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What Are Laminate Countertops?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Laminate countertops are made from a thin piece of laminated plastic that is adhered to a base or substrate. The substrate might be particle board or plywood. Popular brands of laminate countertops include Formica®, Arborite®, Nevamar® and Wilsonart&reeg;. The laminate countertop was first created in the 1950s and the color and pattern options today are extremely wide.

There are many natural looking colors and patterns of laminates made to resemble granite, slate and other types of stone. For example, cool gray metallic laminate counters provide an alternative to stainless steel. Some natural-looking laminate countertop patterns feature rich veins that look like minerals running through the design. Other laminate designs may look noticeably artificial.

Laminate countertops are available in many solid vivid colors and graphic patterns. They are an affordable option when a bold colorful look is desired. Just some of the many laminate countertop patterns include checks, dots, swirls and assorted geometric abstract graphics. Colorful graphic laminate counters are considered an inexpensive way to add color and design to a small bland kitchen or bathroom. There is almost as much selection in laminate countertop colors, finishes and patterns as there is in fabrics.

Edges are an important consideration when choosing a laminate countertop. The three main edge styles are straight, bevel and post-formed. The straight edge type is also called the self-edge, and is the original, boxy one first invented in the 1950s and it leaves a thin brown line around the edges.

The bevel edge type of laminate countertop is often in a color that contrasts with the rest of the countertop. This beveled trim is usually a color found elsewhere in the kitchen. The contrasting effect of bevel edge countertops can be practical and not just decorative. For instance, a beveled edge that contrasts with the rest of the counter can stand out so it is more visible to the elderly and the visually impaired. The post-formed types of laminate counters have rounded edges and are pre-made by machines in lengths that can be adjusted to fit any bathroom or kitchen.

A plus in choosing laminate countertops is that they are an inexpensive option to natural and other countertop choices. The drawback of the laminate countertop in general is that it is not that long lasting. It is not heat resistant like natural stone. Laminate countertops are easy to clean with soapy water. Abrasive products should not be used for cleaning as they can ruin laminates.

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Discussion Comments

By TMulhern19 — On Oct 03, 2014

A laminate counterop keeps its beauty without a lot of maintenance. It reflects your personal style and accents your kitchen with a variety of decorative edges. Great post.

By geekish — On Jul 22, 2011

I just saw a commercial for something fun I had seen in the local big box hardware store - resurfacing laminate countertops with paint!

I had never heard of such. The kit is in the paint section of the store. What I noticed is the kit has a scraper and the specialized paint for the countertop. It seems like a fabulously inexpensive way to update your kitchen, because sadly you are more likely to want to change your countertops before they actually wear out, and my husband likes to wait for things to wear out before they are replaced!

My question would be how labor intensive would sanding the countertop be? The painting itself seems like it would be easy - no ladders to climb, and not much taping to do!

By Tomislav — On Jul 21, 2011

I love love love granite countertops; however, with our house needing many many items remodeled I felt laminate kitchen countertops were the way to go.

Formica was what we eventually went with because listen to this. The company that makes Formica used the power of granite to make some new laminate design. This design actually uses photographs of granite to make the design.

Does it look like granite? For me, no, but is it beautiful and colorful and go with the earth tones that I so enjoy in my house, yes!

So if someone is looking for an inexpensive alternate to granite I would look at laminate, but in particular Formica laminate countertops as I believe they were the first to used photographed granite.

And now you might find that other laminate countertops are using the photographs of granite technology and by checking out the Formica laminate design you can see if they bettered the design technique or if the original is the best!

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