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Useful Comparisons

17 March, 2015  

We know how difficult it can be to choose between the various materials for your cabinetry and, similarly, when considering what to use for your bench-tops. So we have put together a couple of tables which provide basic information and comparative data to help you make an informed choice. Needless to say we suggest you also discuss this with your cabinetmaker before making your final choice.

Material Comparison

Product Characteristics Advantages Disadvantages
Low Pressure Laminate
  • LPL is a sheet of melamine resin saturated decorative paper (approx 0.7mm thick) pressed onto both sides of a substrate (often MDF)
  • It is commonly called Melamine or Melteca
  • There are 3 main manufacturers: Prime, Bestwood and Laminex
  • Each company has a large range of colours/patterns/wood-grains and textures
  • Available thicknesses range from 9mm – 30mm and sheet sizes from 2440mm x 1220mm to 3600mm x 1800mm (for some items)
  • Most cost effective solution
  • Hard-wearing, durable surface – easy clean
  • Improved gluing technology, more stylish patterns and a range of textures now mean that LPL can be a more visually attractive option than it was
  • Can be perceived as a ‘cheap’ option
  • Distinct taped edge is seen as a negative – visually, risk of peeling-off and dirt accumulation
Timber veneer
  • A thin layer of timber (approx 1.0mm) is peeled off the log and applied to a substrate (often MDF but can be plywood)
  • Wide range of timber species available – each with its own characteristics – most popular is American White Oak
  • Many veneers are available in a Crown Cut (grain has whorls / swirls in it) or Quarter Cut (more straight grain) appearance
  • Usually the veneer will have a solid timber clashing (edge) of varying thickness
  • Available in thicknesses from 6mm to 31mm with sheet sizes of 2440mm x 1220mm or 2750mm x 1220mm
  • Requires finishing (done by the cabinet maker) – 2 pot polyurethane lacquer with/without stain
  • Visually striking and creates strong aesthetic appeal
  • Perceived as natural, quality material
  • Durable (but can be damaged by sharp object)
  • Versatile can be used in a wide range of kitchen styles from contemporary to traditional
  • Will fade/discolour with exposure to UV light
  • More expensive option than LPL or Lacquer (satin finish) or Thermo-form (satin finish)
Lacquer
  • Applied to a substrate – typically MDF
  • Only acceptable lacquer system is a 2 component (aka 2 pot) system that is cured by the use of a hardner prior to application – polyurethane is widely regarded as the best 2 pot system
  • Almost any colour is available – all standard ranges (Dulux, Resene etc) can be matched
  • Finishes include – gloss, satin and matt
  • Perceived as a high quality finish for cabinetry
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable (but can be damaged by sharp object)
  • Versatile – can be used in a wide range of kitchen styles from contemporary to traditional
  • No distinct edge – seamless appearance
  • Will fade with exposure to UV light
  • Gloss finish (particularly dark colours) will show finger marks
  • More expensive than LPL (similar to Thermo-wrap)
Thermo-wrap
  • Available as pre-formed panels (doors, drawer fronts etc) which are made using a thin vinyl laminate which is bonded to a white melamine backed substrate using heat and pressure
  • Approx 40+ colours and wood-grains available – satin or gloss finish
  • Wide variety of styles available – both contemporary and classic
  • Available in thickness 18mm, 25mm, and 30mm – maximum panel size 2400mm x 1200mm
  • No distinct edge – the vinyl is vacuum formed over the face and edges of the panel creating a seamless appearance
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable (but can be damaged by sharp object)
  • More expensive than LPL (similar to Lacquer)
  • Some limitations in terms of max panel size and inability to make some requirements (e.g. open shelves – because the wrap cannot be on 4 faces)
  • Gloss finishes will show finger marks
Acrylic
  • A high-gloss acrylic sheet that is pressed onto both sides of an MDF substrate
  • Available in 18mm and 24mm thickness with sheet size of 2800mm x 1200mm
  • Cheaper than gloss lacquer
  • Excellent scratch resistance
  • Easy clean plus a special coating can be applied which reduces finger marking significantly
  • Has a high quality edge that makes it barely ‘readable’
  • Very limited colour range (white black and a few others)
  • Only available as a flat panel – not available in rebated panel or T&G styles

