Laminate Kitchen Countertops
Laminate kitchen countertops have come a long way from the white with black speckled
tops that were so popular in the 1960's and 1970's.
Lamination has improved, making your tops more durable than ever. The
color selections have grown to include granites, marbles, woods, metals, not to
mention the wide array of speckles and patterns in several appealing colors and
QUALITIES OF LAMINATE KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS:
- They are made of a plastic coated synthetic that is 1/16"
thick, usually adhered to 3/4" particle board.
- They are durable and can last and be in good repair for
- Are very easy to keep clean.
- Come in a wide array of colors, styles, and
- Inexpensive. They will be the least
expensive of all the countertop materials, yet they hold up well.
COMPANIES THAT MANUFACTURE LAMINATE FOR COUNTERTOPS
There are several companies that actually manufacture the laminate that is
used to build laminate kitchen countertops. They only
make the laminate, they do not actually manufacture the countertop form.
As far as quality, they all seem to be equal, although they will disagree
with each other about that!! Quality
really comes into play regarding the individual companies that actually build
the countertop shapes and form the countertops (called post-formed) using the laminates (see below - Countertop
WHAT'S UP WITH FORMICA?
Formica was the first company to manufacture laminate for countertops, so
laminate is often confusingly called "formica". Formica is a brand name,
however, and is not laminate itself.
Their are four main companies (brand names) that manufacture
laminate sheets used in the manufacture of laminate kitchen counterops:
COUNTERTOP MANUFACTURING COMPANIES - SOME PRACTICAL
(Don't Believe the Myth that a Custom
Cabinet Shop or In-House Manufactured Countertop is better and more economical
than the really good laminate kitchen countertops the larger manufacturing companies
Here is where it get's a bit tricky, and quality counts.
There are several countertop manufacturing companies. They all purchase
their laminate from one of the above companies (Wilsonart, Pionite, Formica,
or Nevamar). They then mould and shape that laminate onto particle
board forms, gluing the laminate to the particle board to manufacture
If you go to a large building center, such as UBC (United Building Center),
Lowe's, or Home Depot, they will usually use a manufacturer like this to obtain
their countertops. That is good for you, the consumer. You want your
laminate countertops to be built by someone that specializes in laminate
For example, if you are in western Wisconsin, and go to UBC and order a
countertop, UBC will take all your information and measurements, and actually
order the countertop from one of these manufacturing companies in Marshfield,
Wisconsin called Counter-Form.
Counter-Form will build your countertop to order, not UBC. They will
cut it, size it, create the mitered corners (or spline-miters as the case may
be), radius ends, etc.
You, as a consumer, usually cannot buy directly from these
types of manufacturers, but please use building centers that do. Ask
your building center where they get their countertops (hopefully they don't manufacture them
in-house, if they do, think about going somewhere else).
In our custom cabinet shop, we tried to use nothing but countertops that
Counter-Form built. They were always accurate, built excellent corners
(miters) that were easy to put together, and if they made an error, they
corrected it immediately. The only problem we had was that customer's did not always
understand that Counter-Form made the best countertops in our area, and didn't
sell to small shops, only big building centers. We purchased our
countertops from UBC, and rarely had any problems.
Custom cabinet shops can purchase flat sheets of laminate and make their own
countertops, and that is what our customer's expected us to do. If we
would have, being a small shop, they would have received an inferior product.
It's okay for a custom cabinet shop to build a
laminated desk top or something similar, but if you're talking laminated kitchen
countertops that are formed (rounded, have back-splashes, etc., they can't build
as good a top as the large companies, and can't come anywhere near the price).
The reason is that companies like Counter Form have multi-million dollar
machines, and an expertise that no custom cabinet shop can match. Even
large companies that try to be countertop manufacturer's fall short.
We tried to purchase
countertops, from one large building center that built their countertops
in-house, for our cabinet shop. Every time we did, we had
problems. Things weren't ordered correctly, took a long time to arrive,
and when they did arrive, had errors.
Be wary of ordering countertops from companies that manufacture countertops
in-house. The quality and accuracy is usually not as good, and when you
are installing laminate kitchen countertops, it better be right or you are going to have
BEWARE OF THE SMALL COMPANIES THAT ORDER FROM THE
LARGER LAMINATE KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS MANUFACTURING COMPANIES, AND TRY TO PASS THEMSELVES
OFF BEING AS GOOD.
There are several small companies that will purchase lengths of countertop
from the larger, more well known, companies. These small companies will,
after ordering lengths from the larger companies, cut your corners themselves,
add their own radius's, etc., and pass them off as their own.
They try to sell to small custom cabinet shops and consumers alike.
The quality of these small countertop companies is also inferior. They
will pose as companies that make their own tops, but in reality, they only cut
them to the size you need, and add finished end-caps. Why bother? If
you have problems, it will take twice as long to get the problem fixed because
you are, in reality, going through two manufacturer's.
LAMINATE KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS: DO'S &
If you've gotten a good quality laminate countertop, it will last for years,
even decades. It depends on how well you treat it:
- Don't cut anything
on laminate kitchen countertops (use a bread board).
- Don't set anything hot
on laminate kitchen countertops. It can burn and melt the laminate. If you
have a candle on the countertop, don't let it burn unattended, and make sure
it is on a glass dish, etc., away from the cabinets (you could burn your
cabinet finish as well if it's too close).
- You can use finger nail polish remover, denatured
alcohol, or lacquer thinner to remove the glue spots (red marks) left on
laminate kitchen countertops after their manufacture. Don't overdue.
- Some chemicals (unless you've ordered a special
chemical resistant laminate countertop) may hurt your countertop. It's
possible certain hairsprays, perfumes, or extremely harsh cleaners could
actually hurt the color of your laminate. Wipe down your countertop
(especially in bathrooms) if you think you may be hurting it. Special
ordering chemical resistant countertops is not necessary, however, for the
most homeowners. The up-charge for such countertops is usually high, and
in reality, only those places where chemical resistance is absolutely
essential order them (such as hospitals or school science rooms).
- If you have allergies,
there are specially manufactured laminate kitchen countertops that will encase the particle
board (which is made from formaldehyde, etc.) so you won't have health
problems. These, of course cost more, but if you have health concerns
it will be worth it. You could also consider using other kitchen
countertops that don't use particle board, like solid granite, some solid
surface countertops, or quartz.
- Order a countertop color that is light, or has a
pattern to it (even a slight pattern). All
laminate countertops scratch, and all of them scratch equally, however, if you
have a lighter countertop, or if you are going with a dark color that has a
slight pattern, you won't notice the scratches as much. When laminate is
scratched, it is white underneath. By getting a light or patterned top,
the scratches aren't quite as noticeable.
- Be sure to radius any exposed corners. You
don't want your three year old (or you) to bump into a sharp corner at the end
of the cabinets or island.
- If your kitchen has a 90 degree corner (or
anywhere there is a seam), you will have a miter that you can see. There
is no way around it. Be sure to order a
spline miter, not just a miter. A spline
miter has a groove in the particle board that holds a thin piece of laminate.
This thin piece acts as a transition that helps steady and bring together your countertop
corner pieces as they are being bolted together. In our custom cabinet
shop, we found spline miters make a much better corner seam than a miter
Return to our Compare Kitchen Countertops page from this
Laminate Kitchen Countertops page.
OTHER RELATED SITES:
Kitchen Laminate Countertop - Styles and Options
Laminate Countertop Undermount Sink -
Yes, you can have one, and they are really nice!!