What kitchen countertops are made of! Wood, stone, and even metal are used. Not so long ago, laminate countertops, also called laminate countertops, have gained popularity. Since the material began to be used relatively recently, many absolutely do not understand what it is about, and whether there is something in common between the laminate flooring that is familiar to us and new countertops. Let’s sort it out together and find out what a laminate kitchen countertop is, and whether it can be a worthy alternative to more traditional materials.
Laminate kitchen worktop – what is it?
Let’s start a little from afar in order to thoroughly understand the issue and avoid confusion. What is an ordinary laminate (the one that many people have in their apartments)? This is a multilayer material based on high density fiberboard, which is made from wood fibers. Under the fiberboard – a stabilizing layer that protects the material from deformation. Additionally, a layer of soundproofing material can be used. Above the chipboard – paper with a printed pattern (imitation of stone, wood, tiles, leather, etc.). A protective layer of melamine or acrylic resin is applied on top of the paper. The manufacturer can embossed the protective layer in order to ensure the maximum similarity of the laminate to natural wood.
The laminate we are used to is used not only for flooring, but also for wall cladding and even ceilings. You can also make kitchen countertops from it, and the network is full of materials from craftsmen who create similar products with their own hands. But we will talk about a slightly different, albeit very similar, material.
When people talk about laminate kitchen worktops, they usually mean laminated paper (Laminate). As the name suggests, the basis of the material is paper, there is about 60-70% of it. Use heavy unbleached kraft paper. The rest is thermosetting resins (phenol-formaldehyde and melamine-formaldehyde), which, under the influence of high temperatures and pressure, turn into a thermoplastic mass. This is the main layer of the material. Above it is a decorative layer. This is the patterned paper that will determine the appearance of the coating. The paper is also impregnated with thermosetting melamine resin. An overlay is used to protect the decorative layer.
Depending on the production technology, two types of material are distinguished:
BSP low pressure, aka LPL – low pressure laminate. Such material has a thickness of no more than 0.5 mm. The technology requires the use of a double belt press, where the prepared mass is loaded. It is exposed to a temperature of 150-1700C and a pressure of 3-7 MPa. The pressure increases gradually, the so-called. ironing effect, all gases and air are removed from the material gradually. The technology makes it possible to obtain a thinner material, it is distinguished by its plasticity and reliability, it is sold in sheet and roll format;
- BSP high pressure, HPL – high pressure laminate. The technology provides for the use of a temperature of more than 1200C and a pressure of more than 5 MPa. At high temperatures, the resins melt, and high pressure forces them to be evenly distributed between the paper fibers. Then curing occurs, resulting in a monolithic material. Since curing produces gaseous water and formaldehyde, high pressure must be applied. It is also used for cooling. As a result, a sufficiently rigid material with a minimum number of pores is obtained, it has excellent performance characteristics: resistance to moisture and temperature, mechanical resistance, wear resistance, durability. The material becomes more than 0.5 mm thick, is more widespread, and is sold only in sheet form. It costs more, but its scope is wider. It is he who is usually meant when they talk about laminate countertops.
The standard divides BSP into thin (up to 2 mm), which must be glued to the base, and thick (over 2 mm), which can be used as a self-supporting base. In addition, slabs may differ in the presence or absence of a decorative coating.
HPL is used in the furniture industry for countertops and worktops, as well as for doors, flooring, interior and façade claddings.
Most of the HPL worktops on offer are particle board wrapped in plastic up to 1mm thick. It is advisable that the chipboard is completely wrapped in plastic, as there are options when the plastic reaches only the bottom end. In this case, the chipboard may suffer from large leaks.
Advantages and disadvantages
It would seem, what supernatural can be expected from a material that is 60% ordinary paper? But the use of resins and a special production technology make it possible to obtain unique properties.
The advantages of HPL laminate include:
- resistance to high humidity, temperature extremes, steam, which is very important in the kitchen, where really extreme conditions often develop;
- mechanical strength – even a strong impact will not damage the integrity of the tabletop;
- resistance to corrosion and most aggressive substances;
- pleasant appearance and a sufficient variety of decorative coatings;
- material with a thickness of more than 5 mm can be used without a base;
- ease of processing and installation, which affects the price and speed of furniture assembly;
- hygiene and ease of care;
- resistance to high temperatures. The material does not melt, but only slightly smokes in a fire. This is achieved through the presence of special additives;
- safety. The formaldehyde emission level is E1, and this is an acceptable and completely safe indicator for life and health.
