Laminate Countertops

Laminate Countertops

If budget is a top concern, then a laminate countertop may be the best choice for your kitchen surface.

This affordable surface comes in textures that mimic marble, granite and other pricier materials.

Like all of the days you spent playing dress up as a kid, the laminate kitchen countertop is a master at imitating its more expensive friends, such as granite and marble.

Laminate countertops are made from layers of plastic that are bonded to particleboard or kraft paper to create a solid countertop surface. These countertops are available in a wide variety of colors, textures and patterns, ranging from options that look like marble to ones that mirror the appearance of stainless steel. The end result is a clean and finished surface that won’t put a huge strain on your budget.

Because of its lightweight nature –– as opposed to heavy stone countertops –– laminate can easily be installed without professional help. This, of course, adds to its cost-efficient nature. Laminate will have to be replaced more frequently than more durable surfaces, like marble or Corian, but with the right care it can last for many years.

Laminate counters can scratch easily, so don’t use them as cutting boards. Also, avoid placing hot items directly onto the countertop to prevent damage. Clean the surface with a mild soap.

This countertop chameleon looks like more expensive materials, from elegant marble to rich granite, at a great value. The practical surface is impervious to water and stands up to stains and scratches. It also comes in a wide range of colors, patterns and textures. Laminate is heat sensitive and requires a trivet beneath cookware and candles. The low price tag makes it ideal for homeowners seeking a new look or prepping a house to sell.

What Is It? Laminate is composed of a melamine plastic surface atop layers of paper and plastic resins.

Considerations When Choosing Laminate Countertops

Thickness, Overhangs and Edges. Laminate countertops have a standard thickness of an inch and a half, though fabricators can produce various thicknesses. Some homeowners prefer a thicker countertop to mimic stone. Standard overhang is an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half; longer overhangs are possible, but those longer than 6 inches may require additional support. Edge options abound, from standard (such as straight, waterfall and bullnose) to decorative (such as ogee and beveled) and even custom. For a decorative twist, laminate countertops also can be wrapped with a band of stainless steel, wood or solid surfacing.

Design Details. With laminate, edge options abound. While square or rolled edges are common, laminate can also be beveled or wrapped with a band of stainless steel, wood or solid surface for a twist on traditional.

Laminate has come a long way. Remember those visible seams? They can all but disappear with an experienced fabricator—and prefab laminate, custom-fit to your kitchen, eliminates the issue altogether. And for years, integrated sinks—with no lip for catching crumbs—were reserved for stone and solid surfacing, but they are available for use with some laminate countertops. An extra cost applies, and professional installation is required.

Luxury Laminate. Thanks to manufacturing advances, laminate has gone luxurious. Newer styles more closely than ever mimic the look of high-end surfaces including marble, travertine, soapstone and slate. To achieve the realism, designers rely on new printing technology paired with premium finishes that feature subtle crevices, minute fissures and authentic veining that echo the surface of stone. Some even incorporate materials such as shell fragments and marine life.

Maintenance. Wipe the countertop with a soft cloth and warm water daily. Mild household cleansers are suitable. Wipe up spills immediately.

The Bottom Line. Laminate countertops are a stylish, versatile option for any kitchen. Ease of cleaning makes it great around the sink. Serious chefs may relegate it to lesser-utilized areas.