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What’s the Story of Laminate Countertops?
Once upon a time, people were in love with plastic. And so laminate countertops were in vogue. That was back in the 1960s and thus long before we paid attention to the environment and became ‘green’ from top to bottom overnight. You are probably wondering what this story has to do with laminate countertops. Simple. Laminate was considered plastic and so it was exiled from the countertop world as an enemy of the environment. The following decades, we were attracted by quartz countertops, rediscovered marble countertops, and chose any other material but laminate. Until we got the memo. Laminate countertops are not plastic.
What is Laminate?
Laminate countertops are layers and layers of Kraft paper joined together and heated to become one unit that will serve as the substrate of the slab. But plywood and MDF are also common substrates for the construction of kitchen laminate countertops. In any case, manufacturers glue melamine resin on the top to protect the substrate while the color options are possible due to an extra film on top of the melamine. So the only plastic component here is the resin. In other words, laminate countertops were wrongly accused of being the enemies of the environment. And so their reputation has been lately restored. The result? Laminate regained our trust and found its way into our kitchens. But not without some considerations. So here are the laminate countertops pros and cons.
The Pros of Laminate Countertops
Laminate countertops are budget-friendly. So if you are on a budget but still want to remodel the kitchen, they will untie your hands. Some slabs are very cheap while most of them range from around $25 to $40. Now, if you compare the prices of concrete, marble and granite countertops, you will see that laminate slabs are the most inexpensive material in the countertop family.
- Cost considerations: there are low and high quality laminate countertops. Naturally, high-end products are more expensive but not expensive enough to throw you out of your budget. What defines high and low quality laminates? For starters, the substrate. Although MDF is durable, it’s also more susceptible to moisture. That’s why most kitchen laminate countertops are made of Kraft paper. And then, the quality is defined by the surface. High-end laminate countertops provide luster and come out in more patterns and colors.
Beware: the cost of laminate countertops varies based on location, vendor, and the features of the slab. And the price of the slab is not the only amount that comes out of your wallet. You need to add any extra work done by the fabricator (sink cutouts, special edges etc.) and installation fees.
Easy to clean
Cleaning laminate countertops is a breeze. You just use a mild cleaner and water and you are done. Don’t use chemicals and abrasives that might dull the surface or destroy the resin. The material is practically maintenance-free since you don’t need to seal or oil it over the years.
Since the melamine resins are basically plastic, the material is waterproof. It repels stains and so it remains sanitary. It’s fair to say here that the non-porosity is one of the biggest advantages of laminate countertops. So stain away but don’t forget to clean up the area rather quickly or it will dull.
There are endless colors, patterns, and textures. As a manmade countertop, it comes out in solid colors or marble-like textures. It can be glossy or matte with the latter resisting better scratches. You will find plenty of colors and textures in home improvement retail stores but even more in fabricators. In fact, if you have yours customized, you get to choose a countertop unified with the backsplash too. That works well in kitchens where protecting the walls from moisture and cleaning even faster are both important matters. Overall, the availability of laminate countertops in a great range of colors and patterns makes them versatile. They will make a good choice for traditional, mid-century, or modern kitchens.
The Cons of Laminate Countertops
NOT heat resistant
One of the most important considerations is the vulnerability of laminate countertops to heat. Not that other countertop materials resist heat but laminate is not resistant at all to heat due to the melamine resin, which is actually plastic. If someone leaves a hot pan on the counter, the area will melt and scorch.
Easy to scratch
Laminate is durable and won’t dent but it will scratch. Easily. Just try chopping onion on the counter and see what happens (just kidding, don’t do it). You definitely need to use cutting boards. The problem here is not that the scratches will ruin the appearance of the counter but will expose the substrate to liquids and thus the material will absorb them. This is really bad news since the substrate will swell. And the even worse news is that laminate is not repaired. And so you will need to replace it. It might not cost much to install laminate countertops but this will be your only choice if your slab is cut.
NO resale value
Laminate countertops might have a good appearance but they are not beauty queens. They are average solutions when you are on a budget or prefer to replace the counter frequently. But if you plan to sell the house and your goal is to get a higher ROI from your kitchen remodeling, laminate countertops are not the right choice. You’d recoup much more if you install granite, marble, or quartzite countertops. Laminates will not increase the resale value.
Available in many colors, stain resistant and easy to clean, laminate countertops will make a good choice if you are on a budget but not if you want to resale or are looking for high-end countertops. There are definitely laminate countertops pros and cons just like with any other material and since we all expect different things, this material is worth considering.
So, take another quick look at the pros and cons of laminate countertops, weigh them based on your personal preferences and requirements, and then decide whether to toss or embrace the idea of installing them in your kitchen.
|Easy to maintain||Easy to scratch|
|Budget-friendly||Easy to scorch and melt|
|Stain resistant – Non-porous||No resale value|
|A variety of patterns and colors||Dulls with improper cleaning|
|Good appearance – versatile|