Your kitchen needs to be built to stand the test of time for minimal effort. This means choosing materials which require little effort to clean and specifying those that are easy to repair. You should also avoid details that are more likely to attract dirt and dust.
Some maintenance is inevitable — but composites and some stones are best
The counter needs to withstand heat, moisture, food stains, scratches and dents, so there are a few materials that you should take care with.
Timber worktops look beautiful, but involve maintenance. They need oiling at least every three months to remain waterproof. Any scratches and burns should be sanded away.
Some stones do not deal so well with the inevitabilities of kitchen life. Marble is prone to staining from acidic foods and liquids, and will scratch easily.
You can use a high-maintenance material just in certain, low-traffic areas of the kitchen, such as breakfast bars. Combine them with tougher materials in areas which see more use.
Quartz in particular is incredibly durable, non-porous, and heat- and stain-resistant. Granite shares many of these qualities. Both can scratch, but they can also be easily repaired.
Composite solid surfaces, made up of a mix of resins and stone (the best known being Corian), are also very low maintenance. Despite this, they can still be scratched so use chopping boards and trivets.
This Second Nature design features an oak worktop with hardwearing marbled almond quartz
An unfussy design is key, regardless of the material choice
Kitchen units come in a range of materials and designs, each with their own requirements.
Solid wood is perfect for farmhouse and contemporary kitchens. However, wood veneer units are easier to maintain, being more stable in their construction. They are less likely to warp, split and twist due to moisture and changes in temperature.
Remember too that if you choose a painted wood, the paint finish is not going to last forever. At some point it will need repainting. It is worth noting, however, that painted timber units are easy to repair, unlike some of the synthetic materials.
Be aware of cheap solid wood kitchens. Some of these will not have metal drawer runners and the doors are often designed to close into the carcass frame, as opposed to sitting in front of it. So, any warping in the material can lead to doors and drawers that stick.
Synthetic materials include plastic laminates and melamine-faced chipboard (MFC). Plastic laminates are the cheapest option, but both are durable and easy to keep clean.
Stainless steel is also becoming increasingly popular. Easy to clean and maintain (hence its use in industrial kitchens), it is also durable. However, it will show up fingerprints and greasy marks, so consider opting for a brushed finish.
The design will also have an effect on how easy it is to look after your cabinets.
Choose flat-fronted doors with little to no grooves for dirt and grime to become lodged. Choose handles that make it easy to open doors and drawers with one or two fingers. Cabinets with matt finishes will show fewer marks than those with gloss finishes.
The Lila kitchen from Magnet has flat-fronted, matt finish units which are easy to clean
Steel is the easiest to maintain, and modern cleaners can restore its sheen
You can plonk pretty much anything in Stainless steel without the fear of damage. It can scratch and lose its sheen over time, but it will not burn, chip or stain and can also be a cost-effective option.
Ceramic sinks look great, but can chip and, if not repaired, can stain over time. Plus, they are very unforgiving, meaning that if you drop a glass in them, the glass will be no more.
Composite sinks are moulded in one piece together with the worktop. They are really durable, but can scratch and stain, just like the worktops made from the same material.
This stainless steel sink is practical and works well with the black granite worktop from Stone Age
The floor will see a lot of action — choose carefully
The kitchen floor should be waterproof, resistant to stains and damage, and easy to clean.
Stone flooring is popular in kitchens, but choose your stone wisely and seal it properly. Softer, more porous stones such as limestone, will require more care and attention when it comes to laying and sealing. Slate is much easier to look after, although it will scratch.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are easy to keep clean and simple to lay. They cost a lot less than natural stone and require no sealing. However, they can crack and are slippery when wet.
Any type of tile will need grouting and grout can become stained and cracked over time. The natural pits in the stone can also let dirt in and a good steam clean can be the only way to dislodge it.
Vinyl and lino are great options. Both have recently come on in leaps and bounds in terms of their design and resistance to staining and heat. They are easy to clean and cost-effective, too.
If you are partial to industrial chic, polished concrete flooring is a brilliant choice and is available in lots of colours. It can be more expensive though.
Finally, don’t discount laminate. Forget the cheap, bendy wood-effect designs and take a look at those from Pergo. They come in a huge range of designs and patterns and will stand up to scratches and moisture well.
Timber is an option, but it must be properly treated. Engineered boards are a better option as their composition makes them less prone to warping.
LavaStone from the Victoria Luxury Flooring Signature range is a luxury vinyl tile
Easy Kitchen Top Tips
- Avoid crevices and joints — they are dirt magnets
- Choose materials that are resistant to heat, stains, water and scratches
- Avoid using appliances such as toasters and coffee makers directly under wall units, as heat and water vapour will cause damage over time
- Prepare and treat natural materials thoroughly to avoid having to repair and clean them more often than is necessary
- Matt finishes are less likely to show marks than high-gloss surfaces
- A monoform glass, stainless steel or acrylic splashback is easier to clean than tiles