Plastic Laminate Countertop Basics

Plastic laminate countertops are made from plastic laminates glued onto a substrate which is normally made from wood products such as particle board, plywood, or MDF. Plastic laminate is also known as high pressure laminate, or often just HPL to architects and designers. For many years the Formica brand was so dominant in this industry that even today the word Formica is used when referring to the product, e.g. "We have Formica counters in the kitchen" (When in fact it might be Wilsonart).

There are different grades of plastic laminates though if you're shopping for countertops, you need not be concerned with grades of laminate. General purpose grade, also known as horizontal grade, is what you will be using. If you ask your home center designer which grade they will use, don't expect an answer. General purpose is so common it is often assumed to be the only product. Consider this to be the default as other grades are not suitable for countertops.

If you think plastic laminate counters are yesterday's news, think again. With all of the innovations in the countertop industry over the past decades, plastic laminate is still one of the best choices you can make for countertop material.

The key advantages of plastic laminates are; 1) Affordable, in fact just plain cheap compared to other materials. 2) Huge variety of colors and designs. 3) Very tough and resistant to staining and chemicals.

The disadvantages of plastic laminate are; 1) Cannot be repaired if chipped or burned. 2) Seams are noticeable, especially where the black colored core is exposed.

My advice? Do not rule out plastic laminate just because you have a budget for something pricier though in a higher end kitchen, it can look a bit out of place.