Kitchen renovation: Should you use stone or laminate bench tops?

New black and white contemporary kitchen with subway tiles

Renovating the kitchen is one of the easiest ways to increase the value of your property – but it’s also one of the easiest rooms to over-spend on.

Deciding between different fixtures and fitting is where the costs can all add up. Case in point: bench tops. Do you opt for the quality and style of classic stone bench tops, or defer to their cheap and cheerful laminate counterparts?

Although stone bench tops are “the current trend to a large extent”, they’re not always the best choice for every home, says Jo Powell, property stylist with 3 Pea’s Property Styling in Victoria.

“It depends on the type, value and location of the property and size and cost of the bench tops,” she explains.

“As a general guide, stone bench tops would be the preference and the expectation of a purchaser in mid- to high-end homes. But laminate bench tops are perfectly acceptable and have great application in homes at the lower-end of the market and in investment properties.”

A benchmark for deciding between stone and laminate
Renovation expert Cherie Barber, founder of Renovating for Profit, agrees with Powell that you need to renovate according to your market.

In fact, she even suggests a benchmark property value to help guide your decision.

“For properties valued under $750,000, I suggest you go for laminate and for properties over $750,000, use real stone or other varieties,” Barber says.

“Laminate is a cheap and great alternative; there are some products that look like stone or Caesar stone, and you can pick up a slab of laminate for around $150 to $300.”

Real stone bench tops, on the other hand, can cost up to 20 times this price.

“The cheapest cost for stone is around $1,200 per 1.3m-3m slab and that’s just to buy the product – there are additional cutting costs on top. Real stones like granite can go for $3,000-$4,000 per slab,” Barber says.

“There are also ongoing costs for the maintenance of stone bench tops, as they all require sealing to stop grazing and leaching stains.”

The pros and cons of stone vs laminate bench tops
Laminate may not look as premium as stone, but it has many advantages, explains Nick Khachatryan, CEO of Realestate Exclusive.

“They’re completely stain resistant,” he says, before listing a number of pros and cons for each material:

Laminate countertops

Pros:
● Offer unlimited colour and pattern choice.
● Can mimic stone.
● Lasts 10-20 years with no maintenance. But only 20 years max.
● Can be used for backsplash, eliminating the need for tiles.

Cons:
● Are susceptible to burns/scorches.
● Are not scratch resistant.
● Surfaces can dull with cleaning.
● Are susceptible to water damage, which can ruin foundation materials if it gets into cracks and scratches.

Stone countertops
Pros:
● If maintained with sealing (every 2 years), last a lifetime.
● Are naturally stunning.
● Are highly resistant to scratching.

Cons:
● Offer unique patterning and colour to each slab.
● Although beautiful, are significantly more expensive.
● Can be stained, but sealant allows you time to wipe away before stains penetrate.
● Can crack if hit with heavy object.

Registered architect Fei Chau, associate at ClarkeHopkinsClarke adds: “Stone is always nice to have, but if you don’t have the budget, there are some great laminate bench top options. I would avoid the faux timber and stone pattern laminates and stick to the plain laminates. Explore the compact laminate ranges, which offer the pre-finished 10mm thickness; the end result can be quite a clean and modern look, with the right detailing.”

The information in this article is general information only and does not constitute financial or legal advice. This does not take into account your personal circumstances and accordingly you should seek independent financial and legal advice before taking any action, or refraining from taking any action in reliance on any information contained in this article.