Help & advice

Pros and cons of different surface materials for the kitchen

Materials that require low energy to produce, or natural materials delivered without intensive mining, have the least impact on the planet. Look for certification and information on sourcing and manufacturing processes when you are making a decision.

Choosing the right surface materials for your kitchen is crucial for both aesthetic appeal and functionality. We've pulled together a summary of each of the popular kitchen surface materials you might consider using for worksurfaces, upstands, splashbacks or floor tiles, each with their own set of pros and cons!

Marble

A popular choice for kitchens, known for its luxurious unique appearance and durability. When considering Marble be mindful that it can be pricey, susceptible to scratching and will need periodic sealing.

Marble surface

Pros:

  • Unique aesthetic - each piece of marble is one-of-a-kind, contributing to a distinctive look
  • Heat resistance - makes for hard wearing worksurfaces not easily damaged by hot pans
  • Durability - with proper care, marble can withstand the test of time

Cons:

  • Water resistance - marble is prone to staining due to its porous nature, so proper sealing is essential
  • Cost - tends to be more expensive than other materials
  • Maintenance - requires diligent maintenance (regular gentle cleaning, re-sealing and professional polishing)
  • Installation - may be more difficult to install to make sure you have a visually appealing vein pattern

Quartz

A good alternative to marble with its aesthetic versatility and durability. Quartz can be costly compared to other alternatives, however it is cheaper than marble and its non-porous surface makes it low maintenance.

Quartz surface

Pros:

  • Water resistance - Quartz is highly resistant to stains and bacterial growth, thanks to its non-porous surface
  • Variety - available in a wide range of colours and patterns, providing versatile design options
  • Low maintenance - requires minimal upkeep, as it does not need to be sealed

Cons:

  • Heat resistance - Quartz can be less tolerant to high temperatures compared to other materials so wise to avoid putting hot pans down directly on it!
  • Cost - while more affordable than some natural stones, it is generally more expensive than wood or laminate surfaces

Natural Stone

Prized for its unique aesthetic, durability, and heat resistance. Natural stone does however present challenges such as regular sealing for water resistance, varying costs, and installation complexities.

Natural Stone tiles

Pros:

  • Unique aesthetic - each piece of natural stone is one-of-a-kind, contributing to a distinctive and natural look
  • Durability - depending on the type, natural stone can be highly durable; for example, granite or slate
  • Heat resistant - can resist high temperatures as it's a natural stone so less prone to damage from hot pans

Cons:

  • Water resistance - like marble, natural stone requires regular sealing to prevent stains
  • Cost - the price can vary significantly based on the type of stone
  • Installation - installing natural stone may require professional expertise to make sure that the underlying surface is appropriate, the correct adhesive is used, and specialised tools might be needed to cut and shape the stone

Porcelain

Praised for its inherent water resistance, versatile design options, and durability, porcelain is particularly hard so more difficult to cut during installation and unforgiving to any brittle items dropped on it.

Porcelain surface

Pros:

  • Water resistance - porcelain is inherently water-resistant, making it an ideal choice for kitchen floors or splash backs
  • Versatility - available in various colours, patterns, and finishes to suit different styles
  • Durability - porcelain tiles are made from highly refined clay that is fired at a very high temperature, making it very hard wearing and long lasting and particularly suitable for floors
  • Low maintenance- easy to clean and care for

Cons:

  • Durability (again) - while its hardness is an advantage, it can be less forgiving on dropped items. It also makes it more difficult to cut through than other materials

Terracotta

Admired for its warm tones, eco-friendly nature, and customisation potential, terracotta is porous so needs regular sealing and has a tendency to chip or crack easily.

Terracotta tile

Pros:

  • Warmth - terracotta adds warmth to the kitchen with its earthy tones
  • Eco-Friendly - made from natural clay, it is an environmentally friendly option
  • Versatility - can be customised with various shapes and sizes

Cons:

  • Water resistance - like other natural materials, terracotta is porous and needs regular sealing
  • Durability - can chip or crack more easily than some other materials

Ceramic

Standing out for its affordability, low maintenance, and design versatility, ceramic has durability concerns like with porcelain, being hard and less forgiving on dropped items.

Ceramic surface

Pros:

  • Affordability - ceramic is one of the most cost-effective tile options
  • Low maintenance - easy to clean and maintain
  • Versatile - available in various colours, patterns, and sizes

Cons:

  • Durability - like porcelain, ceramic can be hard and less forgiving on dropped items

Encaustic Cement tile

Encaustic cement tiles are handcrafted tiles made from a mixture of cement, sand, and pigments.

