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Laminate Kitchen Countertops: Perfect Fakes; Low Cost

Published: December 29, 2010

Replacement laminate kitchen countertops offer durability and big style at a relatively low cost, and are worthy contenders for your kitchen retrofit dollars.

Laminate Kitchen Countertops Once a favorite during the 1960s and 70s, laminate kitchen countertops are enjoying new popularity as an affordable, durable, moisture-proof, and surprisingly attractive replacement for your home’s worn kitchen countertops.

Shop around and you’ll discover a nearly unlimited selection of richly colored solids, dazzling patterns, and enticing-to-touch textures. Laminates are cagey too: Check out the options that mimic rusted metal and earthy stone slabs and see if you can eyeball the difference.

Why laminate kitchen countertops are cool (and cost-effective)

Laminates are made with layers of paper 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 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 strikingly 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.

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 lineal feet of countertops, installed:
Type Cost
Quartz (engineered stone)$2,100
Solid surface$2,250
Slab granite $2,400
Ceramic tile$3,900

Durability: Laminate’s Achilles heel

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. Household cleaners with mild abrasives can dull the surface, acidic liquids can stain the material, and laminates don’t stand up to heat, such as a pot with a hot bottom.

When shopping for laminate, look for long warranties and a melamine resin wear layer strengthened with aluminum oxide—a hard, colorless, inorganic material that makes countertops more resistant to scratches.

Caring for laminate kitchen countertops

With proper care, a laminate kitchen countertop can last a minimum of 10 to 20 years. Scratches and burns account for the demise of most laminate countertops, so keep knives and sharp objects away from the surface and don’t use your countertop as a cutting board.

Avoid laying hot pots and pans directly on a laminate countertop to avoid permanently scorching the material. Regularly clean countertops with water and a non-abrasive household cleaner.

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