Worktops are probably the hardest-working element of your kitchen, subjected to a daily onslaught of knocks, spills, hot pans, sharp knives and the occasional human being (for who hasn't clambered on to a worktop to change a light bulb or reach the back of cupboards?). Strength and resilience are the greatest priority, but worktops must also be hygienic and easy to wipe clean. The best ones also resist the abrasive effects of scouring and will not absorb the stains from food, vinegar and oil, If possible use one length of worktop, keeping joins and seams to a minimum. This way there will be less of an opportunity for bacteria and dirt to build up in crevices. For similar reasons, sinks should be either flush-fitted or under mounted into the worktop. Select the thickest worktop you can afford. The most common thicknesses are 30mm and 40mm, but a 40mm worktop tends to have greater resistance to heat and damage and is less prone to cracking or warping.
The material you choose will mainly depend on personal preference, style of kitchen and budget, but keen cooks may wish to use more than one worktop material in the same kitchen, specific to an intended activity. For example, an area of smooth, cold marble is ideal for rolling pastry, end-grain maple makes the perfect chopping board while a section of stainless steel around the cooking area will double as a sleek pan rest. Don't over complicate the room with too many materials, especially in a small kitchen; alternatively use loose cutting boards, which can be moved from area to area and washed easily. The splashback is the wall area between the base units and the upper cupboards, and as its name suggests is subject to a daily onslaught of water, grease, steam, liquids and other rogue cooking ingredients. As such, it must be water-resistant and easy to clean. Use a heat-resistant surface such as stainless steel, tile or stone around the cooker or hob and don't overlook the seam between the worktop and the splashback, which is a potential dirt trap and breeding ground. Fill with a special rubber sealant or if you opt for wood, invest in a matching up stand which is fixed between the back edge of the worktop and the wall. Even better use a continuous sheet of material to create a one-piece, seam-free worktop and splashback. If you abide by these principles you should be able to make an informed choice that will match your needs