Not Your Grandma’s Formica

The best designers of the day are working with an ever-expanding array of different materials, from natural stone to engineered quartz, and even… <gasp> laminate. That’s right, laminate is making a huge comeback right now, and it’s not without good reason. Laminate countertops, from such old stalwarts as Wilsonart and Formica, are a fantastic product that can lend verve and style to a kitchen or bath remodel in a way that natural materials can’t match. It’s not just for kitchens, either; laminates are being used so widely in commercial and industrial applications that few people realize just how commonplace they have become. Not only that, but it’s one of most cost-effective options to specify in a designer kitchen.

When most people think about laminate countertops, the mental image is of the plastic-like material that was so commonplace in the 60s and 70s. In reality, there is very little similarity between those materials of yore and today’s modern products. The material is most commonly made from a paper composite mounted on a particleboard substrate. The technology behind manufacturing and installing these materials has taken off, and the results are astonishing. Most don’t realize that laminates are now available with such details as finished edges, like bullnose and ogee, and can even be used with undermount sinks! There are thousands of different patterns available, from solid colors to faux stone to fanciful or even retro styles.

Laminates are extremely versatile solutions for many challenging interior design situations. In most contemporary homes and offices, laminates cover far more surfaces than most people realize. Europeans have been using laminates for years, not only for surface coverings, but also for cabinets, walls and flooring. They’re also used in industrial applications, as well. In fact, the Formica Corporation started in 1913 as a manufacturer of industrial surfaces, and began creating materials for use in the home only in the 1940’s.

When considering the total budget of a remodel project, laminate surfaces can become a very attractive option. In fact, the cost of professionally installed laminate surfaces is often half of that of natural stone, and still far more cost-effective than any other material. Environmentally, laminates present a remarkably sustainable option when compared to the high tolls of quarrying, milling and shipping natural stone.

Granite has been an extremely popular choice in recent years, so much so that even in builder grade spec homes granite countertops are commonplace. Frankly, granite is getting a little played out. Given the range of options and styles available with laminates, as well as their versatility and economy, we’ll be seeing more and more of this as consumers realize what an attractive option laminates have become.