We are often asked the question “How good are laminate worktops”?. The short answer is, like most things, it depends on how much you are prepared to pay for your new countertops. Laminate worktops can vary in price by a fairly large amount and there are good reasons why.
How are laminate worktops made?
High pressure decorative laminate is manufactured by soaking layers of core and decorative paper in resins, then subjecting these layers to high pressure and heat which fuses them into a single layer. You may be surprised to learn that the finished laminate is roughly one third plastic resin and two thirds paper. This layer of laminate is then applied to a substrate, usually high density chipboard or particle board which gives you the finished countertop. Laminate worktops have been around for ages, if you are of a certain age you will be familiar with the name Formica for instance. the reason for it’s enduring appeal is it is relatively cheap to produce when compared to other worktop materials and this is reflected in the price you, the consumer, has to pay for it.
High pressure laminate is extremely durable and was used for many other purposes before it became popular in the kitchen. Originally used as an electrical insulator laminate is also often used to clad the interior of boats because of it,s durability and high resistance to degradation from salt. Today it is probably the most popular worktop surface worldwide. The technology used in the manufacture of laminate has moved on considerably in recent years which has led to an increase in the colours and finishes available on the market. This is good from a consumer choice perspective but makes the decision regarding which type of laminate worktop is best for you a bit more tricky.
Some of the popular worktop brands in the UK are Duropal, Axiom and Prima. All produce laminate worktops of varying cost and quality.
Standard laminate worktops are the most commonly used type of worksurface used, this is because they are the least expensive and readily available from DIY stores and builder’s merchants. They are normally available is lengths up to 3 metres and widths of 600 or 900mm. There is a reasonably wide selection of colours available but not much in terms of texture as these countertops usually have not had enough layers of paper used in their production to enable any graining etc. They are good value for money and will last well enough but due to the restricted sizes available you may have a number of joins in your tops if your kitchen is larger than average.
Gloss laminate worktops very popular when they first became widely available in the 1980’s but if you take our advice you will think long and hard before choosing this finish. to be honest they are not particularly durable and will readily show marks and scratches so if your kitchen is for more than just looking at, you should consider other alternatives.
Stone and wood effect laminate worktops have shown great strides recently. Some of the finishes available now are so good you would be hard pushed to tell the difference between solid wood and wood effect laminates by sight and the same is true of granite and marble effect laminates. This is due to the improvement in resins and the increased number of layers of paper being used in production by some manufacturers. This is also where the price starts to go up but so does the quality, durability and choice in terms of sizes and accessories like upstands and splashbacks.