The Three Best Materials For Your Kitchen | Blog Post #20
What are the best materials for kitchen interiors? Today’s post looks at the top three materials for protecting and beautifying your kitchen.
While all materials have their individual pros and cons, every homeowner has a different set of needs that some materials may meet better than others. The three most common materials with the best overall performance are vinyl, granite, and metallic epoxy.
But just how do we define the often subjective concept of the best? In the context of the kitchen, we have a few specific criteria – hygiene, kitchen-specific damage, and general durability.
Hygiene – Anyone who has done frying of any sort can attest to the amount of oil that floats and splatters everywhere. Even with a kitchen hood, every surface in the vicinity is inevitably coated in a layer of grease. The grease goes on to trap dust and other random debris, resulting in gross kitchen grime. Hygiene is simply a combination of how much grime a material traps, and how easy it is to clean.
Kitchen-specific Damage – While the kitchen does not receive as much traffic as a living room, it is exposed to more potential damage. This includes dropping heavy cooking ware or sharp objects, chemical exposure to reagents used in cooking, and sudden exposure to high temperatures.
General Durability – This last category is a catch-all for other aspects of material durability, such as changes in strength or appearance over time.
Vinyl does great in this section. Its completely porous surface does not trap grime and organic debris – like decaying plant or animal matter – while its relatively high chemical resistance permits cleaning with most common household cleaning agents. Great for floors, countertops, and dining surfaces.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag here. While vinyl’s rubbery nature easily handles physical impact, this same property makes it very vulnerable to damage from sharp or abrasive objects. Between kitchen knives, rough mortars and pestles, and assorted cutlery, your vinyl tiles are going to get rather scuffed and scratched.
Vinyl is also not the most thermally-resistant material – hot pans will absolutely warp and melt your vinyl tiles, ruining your countertop and pan bottom. The silver lining here is vinyl can be replaced at little cost – you’re still going to need a new pan though. Furthermore, vinyl’s chemical resistance means it’s not bothered by kitchen ‘chemicals’ like highly acidic lemon juice or hot tomato soup.
Overall, great for dining surfaces and floors, terrible near cooking surfaces.
Vinyl doesn’t age well – it stiffens and warps when exposed to heat and sunlight over a few years. This results in warped and cracked tiles. Vinyl is also notorious for being stained by natural rubber products such as non-slip surfaces and some kitchen tools. While vinyl can be easily replaced, discarded vinyl tiles cannot be recycled and often end up in landfills or incinerated – a big concern for the environmentally conscious.
Useful short-term, but consider other options if you’re environmentally conscious and prefer long-term solutions.
Granite is a classic material with high physical durability. Each set of tiles has a naturally unique pattern that gives the material great character and aesthetic appeal.
Natural granite fares rather poorly in this section. It is an extremely porous material that traps grime and harbours bacteria, while being difficult to clean. Exposure to any non-pH-neutral household cleanser will permanently discolour the stone. Furthermore, unless you pony up an exorbitant sum for a continuous slab of granite, you will require grout to fill the gaps between your granite tiles. Grout is a porous cement paste that traps dirt and is tough to clean because it is a recessed surface.
Overall, a pain to keep clean unless you coat your granite surfaces with a sealant, which demands regular maintenance every few years.
Granite is lacking in this area as well. While it is among the harder and tougher stones, granite still chips and cracks when subjected to impact from heavy or sharp objects. Worse still, it is difficult to patch granite back to its original look, especially if the crack is deep. It can also be permanently stained by acidic liquids like hot tomato soup or dark liquids like wine and sauces.
On the surface, granite has great thermal-resistance. It’s a stone with an extremely high melting point. However, it is vulnerable to thermal shock – when suddenly exposed to high temperatures, air inside the porous stone rapidly expands, applying pressure and cracking the stone.
Here, granite is passable, but an informed homeowner must be prepared for a mottled patchwork of repairs over the years. Alright for countertops, floors, and dining surfaces, but use a coaster.
Granite gradually changes colour as it ages, but some owners view it as a plus. In the same way that wine gets better with age, granite is deemed to gain character as its grains darken. Provided you maintain your granite without fail, it can last a long while.
This synthetic material is remarkably competitive in all its properties except one – thermal resistance. Let’s see how it fares in the kitchen.
Three words: poreless, seamless, and chemical-resistant. This unhole-y trinity makes metallic epoxy a housewife’s dream – it doesn’t trap any grime or dirt and can be cleaned with any common household cleaning agent. Furthermore, its high resistance to physical damage permits vigorous scrubbing on the regular, letting you keep your kitchen as clean as you’d like.
Perfect for floors, countertops, and dining surfaces.
Metallic epoxy does better than vinyl in this section. While both enjoy a similar level of impact resistance, metallic epoxy is harder and more scratch-resistant. Its high chemical resistance protects it against all kinds of spills – lemon juice, wine, boiling soup.
But yes, this wonder material does have a catch. It’s not burn-proof. While it’s perfectly safe near cooking surfaces – it is thermally stable up to a whopping 200°C – you should avoid placing hot pans directly onto the material. Hot pans can reach temperatures in excess of 500°C, which few surfaces can tolerate. So unless you plan on getting an industrial steel countertop, we recommend heat-resistant cork pads for when you need to rest hot cookware.
Great for floors, countertops, and dining surfaces – just use a cork pad.
The polyurethane coating on indoor metallic epoxy is usually a water-based one instead of an industrial oil-based coating. Water-based coatings give off far less volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause breathing and skin issues. This far safer option comes at a trade-off – over the span of years, the coating will see a degree of yellowing due to exposure to sunlight. However, its physical utility is still fully retained.
Slight discolouration over time, but fully functional.
Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner
Metallic epoxy is unsurprisingly the overall winner. While vinyl shares a large portion of its strengths, vinyl is ultimately much less sustainable in the long run. Meanwhile, granite is largely chosen for its aesthetics, since there are other comparable materials with greater practicality. Metallic epoxy can achieve a similar level of aesthetic freedom thanks to its unique design process. To find out more, head over to our blog post on how metallic epoxy is installed.