Bench-top Comparison

Product Characteristics Advantages Disadvantages
Granite
  • Natural stone
  • Generally 30mm thick – slab lengths range from 2600mm – 3100mm
  • Appearance not uniform (not just from sample to slab but from slab to slab)
  • Each piece has own movement, colour/pattern and depth
  • Can have natural fissures and cracks (these are decorative not structural)
  • Usually ‘Polished’ but can be ‘Honed’ to give a satin or matt finish (this is significantly more expensive)
  • Range of edge profiles available – Oggi, pencil arris, bull-nose etc
  • Stunning visual appeal
  • Very good impact resistance (6.0 on Mohs hardness scale)
  • Bacteria resistant when sealed
  • High scratch and stain resistance
  • Easy clean
  • Must be sealed (and resealed every few years)
  • Joins are visible (joins are required if bench-top dimensions are greater than slab size or when there is more than one direction)
  • Cannot be installed at same time as cabinetry as the bench needs to be templated after cabinetry install (typically 2 weeks from template to install)
  • Can be expensive – depending on specific colour chosen, will be anything from a similar cost to 2-3 times more than engineered stone
Engineered stone
  • Man- made stone comprising crushed quartz (typically 85-90%) and resin compounds
  • Generally 20mm or 30mm thick – can have mitred edge to create thickness up to 100-150mm
  • Historically a uniform appearance (either solid colour or ‘speckled’ appearance – imparted by granite particulates)
  • Recently Caesar stone have introduced a range which mimics natural stone in terms of a more natural appearance (movement and depth)
  • A number of reputable brands – Caesarstone, Primestone, Silestone, Quantum Quartz etc
  • Edge profile is typically pencil arris
  • Very good impact resistance (up to 7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale)
  • No sealing/ re-sealing required
  • Easy clean
  • High scratch and stain resistance
  • Non-porous – mould and mildew resistant
  • Joins, if required, are visible
  • Cannot be installed at same time as the cabinetry
Marble
  • Natural stone
  • Available in 20mm or 30mm thickness
  • Available with Polished or Honed finish
  • Range of edge profiles available – Oggi, pencil arris, bull-nose etc
  • Aesthetically pleasing – well recognized appearance – synonymous with elegance and luxury
  • Very smooth and cool to touch – good for bread-making etc
  • Relatively soft (susceptible to scratching)
  • Even polished surface is vulnerable to household acids (vinegar etc) due to relatively high porosity
  • Lacks durability of Granite or engineered stone
  • Relatively expensive
  • Cannot be installed at the same time as cabinetry
Stainless steel
  • Edge thickness can be fabricated as anything from 10mm to 150mm+
  • Range of finishes available – classic (polished), No4 (satin/brushed) plus textures (Linen, checker etc)
  • Non-porous surface so highly resistant to bacteria/mould (widely used in the food industry because it is so hygienic)
  • Will not chip, crack or fade – highly durable
  • Easy clean
  • Prone to scratching which is easily visible (can be disguised to some extent by using textured surface)
  • When used in straight runs is comparable cost to engineered stone – but if used requiring welds ,can be expensive
  • Highly reflective surface (for
  • Cannot be installed at same time as cabinetry
Solid surface
  • Made using acrylic resins
  • Number of reputable brands – Corian (Dupont), Hi-Macs (LG) and Infinity (Hafele)
  • Thickness typically – 12mm, 24mm, 37mm, 50mm or greater
  • No visible joins even on long runs or waterfall ends
  • Non-porous – resistant to stains, mould and bacteria
  • Scratches can be buffed out
  • Easy clean
  • Historically expensive compared to other bench-top materials. Recently competitiveness has improved
Timber
  • Wide variety of timber species available – each with its own appearance (colour and grain)
  • Can be any thickness from 20mm up – typically 30mm, 40mm or 50mm
  • Made by laminating (gluing) strips of timber together
  • Finished with Oils or 2 pot polyurethane lacquer (clear) or
  • Aesthetically pleasing – imparts a warmth and natural element to the kitchen – often used as a feature element rather than for the full kitchen
  • Scratches and marks are not perceived as a negative – rather seen as part and parcel of a natural, ‘living’ material
  • Relatively expensive compared to engineered stone
  • Softer than stone and stainless steel surfaces – easier to dent
High Pressure Laminate (aka Formica)
  • Typically 0.8-0.9mm laminate sheet pressed onto MDF substrate
  • 4 major brands available – Formica, Laminex, Prime and Wilsonart
  • Standard thickness 30mm or 37mm but can be thicker if required
  • Recent introduction of a range of finishes that mimic natural stone (Formica 180Fx)
  • Lowest cost option
  • Huge range of colours / patterns / textures
  • Can be installed at same time as cabinetry
  • Perceived as a budget/cheap option
  • More susceptible to heat and impact damage than other bench-top materials
Concrete
  • High density and strength is achieved through careful mixing / curing
  • Variety of appearance can be achieved by using different sized aggregate and colour
  • Provides a specific aesthetic – ‘Industrial’
  • Requires sealing (and regular resealing)
  • Even with penetrating and topical sealers, there are question-marks regarding long-term durability
  • Relatively expensive compared to engineered stone
  • Cannot be installed with cabinetry