Encaustic Cement tile

Unlike ceramic tiles, where the pattern is on the surface, the design of encaustic cement tiles is created by pressing different coloured pigments into the body of the tile. This process results in a distinctive and visually appealing pattern that extends through the thickness of the tile.

Pros:

  • Handcrafted aesthetic - contributing to a unique, artisanal look
  • Durability - when properly sealed, these tiles are resistant to wear and can withstand heavy foot traffic
  • Environmentally friendly - made from natural materials
  • Comfort - stay cool underfoot

Cons:

  • Water resistance - porous, making them prone to staining. Proper sealing is essential to protect against moisture and spills. Sealing also requires maintenance over time
  • Installation - relatively heavy, which may necessitate additional structural considerations. Inexperienced installers may struggle to achieve a level surface and maintain pattern continuity. Due to their weight and the precision required for installation, encaustic cement tiles are not the most DIY-friendly option!
  • Cost - compared to some other flooring options, encaustic cement tiles may have a higher upfront cost. However, their longevity may offset this over time
  • Wear and tear - cement tiles may develop a ‘patina’ (change in colour / texture), which can either be appreciated for its character or considered a disadvantage

Zellige tile

Zellige tiles are a form of glazed ceramic or terracotta tile originating from the Moroccan tradition. They are handcrafted using a unique process that involves shaping, firing, and then glazing the tiles.

Zellige tile

The glazing process imparts a glossy and irregular finish. Zellige tiles are known for their vibrant colours, uneven surfaces, and the way they reflect light.

Pros:

  • Handcrafted aesthetic - offer a distinct look with their handcrafted, irregular shapes, and glossy finish that reflects light in a unique way
  • Comfort - stay cool underfoot

Cons:

  • Installation - variations in size, irregular shapes and thickness may pose challenges during installation so worth discussing ahead of time
  • Durability - surface can be relatively soft compared to some other ceramics, making them more susceptible to wear and chipping
  • Maintenance - may require regular sealing to protect the glaze, best to check!
  • Cost - higher price tag compared to more mass-produced ceramic tiles

Linoleum

Linoleum is a resilient flooring material made from natural components such as linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, and pigments.

Roll of Linoleum

Pros:

  • Water resistant - naturally resistant to water
  • Durable - resistant to scratches and dents
  • Eco-friendly - linoleum is made from natural materials, making it an environmentally friendly choice
  • Low maintenance - easy to clean and requires minimal maintenance
  • Comfortable - softer feel underfoot compared to some other hard flooring options

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to install
  • Can fade over time if exposed to sunlight

Cork

Cork flooring is crafted from the bark of cork oak trees. The bark is harvested without harming the tree, making cork an environmentally sustainable material.

Cork surface

Pros:

  • Water resistant - cork is naturally resistant to water to some extent
  • Comfortable - soft and warm underfoot
  • Eco-friendly - like linoleum, cork is considered an environmentally friendly option
  • Mould and mildew resistance - naturally resistant to mould and mildew
  • Sound absorption - cork has excellent sound-absorbing qualities

Cons:

  • Sealing required - cork needs to be properly sealed to prevent water damage
  • Not as durable - cork can be more susceptible to damage from heavy objects or sharp items
  • Design- design options somewhat limited compared to other materials

Bamboo

Bamboo flooring is made from the fast-growing bamboo plant, which is a renewable resource. Bamboo is harvested and processed into planks for flooring.

Bamboo flooring

Pros:

  • Sustainability - bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource, making it an eco-friendly choice
  • Water resistant - bamboo has natural water-resistant properties
  • Durability - durable and resistant to scratches and dents
  • Easy maintenance - easy to clean and maintain

Cons:

  • Sensitivity to humidity - bamboo can be sensitive to changes in humidity
  • Cost - high-quality bamboo flooring can be relatively expensive
  • Limited repair options - if damaged, bamboo can be challenging to repair compared to some other flooring options

You should also consider the weight of the material used. Stone, marble and porcelain tend to be particularly heavy, although this depends on the thickness chosen. You might need to check the structural integrity of the wall or floor to make sure it can handle the additional weight, and consider how the material will get into the kitchen – you might need an extra pair of hands!

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