Durable, Affordable, and Customizable
Once used primarily for drab industrial or commercial applications, laminate countertops are making a resurgence in residential construction due to their wide range of styles, affordability, and low upkeep. Whether you're looking to update the counters in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or utility room, laminate is worth a second look.
What is Laminate?
A laminate countertop is made with a laminate layer covering the base, or structure, of the countertop. Bases are made of plywood or recycled wood products.
The laminate itself has several components: a core layer made of sheets of Kraft paper (similar to grocery bags), a wear layer that's also made of paper products (but with additional chemicals to add strength), a decorative layer of printer paper that contains the countertop color and design pattern, and an outer layer made from transparent melamine. The three paper layers are dipped in resin and combined under heat and pressure to create a single, solid unit. Melamine is applied at the end and protects all the underlying layers.
Other types of laminate include those that have a base infused with plastics, glass, or carbon, as well as those which replace paper altogether with melamine (aka pure melamine counters). These products tend to be more durable and longer lasting than standard laminate.
Countertop laminates also come in thick and thin grades. The thickness determines what application it is used for. Thick grades are difficult to bend and contort over rounded edges. They are used primarily for square edge countertops where extra durability is needed. Thin grades can be formed and are used for rolled edge and seamless backsplash countertops.
Laminate Countertop Benefits
With all the buzz surrounding stone and solid surface countertops, laminate is often an afterthought. Laminate counters, however, can closely resemble these more expensive materials, as well as provide the following benefits:
- Laminate is highly customizable. There are thousands of laminate countertop colors, styles and patterns to choose from, including those that imitate stone.
- Laminate is non-porous, making it an excellent choice for kitchen countertops where bacteria can contaminate food preparation areas. Laminate's durable outer coating also resists scratches and stains, is easy to clean, and virtually maintenance-free. Expect your laminate counters to last for 20 to 40 years or longer.
- Manufacturers offer preformed laminate countertops for simple installation. And if you prefer a more personalized appearance, it's possible to order only the outer laminate sheet which can then be attached to a base of your choice.
- While laminate isn't indestructible, chips, dents, and scratches are easy and inexpensive to repair. And for counters that have seen more than their share of abuse, there's laminate refinishing, which provides brand-new looking counters at a fraction of the cost of replacement.
- There are many laminate countertop manufacturers to choose from, including Formica, which is synonymous with laminate, as well as Wilsonart, Nevamar, Pionite and Bevella.
Laminate Countertop Costs
- Laminate countertops start at $20 to $25 per square foot installed, but better quality products cost $30 to $35 per square foot installed. For 30 square feet of counterpace, that's a total estimated cost of $600 to $1,050.
- Pure melamine counters cost $50 to $60 per square foot installed, or $1,500 to $1,800 for 30 square feet.
- Laminate counters reinforced with carbon, glass, or plastic cost $60 to $80 per square foot installed ($1,800 to $2,400). Plastic-infused counters are the cheapest, while those with carbon are on the higher side.