Why Laminate Kitchen Countertops Deserve a Second Look

Retro remodel with Formica laminate kitchen countertopsImage: Greta from Picnics in the Park

Laminate kitchen countertops offer durability and style at a price lower than any other material. It’s a worthy contender if you have a limited budget.

A favorite during the groovy 1960s and ‘70s, laminate kitchen countertops are enjoying a second wind as an affordable, durable, moisture-proof, and surprisingly attractive replacement for your home’s worn kitchen countertops.

Shop around and you’ll find a nearly unlimited selection of richly colored solids, midcentury patterns, and enticing-to-touch textures. They mimic:

  • Earthy stone slabs, such as marble
  • Rusted metal
  • Butcher block and other wood
  • Fabric and leather

What is Laminate?

Laminates are made with layers of paper, including a decorative layer, and melamine resin. Generally, the thicker the product, the more durable and costly it’ll be. Higher-end laminates offer 10-year warranties. Fancy edge treatments — beveling, ogees, and bullnose — kick up the costs, too.

In the past, laminate kitchen countertops looked like poor copies of materials, such as wood and stone, because reproduction qualities were poor, and the finished product depended on a repeating pattern about 18 inches wide.

Today, advanced photographic technology creates laminates that look more like the real thing, and unique patterns can be up to 5 feet wide — wide enough to create an entire “granite” kitchen island with no repeating pattern.

Granite-look laminate kitchen counterImage: AAADistributor.com

Also these days, laminates are made with some percentage of recycled materials, such as FSC-certified wood — wood that’s harvested sustainably.

Quick Cost Comparison

In general, laminate kitchen countertops are your least expensive option. Compare the costs with other countertop materials, as shown for an average kitchen with 30 linear feet of countertops, installed:

TypeCost
Laminate$1,575
Ceramic tile$1,850
Solid surface $3,690
Concrete$5,310
Granite slab$4,440
Carrera marble$4,620

Will Laminate Last?

Thankfully, today’s laminates aren’t as prone to chipping and cracks as products from days gone by. However, laminate countertops still aren’t as long-lasting as other materials, such as stone and solid surfaces. Here’s why:

  • Easily scratched with knives.
  • Household cleaners with mild abrasives can dull the surface.
  • Acidic liquids can stain.
  • Laminates don’t stand up to heat, such as a pot with a hot bottom.

What to Shop For

  • Long warranty
  • Melamine resin wear layer strengthened with aluminum oxide (a hard, colorless, inorganic material that makes countertops more resistant to scratches).

Caring for Laminate Countertops

With proper care, a laminate kitchen countertop can last at least 10 to 20 years. Scratches and burns account for the demise of most laminate countertops. So:

  • Don’t use your countertop as a cutting board.
  • Use a trivet! Avoid laying hot pots and pans directly on a laminate countertop.
  • Clean counters with water and a non-abrasive household cleaner.

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