Kitchen Worktops – Oak vs. Quartz
I actually think choosing the right worktop is one of the most difficult and tricky things to get right when designing a kitchen. Having done 4 kitchens in 5 years I thought that I would share some of my experiences – including the mistakes I have made along the way !
I think sometimes when you go into a kitchen shop and start designing a Kitchen its easy to get carried away by all the nice things that you see and get persuaded to buy everything from under one roof. It’s all looking lovely in the showroom -especially if you are ordering the exact kitchen shown in the showroom. That is not always the best thing to do – it can be cheaper to buy from a number of suppliers, so it is always worth shopping around.
In 2014 we had finished extending the house so it was time to order the kitchen. Our builders recommended Howdens, and we had a visit from their in house designer. She walked in with all her folders and files and brochures. We new what we wanted with regards to the kitchen layout so she just basically measured it all out and then we talked about cupboard styles, soft closing etc…. and then the worktops came up. To cut a very long story short we wanted solid oak worktops and she quoted for that. When the quote came back and the price included the worktop. We were happy with the price and the discount we were offered so we placed the order received for everything including the worktops.
So fast forward a few months and I happened to check the invoice for the kitchen and to my surprise we had paid over £1800 for the worktops! That was our mistake for not checking the line-by-line items and shopping around. Discounts are great but you generally don’t get a great deal on things like worktops as they buy them in from a third party in so don’t have as much flexibility to discount and the main kitchen cupboards and doors.
One thing about those worktops was that they were very good quality!
Moving on to project 3 in 2016 – this time we sourced our kitchen from Wren kitchens and I told them we would be supplying our own worktops! Even the design guy said quite right – you can get them a lot cheaper yourself! So off I went imagining every worktop you can buy in a sold oak is the same! Oh how wrong I was. Now I love online shopping and with the first kitchen invoice burnt into the back of my mind I had a quick Google and found oak worktops! I cant remember the website name but it must have been along the lines of cheap-nasty-looks-like-oak-worktops.com! Anyway I ordered the worktop I needed and it arrived, looked ok and was installed. I had never oiled oak before as the first kitchen fitter did it, but sadly our second kitchen fitter was a part time cowboy so left without doing it. Luckily I had a tin of the recommended oil (Top Oil) left over from the first kitchen so I set about oiling it….. again and again and again…… it was almost like the wood didn’t want to be oiled! It wouldn’t suck the stuff in! Well I soon worked out it just took ages to soak in. It then started to feel rough and I had to get the sand paper out! At this point I started to think perhaps this oak worktop was not the same as the first kitchen. I had bits sticking up on the top, shards sticking out at the side and then I noticed small chunks out of the island piece! So 3 hours later I had sanded, oiled and almost invented a new swear word. At his point I decided to research oak worktops and soon discovered it comes in different grades and it would seem I had bought the dog rough reject oak!
Fast forward to the day we move out of the house. I like to be the last in the house and say goodbye to all the rooms (come on we all do it) I was in the kitchen and just about to say goodbye to the bifold doors and I leant on the island and swept my hand along the worktop…….. and got the biggest splinter EVER stuck in my hand. I never want to see that worktop again.
Its 2017 and it’s the time again to decide on the work tops. In between I had done another renovation project but this was a rental so I went for a laminate white worktop ( project 2 I haven’t really ever covered but I will soon as renovating for the rental market is a very different beast)
Anyway I had decided I didn’t want all oak and as we had decided we didn’t want another white handless kitchen so I started to look for quartz and granite. I love marble so I knew that I wanted a white light worktop so got a couple of quotes, one was from the kitchen supplier. So the first quote came in at £7500!!!!!! Once I had picked myself off the floor I looked at the 2nd quote and that was £4000 . Briefly I decided that perhaps having these quartz worktops would be out of my price range. More online shopping I found a supplier on eBay selling worktops in the colour I wanted and the price was very low! So I bought 2 x 600 x 3000 worktops and waited from them to confirm delivery. Delivery day came and went so I chased and was given another delivery day. I was away on holiday getting texts from my kitchen fitter telling me the work tops had again not arrived! So I was sent an email with a 3rd delivery date and again they never turned up. So immediately I thought this must be a scam as they were so cheap! No need to panic as having bought via eBay and paying with paypal I was refunded in the full the cost of the worktops after the so called supplier said they were actually out of stock.
