Laminate Countertop Review
Laminate countertops are most notably recognized as Formica although Wilsonart and Pionite both manufacture the material. New brands are the Formica FX180 and Wilsonart HD. It is one of the most commonly used materials in both residential and commercial design. Made with several layers of paper, a color sheet, and topped off with a clear melamine overlay, laminate is held together with phenolic resin, compressed under great pressure. This plastic sheet is then glued over a substrate, most often particleboard.
As one of the least expensive surfacing materials, laminate is also available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, many that imitate natural stone, wood, metal, etc. There is a variety of textures from glossy, smooth finishes to textured or even honed finishes. Generally, smoother, or more polished finishes will show more wear faster than matte or textured finishes.
Laminate is very stain and impact resistant material. Good for use on horizontal, or vertical surfaces, laminates can be bent – or postformed – into softer fronts, rounded walls, and rolled coves for a very reasonable cost.
Edge choice is important. A “Self Edge” is a separate strip applied directly to the front of the substrate. An “Applied Edge” is a piece of wood, solid surface or pre-fabricated strip of beveled laminate applied. A “Postform” (bent) edge means the laminate is continuously wrapped from the deck down the thickness of the front, possibly around the bottom of the front creating a softer look. Although applied edges are better looking, they can actually lessen the lifespan of the top so choose your edge carefully.
Drawbacks of the laminate countertops are that they are considered low end. The numbers of edge detail options are limited and generally sinks cannot be undermounted (talk with your fabricator about various options). It is sensitive to heat and surface scratches. If water should penetrate the particle board surface underneath, it will likely cause swelling and/or delamination. It can also have visible seams on the decks and edges of the countertops. Water infiltration accounts for a very high percentage of countertop failure.
Laminate countertops are a good choice for both residential and commercial applications because it offers such a wide range of colors/ patterns and it is extremely economical. If properly cared for, laminate tops can have a very long life.
Laminate countertops are very difficult to repair, if at all. Scratches may be buffed a bit, but not much. The melamine can also wear off with heavy surface use. Burns, chips and cracks more often stay and become part of the lifeline of the countertop. It is essential to seal sinks well, or the substrate can be exposed to water damage.
LAMINATE COUNTERTOP MANUFACTURERS:
PROS – Inexpensive, limitless color and pattern selection , easy to maintain.
CONS – Most edges and seams are visible. Can scratch and chip. Not easily repaired. Water can damage the substrate.
CARE & CLEANING – Do not use abrasive cleaners. A thin, clear, protective layer can be damaged with the use of abrasive cleaners. Use an all-purpose cleaner. Be sure to wipe with dry cloth to remove any residue.
WARRANTY – One year warranty
COST – The cost for a laminate countertop can range from $8 – $35 / square foot depending on the color and style.