Kitchen Benchtops Design
A stainless steel countertop
Countertop (also counter top, counter, benchtop, (British English) worktop, or (Australian English) kitchen bench) usually refers to a horizontal worksurface in kitchens or other food preparation areas, bathrooms or lavatories, and workrooms in general. It is frequently installed upon and supported by cabinets. The surface is positioned at an ergonomic height for the user and the particular task for which it is designed. A countertop may be constructed of various materials with different attributes of functionality, durability, and aesthetics. The countertop may have built-in applicances, or accessory items relative to the intended application.
In Australian English, the term counter is generally reserved for a surface of this type that forms a boundary between a space for public use and a space for workers to carry out service tasks. In other contexts, the term bench or benchtop is used.
The common fitted Western-style kitchen, developed in the early 20th century, is typically an arrangement of assembled unit cabinetry covered with a more-or-less continuous countertop work surface. The "unfitted" kitchen design style exemplified by Johnny Grey may also include detached and/or varied countertop surfaces mounted on discrete base support structures. Primary considerations of material choice and conformation are durability, functionality, hygienics, appearance, and cost.
When installed in a kitchen on standard (U.S) wall-mounted base unit cabinets, countertops are typically about 25-26 inches (635–660 mm) from front to back and are designed with a slight overhang on the front (leading) edge. This allows for a convenient reach to objects at the back of the countertop while protecting the base cabinet faces. In the UK the standard width is 600mm (Approximately 24 inches). Finished heights from the floor will vary depending on usage but typically will be 35-36" (889–914 mm), with a material thickness depending on that chosen. They may include an integrated or applied backsplash (UK: upstand) to prevent spills and objects from falling behind the cabinets. Kitchen countertops may also be installed on freestanding islands, dining areas or bars, desk and table tops, and other specialized task areas; as before, they may incorporate cantilevers, freespans and overhangs depending on application. The horizontal surface and vertical edges of the countertop can be decorated in manners ranging from plain to very elaborate. They are often conformed to accommodate the installation of sinks, stoves (cookers), ranges, and cooktops, or other accessories such as dispensers, integrated drain boards, and cutting boards.
Countertops can be made from a wide range of materials and the cost of the completed countertop can vary widely depending on the material chosen. The durability and ease of use of the material often rises with the increasing cost of the material but some costly materials are neither particularly durable nor user-friendly. Some common countertop materials are as follows:
Natural stoneKitchen stone countertops, USA
Natural stone is one of the most commonly used materials in countertops. Natural stone or dimension stone slabs (e.g. granite) are shaped using cutting and finishing equipment in the shop of the fabricator. The edges are commonly put on by hand-held routers, grinders, or CNC equipment. If the stone has a highly variegated pattern, the stone may be laid out in final position in the shop for the customer's inspection, or the stone slabs may be selected by experienced inspectors. Emerging technology allows for virtual stone placement on a computer. Exact photographs can now be taken which allow for the integration of a dxf file to lay on top of an stone image. . Multiple slabs of material may be used in this layout process. Then the countertop assembly is installed on the job site by professionals. Commonly, initial countertop fabrication takes place at or near the quarry of origin, with blocks being sawn to thickness and then machined into standard widths (600mm and upwards), before being surface polished and edged. This method removes the need to ship waste material, and reduces the time needed to prepare client orders. This practice is called "cut to size" A wide range of details may be pre-machined by the fabricator, allowing for installation of different sinks and cooker designs. A common drawback to natural stone is the need for sealing to prevent harboring of bacteria and/or fluids that may cause staining. In recent years oleophobic impregnators have been introduced as an alternative to surface sealers. With the advent of impregnators the frequency of sealing has been cut down to once every five to ten years on most materials.