What is a Composite Worktop? (explanation, styles, and costs)

Beautiful white composite quartz kitchen worktop in calacatta gold quartz

Composite kitchen worktops consist of different types of minerals, polymer resin, bonding agents and colour pigments, to create highly durable worktops that are scratch resistant, 100% hygienic and heat resistant. The main types of composite worktops are quartz and ceramic.

Why should you choose a composite worktop?

Composite worktops are one of the most popular and on-trend options for kitchens due to their incredible versatility, longevity and appearance. What they offer includes:

  • Scratch and impact resistance
  • Fade resistance
  • Heat resistance
  • Precise fabrication with seamless joints and uninterrupted lines
  • Non-porous surface and 100% hygienic
  • Designed to stand the test of time
  • Perfect for modern and traditional kitchens
  • Available in a wide range of shades and finishes

Composite worktops come with warranties of up to 25 years, as long as they are fitted by approved experts such as County Stone.

Which Kitchen Styles Do Composite Worktops Suit?

Carrara Light Classic Quartz kitchen worktop

Composite worktops come in an exciting and extensive range of colours, patterns and finishes. Because of the way they are manufactured, ceramic and sintered stone countertops can be coloured by a full range of pigments and bonding materials, and can feature regular and irregular swirls, veins and designs. Finishes can be ultra-smooth or textured for many effects including leather and dimpled. 

As a result, composite worktops can complement a massive range of kitchen styles, from the contemporary and architectural to more traditional looks and anything in between. Composite worktops can even work with a kitchen in wood and natural colours if you choose a complementary tone and a textured finish to soften the look.     

Are composite worktops expensive?

How much are composite worktops? You can usually expect a lower price for a composite worktop than for natural stones. While natural stones such as granite and quartzite have to be quarried, cut, transported and finished, composites are produced in efficiency-driven manufacturing plants. The economies of production result in generally lower prices. 

Composite worktops are more expensive than laminates and wood, but in terms of performance and appearance are in a completely different league. Given that a composite worktop will stay undamaged and lustrous with minimal maintenance for a generation, they represent genuinely good value for money.

What Are Composite Countertops Made From?

Calacatta Quartz Kitchen Worktop with seamless fitted sink and gold taps

Composite worktops are made from fragments of stone and minerals bonded together with resin and coloured by pigments. The process involves grinding the main components and superheating them under extreme pressure with resins and pigments added for binding and colour. The result is an exceptionally hard-wearing material which is shaped into the appropriate thicknesses and lengths for use as countertops, wall cladding and floors for both interior and exterior surfaces.

Types of Composite Kitchen Worktops

Classic White Quartz worktop in Calacatta Grigio

The main types of composite worktop are quartz and ceramic. Quartz is made from fragments of quartz which give a reflective sparkle to the finished stone, and which are remarkably hard. Quartz worktops will usually consist of 80% to 90% quartz particles.

Ceramic worktops are manufactured from a base of naturally occurring ceramic materials, ground under monumental pressure at incredibly high temperatures. The process is also known as sintering, and results in the most hard wearing of all stone worktops.   

Pros and Cons of Composite Worktops

The great advantages of composite worktops come from the performance and visual characteristics which result from the manufacturing process. 

Composite countertops are non-porous 

The combination of extreme heat and pressure results in a virtually non-porous surface which can’t be penetrated or stained by liquids or oils, not even deeply coloured wine, cooking splashes or spice powders. The fact that they are non-porous also makes them very hygienic since there’s nowhere to harbour germs and bacteria.

The easiest worktops to maintain

Composite worktops simply need to be wiped down with warm water to remove any loose crumbs or recent spills, and follow up with a standard antibacterial cleaner. Any stubborn, dried-in marks will just need a bit more of an energetic scrub.

Composites are customisable 

The manufacturing process involves the formation of slabs in shapes and thicknesses determined by production requirements. There is a large amount of production flexibility, although the equipment is generally set to produce significant runs of products in general demand. However, all composite stones can be cut, shaped and finished by skilled craftsmen such as stone cutting team for any bespoke installation.  

No other worktops are as hard-wearing

The way that composite worktops are produced means that they are exceptionally tough and hard-wearing. They are unlikely to scratch, they are exceptionally resistant to heat and staining. What’s more, they won’t fade in strong sunlight or over many, many years. 

The cons of composite worktops

The only issue with quartz and ceramic worktops is that they need to be prepared and fitted by experts. Specialist cutting and finishing equipment is essential, and as is precise measurement to ensure that they can be properly installed. They need careful handling too to avoid any risk of cracking during transport and fitting. Supplying and installing composite worktops is certainly not work for general builders or as a DIY project – experience and expertise really do count.

Composite Worktop FAQs

By any measure, composite countertops are a great choice for any kitchen. They are more durable and easy to maintain than any other type of worktop, and they are more hygienic. They are also available in a huge range of colours and finishes, and come in pure colours as well any number of patterns.

To clean a composite worktop, a simple regime is all you need. Wipe down with warm water to remove any loose crumbs or recent spills, and follow up with a standard antibacterial cleaner. Wipe off with water, pat dry, and your ceramic surface is hygienic, ready for food prep and for any other use you make of it. It’s best to wipe away spills sooner rather than later. Any stubborn, dried-in marks will just need a bit more of an energetic scrub.

Quartz worktops, like ceramics, are composite worktops. The term simply means that the worktops are formed by particles of stone (quartz or ceramic) super-heated under pressure and bonded (or composited, or combined) with resin.

Composite worktops are the most stain resistant stone countertops you can buy. Quartz won’t stain easily, and ceramics (or sintered stone) are even more resistant to any spills of any kind. Staining is mainly about porosity, and since composite stones are manufactured under such extreme temperatures and pressure, all elements are formed into a near absolute solid without anywhere to harbour staining materials.

Composite worktops fall into two categories – quartz and ceramic. The differences are in the base stone which accounts for over 80% of the material used – either quartz chips or ceramic fragments – which are pounded and them bound together to form the finished stone. Ceramic worktops are also known as sintered worktops.

Composite ceramic worktops in most cases come in at lower prices than quartz, although for both types prices vary according to rarity. For example, expect a top end ceramic in an unusual colour or pattern from top producers like Lapitec, Neolith or Dekton to be more expensive than popular quartz alternatives from Silestone, Arenastone or Samsung Radianz.

Laminate worktops are made by creating a main structure usually from fibrous material such as  wood or kraft paper, and covering it in a plastic-based finishing layer. While the top layer can superficially look like almost anything (including natural or manufactured stone), it won’t perform in the same way or feel anything like the real thing. They’ll scratch and stain easily, especially around joins. Essentially, laminates are a cheap worktop option and won’t stand the test of time. 

Composites, by contrast, consist of stone particles bonded together to form incredibly durable and lustrous worktops. They are hugely stain and scratch resistant, and, with a regular clean, will look as good in decades to come as they do on day one.

Part of the performance characteristics of composite worktops is that they are highly heat resistant, more so than any other type of worktop including granite, quartzite and laminates. Even so, we recommend that you don’t put pans directly from the hob or oven onto the surface itself, but use a trivet or protective cloth to ensure that absolutely no marking occurs.