You would have thought after that I would have given up and with my kitchen fitter telling me the £4,000 quote was cheap I would have either bought them or just gone back to oak but I’m no quitter! I then found another quartz / granite supplier on eBay and emailed them to check they actually had stock. A very helpful mad said yes and gave a delivery day of 3 days later! I clicked buy and we all waited for my Carrara white quartz worktop to arrive.
Delivery was included in the price and my kitchen fitter was convinced again nothing would turn up.
So the day the Carrara quartz worktops were due to arrive I was a little bit nervous to say the least. The size of the worktops was 3000 x 700 x 30 so deeper than the normal 600m deep size but that worked for us as the AGA is deeper than standard units. Often, people will have the AGA sticking out, but we wanted to avoid that. Therefore the kitchen fitter just built the standard sized kitchen units out at bit so I have very deep work spaces! A fabulous feature.
A van arrived at 11am and 2 very strong looking men got out and said they had a worktop delivery! Low and behold my beautiful perfect quartz worktops had arrived and were exactly like the picture and exactly what I wanted! And the best bit was they cost me £700 for both. Think back to the £7000 quote I got! After the first failed attempt at buying the quartz I am so glad I bought from the safety or Ebay and paid with Paypal, as a buyer I was fully protected!
When I have a kitchen installed I have always have my own fitter so that has meant I have been able to source appliances and worktops myself so have been able to shop around and save money as many kitchen companies will not fit worktops , sinks and appliances unless you buy with them and for this you can pay a premium price. A skilled kitchen fitter will also be able to cut granite / quartz and have a diamond water cutter so before I new it the worktops were cut and fitted! This stuff is so tough I love the fact you can put hot pans straight out of the Aga straight on it and it doesn’t stain or mark.
I had decided to still have a bit of oak on our island as this would be a fab baking space so bought the original premium grade work top I had bought on project one! After my last fail I was not going to risk anything. So I bought the exact grade of worktop we had on project one and it’s been fab!
I have a small but perfectly formed laundry room and in both project one and three I used real oak and regretted it immediately. It really marks and my beloved husband left blue rings on the oak from the washing liquid bottle lid we used to use (before we switched to powder in a plastic bottle to save the planet!) Basically, it’s just not suitable. So I found some Oak looking laminate worktop and had that fitted so it doesn’t mark and it looks like its real oak. If find that much more practical for the laundry room space. And i added my super cute baby sink.
Care of Oak Worktops:
I have had loads of questions about the care of oak worktops. Really with the current work top and the first I have had no issues apart from I would not recommend having a sunk in sink as I did on project one as the edge of the oak went a bit slimy , I recommend a sink with a drainer.
To protect my oak I use Top Oil and the matt finish. Apply with a simple J cloth and rub into the wood. Leave for about an hour and repeat – in total I oiled it 3 times. Obviously avoid putting red hot pans direct to the wood as it can burn the top and if you do slop something on it just wipe it off quickly. Mine is still as good as the day it was installed 15 months ago. That’s definitely down to the grade of the oak.
As I have already said the cheap awful oak marked very easily and never seemed to take in the oil.
If you have oak worktops now and they are looking a bit tired I would recommend giving them a light sand and try applying the top oil , its amazing stuff. They say you should oil at least once a year to help protect the wood.
Of course, the beauty of oak is that if you do make a real mess like a big stain or a burn, you can always sand it right back to get rid of the stain.
Care of Quartz:
Well no care needed really as the stuff is as hard as nails! Mine is next to the hot Aga and so far it has not marked and is as the day it was fitted. It doesn’t stain apart from tea stains near the kettle and currently I use a bit of cif to clean it.
I hope that was of some help if you have been thinking of choosing oak or quartz worktops. I’m super pleased with my quartz and will be buying the same on the next project, the kitchen will be different but I’m sticking with this super strong quartz!