Laminate or Real Wood Worksurfaces
Laminate worktops are available in a selection of different styles, ranging from realistic imitations of the look of real wood surfaces and natural stones to glamorous high-gloss glitter finishes. The replications offered often provide the look of a different worktop type at a much lower cost, whilst the more unrealistic designs ensure that everyrequirement is catered to.
Wooden worktops are usually made using a series of staves, which are bonded together under high pressure. Each stave is made entirely of solid wood and displays the attractive natural features of the timber. The wood matures over time, becoming more characterful and richer in colour.
Typically, laminate worktops comprise several layers. Inside, a wooden particle board core forms the main bulk of the product. A decorative wrap-around layer is then used to create an external surface, and a moisture-and-heat-resistant coating is added on top. The core and coating are joined using an adhesive seal, and the back of the worktop is sealed to protect the particle board inside.
Solid wood are solid wood throughout. Freshly cut edges should be coated with protective oil, which preserves the timber and defends it against changes in the moisture and heat levels in its environment.
Laminate worktops are simple to fit. They must be cut to the correct size prior to installation and will usually be supplied with matching adhesive strips to cover the raw edges. Pilot holes will need to be made in cabinets, and then the laminate worktop can be installed easily with a drill and screws (please note that these guidelines are not specific, and you should always refer to the installation instructions provided if planning to install a laminate top).
As a natural product, wooden worktops expand and contract slightly with changes in their environment. For this reason, they should be installed using slotted brackets, which secure them to cabinetry but prevent them from splitting as they expand. Similarly, we recommend that two wood worktops are joined using a butt joint rather than a mitre joint, which would put unnecessary pressure on the wood.
Thanks to their water-resistant coating, laminate work surfaces are extremely low maintenance, making them a popular choice for busy households. Unless specifically described as being entirely heat-proof, we do not recommend leaving hot pans on laminate worktops. Water left on the work surface will not cause damage, however, making them a choice that is highly practical and easy-to-clean. Read our ‘Cleaning Laminate Worktops’ guide for more thorough instructions.
A little extra effort is required to maintain the attractive appearance of wooden worktops, although it is certainly worth it. Wood tops should be regularly oiled in the first six weeks after installation (and every 3-6 months thereafter) to ensure that the timber is in the best possible condition. Wooden worktops are simple to clean, requiring only a small amount of warm soapy water, and should be dried thoroughly afterwards. Please see our ‘How to Maintain your Solid Wood Worktops’ information guide for further details.
Due to their chipboard interior and plastic coatings, laminate work surfaces can be trickier to repair than wood. Certain companies provide specialist services to make repairs to the decorative coating, should it be chipped or accidentally melted. Kits are also available for popular colours, which can efficiently disguise – if not totally repair – the damage. Our guide to ‘Repairing Laminate Kitchen Worktops’ has more information on what generally can or cannot be done with various types of damage.
If your solid timber worktops are in need of repair, most kinds of damage can be tackled by simply sanding back the surface and re-oiling. If the damage is minor, a few additional coats of oil will be required so that it will match the rest of the worktop. If there is damage across much of the surface it is best to sand the entire worktop back to ensure a consistent finish. Small chips can also be repaired easily with a wax wood filler kit. Read our ‘Repairing Minor Kitchen Worktop Damage’ guide to find out more.
Made predominantly from plastic and wooden particle board, laminate worktops are typically cheaper than wooden worktops.
Wooden worktops can cost a little more than laminate alternatives, though – if correctly maintained – can last a lot longer and remain looking beautiful. Worktop Express provide wooden worktops directly to customers, cutting out the high street ‘middleman’, helping to keep prices at an absolute minimum.