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Formica Counters: Better than the Real Thing

by Marc Dickinson

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Countertops

Formica isn't a particular material so much as the industry term for a particular type of structure. In fact, it's a copyrighted brand name, but it is often used to refer to any plastic laminate glued to a wooden substrate, such as kitchen and bathroom Formica countertops. Therefore, since laminate is such a versatile product, Formica counters come in a wide variety of looks and designs and can actually take on the appearance of other materials.

Fight the Trend
You've probably seen the popular trend on TV or in magazines: today, many brand new kitchens and bathrooms are being built with natural materials. It makes sense that if you're buying a new house for several hundreds of thousands of dollars, you'll splurge for that extra bit of high-end glamour. Therefore, granite, marble, quartz, and other stones have become a popular preference among homeowners for their elegance and luxury. However, these materials are not cheap: even though they're in high demand and the supply of these materials has risen, they can still cost several thousands of dollars. Plus, having these units installed isn't free. And once they're in the home, they're a hassle to maintain. They can easily be damaged, scratched, stained, or chipped, which can be a pain since these products are typically in the messiest rooms of the house. However, despite the latest fads, Formica (laminate) counters are still the most popular in homes. 70% of homes today still prefer laminate countertops due to their resiliency, easy maintenance, and of course, affordability.

Chameleon Custom Looks
Recently, due to the popularity of natural materials being used in homes, there have been new innovations in Formica countertops. Now, new laminate are being produced to look like granite, marble, and other stone surfaces. These imitation veneers give the appearance of natural stone without the heavy price tag. Also, they don't have to be resealed or tip-toed around, saving you additional maintenance costs down the line. In fact, they've even taken this technological advancement further by replicating other materials, such as wood, metal, concrete, and other solid surfacing.

Go with the most popular material type and install

Formica Countertops

Of course, a main concern may be authenticity. Sure the product is cheaper, but it also looks cheaper. Not to worry. These laminates have been fabricated by skilled stonecutters to perfectly emulate the beauty (including the flaws and fissures) of genuine stone. These manufacturers have even textured the material for realism, and they have also smoothed out the edging to remove any former lines: in other words, it looks like the Formica counters came in slabs, just like the real thing.

Preservation Included
Not only are Formica counters affordable, the main reason homeowners still prefer laminates is for their durability. Though they're not bulletproof (you can't put extremely hot pots and pans directly on plastic, and the surfaces will sometimes stain), they are much tougher than natural material. Here are some quick tips for easy clean-up and prevention:

Shield the Abuse: Use pads and cutting boards to avoid scratches, burns, and other blemishes.
Hide the Flaws: Usually darker, matte finishes better conceal any scratches, stains, and fingerprints, and are recommended for high-traffic areas.
Avoid the Acid: Highly abrasive cleaning solutions shouldn't be used on plastic laminates. Also, using sharp scrub brushes will only risk more damage.
Don't Flood It: Although you typically just want to apply soap and water onto the surface with a soft cloth, you don't want to over-saturate the laminate, especially around the seams where water could seep beneath and warp the wooden substrate.

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.