The material is suitable even for outdoor use, so you yourself can judge its strength. True, under constant exposure to sunlight, the plastic can lose color, therefore for external use it is advised to use a material such as EGS / EGF, which receives enhanced protection.
The only drawback of the material is the fear of local contact with a hot surface. If you put a frying pan just removed from the stove directly on the countertop, then it is likely that bubbles will form, yellowing and loss of brightness. However, contact with hot objects without consequences is unlikely to withstand any other material (except metal, perhaps). To preserve the appearance, special coasters for hot dishes have long been invented and widely used.
Ламинат HPL Duropal
The quality of the laminate is highly dependent on the reputation of the manufacturer. The world leader is plastic produced under the DUROPAL trademark (Germany). Products with high performance are presented in the widest range. Among other things, HPL furniture plastic is produced. In Russia, the products are sold by Soyuzstroydetal, which sells ready-made countertops (plastic with a thickness of 0.6-0.8 mm is glued onto chipboard using the postforming method) and the HPL plastic itself. Features of the material and examples of work can be seen on the page http://ssd.su/complect/compact-plita-plastik.php.
You can print any image on paper, therefore a laminate kitchen worktop can imitate almost any surface. The most popular option is stone, followed by wood, and solid-color countertops are also in constant demand.
When choosing, it is worth starting, of course, from the style of the kitchen interior and your own preferences. If the classic style is chosen, and the facades are made of wood or wood imitation, then the countertop can be taken with an imitation of wood texture, while the color can be absolutely any. In minimalist interiors, plain countertops and stone countertops look good.
A special niche is occupied by plastics with a metallized surface. Such a tabletop will perfectly fit into the high-tech style and will allow you to realize the most daring interior ideas. If you wish, you can find a laminate with a fantasy pattern (floral pattern, abstraction, geometric pattern).
The surface of the countertop can have different degrees of gloss, but a solution with a matte surface is more suitable for the kitchen. First, it will glare less. Secondly, scuffs and scratches will not be so noticeable on it. Thirdly, the matte tabletop looks more noble.
Plastic can be smooth or embossed. Of course, the version with a relief will look more natural, but keep in mind that a kitchen is a room where crumbs, splashes and dirt are a constant phenomenon, and it will be more difficult to keep the relief surface clean. From the same point of view, a light-colored countertop is preferable – it is less easily soiled.
When choosing a countertop design, pay attention to the edge. If the kitchen has straight lines, then the plastic is mounted on the chipboard using the postforming method, i.e. the edge will be exactly the same as the table top. If a curved tabletop is chosen, then the edge is covered with aluminum, plastic or melamine. Manufacturers try to match the color and texture as accurately as possible.
Many manufacturers offer custom-made countertops, so you can choose any decor option if necessary.
As mentioned above, in most cases, the plastic layer is glued to the chipboard. In this case, the plastic itself can have different thicknesses. In order to save money, many domestic and Polish manufacturers use plastic with a thickness of 0.4-0.5 mm, while most German and Italian companies prefer to use plastic with a thickness of 0.7-0.8 mm. Not surprisingly, their products are more durable and stronger.
The total thickness of the worktop (chipboard + HPL) is usually 3.8 cm – this is a kind of standard. Sometimes you can find thinner countertops 2.8 cm thick and more massive 4 cm thick, custom-made countertops with a thickness of 1.2 cm to 6 and even 8 cm.Of course, the thicker the countertop is, the stronger the set itself will be, but and the more massive it will look. Lower cabinets with thick countertops can be easily stepped on while cleaning. If you order a worktop with a non-standard thickness, then the edge will not be made by postforming.
The standard depth of the countertop is 60 cm. A narrower version is used when there is very little space in the kitchen, but think about this solution three times, since it will not be very convenient to cook. In some cases, the countertop is made with a depth of 63-65 cm in order to bypass the ventilation protrusion or prudently make a small “canopy” over the protruding handles of the lower cabinets – so you will not bump into them forever.
You can complement the laminate countertop with kitchen facades made of the same material and with the same decor. Naturally, for these purposes, a thinner material is useful – a thickness of about 11 mm will be enough.
Pay attention to the presence of a drip tray. This is a special groove in the protruding part of the tabletop. With large leaks, water accumulates in it. The groove plays the role of a kind of limiter, preventing water from coming into contact with the chipboard.
Finally, we note that a laminate kitchen worktop is an undemanding material to maintain. It is enough to remember that you must not put hot pans and pots on it. It is better to eliminate all stains, dirt and puddles as soon as possible, almost any detergent can be used for washing. The only limitation is not to use oils and wax-based products for treating glossy surfaces, otherwise you can say goodbye to beautiful shine.