joints and many people are surprised to learn that you can stain granite.  Some customers also damage crockery as they smash against the surface after moving over to granite from laminate or wood and you will have to watch this.  You will never wear them out and colours are limited as it’s a natural product but its consistent, well balanced and a great investment for any kitchen.  Just try and have the kitchen planned with big patio doors and don’t but the back fence up if you have access to the rear of the house until they have carried them in!

Do you have any opinion, alternative greener or better options? Please add your comment below or click a page on the right as this is for the benefit of all.  My personal advice and direction may not be what you may feel is right or agree with and I am more than willing to amend to make better if you and me to amend or you wish to add to?

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