Vinyl laminate, when the conventional surface for postwar house kitchen countertops, still has a major market share due to affordable and maintenance-free options in loads of colors and patterns. Check out the fundamentals and unique considerations here to determine if a plastic laminate counter might be right for your kitchen.
The fundamentals: Vinyl laminate countertops include a wafer-thin finish adhered to a plywood or particleboard substrate. That thin finish is really a high heeled laminate (HPL); it is made of three layers of material bonded together by high heat and pressure: a clear melamine top for protection, a decorative layer and a backing made of phenolic resin-coated kraft paper. Well-known laminate producers include Formica, Wilsonart and Nevamar.
Costs: $8 to $20 per square foot, including installation.
Special concerns: Because laminates are so thin, border details need forethought to avoid that telltale brown line at the counter’s edge. Alternatives include:
Profiled advantage: Laminates have advanced to currently have beveled, ogee and bullnose edge profiles, which differ by producer. Edge ring: These thick and compact veneers are adhered to the cabinet edge and are made for abuse. Choose ABS plastic border bands over PVC whenever possible, as ABS is recyclable and chlorine free. Metal border: Go retro with this detail that harks back to the 1950s; a metal border is fastened into the edge of the counter top. Neatniks might think twice about this detail. Engineered plywood: As shown in this picture, some contemporary designs showcase the thin laminate veneer and then adhere it to top plywood, leaving the thin veneer border plus plies exposed.
Benefits:Low price and a plethora of options are the boon here. Laminates come in an astonishing variety of colors, patterns and finishes: from eggplant to amberwalnut to marble and high gloss to grained.
Disadvantages: Keep your cutting boards useful, as knives may wreak havoc on the melamine finish. And trivets should be used with hot pans, as the lamination is heat resistant to only 150 degrees.
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Care: As with most counters, stick with a moist cloth or sponge and mild detergent for routine cleaning. Bleach, as it may cause discoloration. Preventive care is a breeze, as the best coat of protection is irreversible and requires no sealing.
Sustainability: Vinyl laminate veneers receive a green thumbs-up for the modest amount of resources consumed during manufacturing (though they’re roughly a quarter petroleum-based resins). Manufacturers such as Formica and Wilsonart have boosted the sustainability of the products with the use of FSC-certified timber. And many producers could boast of GreenGuard certification, which indicates that their products bring about improved indoor air quality.
More: Compare countertop materials