Installing Solid Surfaces
Solid surface countertops can be either thick, with a built-up inch thick front edge. They are installed on top of base cabinets over supports of wood spaced approximately 24 inches apart. The solid surface material is strong enough to support itself, and because it does expand and contract slightly, installing over a plywood substrate could cause cracking or excessive heat build-up from hot items set on the surface. Joints are invisible because they are created by dissolving the edges of the material with solvents, fusing them, and allowing them to set. This creates an invisible weld. Solid surface panels installed on walls are % inch thick and are installed with adhesives.
Maintaining Solid Surfaces
Solid surfaces are impervious, so they are not harmed by cleaning supplies. Soapy water and ammonia-based cleaner, but not window cleaners, are recommended. An occasional cleaning with diluted bleach is good for disinfecting the counters. It is important to wipe the counter completely dry because water allowed to dry on the surface can eventually build up a dull film. Over time, the countertop may develop a dull appearance and/or minor scratches, which can be repaired or renewed with special abrasive pads. Damaged countertops can be professionally refinished.
Solid Surfacing Edge Detail. The material can be cut and shaped into many different edge profiles. Photograph courtesy of Cosentino Plastic laminate, developed in the early twentieth century, has continued to be a cost-effective material for countertops, backsplashes, and vertical surfaces such as wall panels and doors. Plastic laminate can also be used for signage. Plastic laminate is also used, with a different I ayering of materials, for flooring. Plastic laminate is hard and durable, resisting heat and water. It is available in a wide range of patterns and solid colors and in several finishes, including a glossy finish for vertical surfaces only. Satin finishes and textured finishes can be used on horizontal surfaces as well as vertical surfaces.
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Plastic laminate surfaces consist of multiple layers of material impregnated with phenolic resins and/or melamine. Most of the layers are made of brown kraft paper saturated with phenolic resins, topped with a visible resin-impregnated image sheet and coated with a top layer of melamine. The visible layer is most commonly melamine-impregnated printed paper, but foil, fabric, or wood veneer may be laminated to the paper layers. The layers are fused together under heat and pressure. Texture is added in the pressing process. High-pressure laminates are used for exposed surfaces that are heavily used, such as countertops. Plastic laminate is also used to construct furniture. Low-pressure laminates are used for vertical and low-wear applications. Plastic laminate must be adhered to a substrate, such as plywood, particle board, or medium-density fiberboard or hardboard. The products used to adhere the laminate to the substrate may give off fumes that can be irritating or toxic. In the shop, a thermosetting adhesive may be used. In the field, a contact adhesive is used because it is less volatile.
Since a characteristic of plastic laminate is a visible black line at the joining of two planes, the detailing of the edges of plastic laminate requires thoughtful design. A selfedge, made of plastic laminate, will allow the line to show. Edges can be post-formed in the shop or during manufacturing to create a radius edge of laminate. Edges can also be designed using different materials such as a wood edge or a metal edge. Although the process of fabricating plastic laminate can emit toxic gasses, factories have changed the process to eliminate the problem by switching to water-based phenolic resins and are using melamine that uses less toxic material in its composition. Hazardous wastes are burned in closed burners at the factory rather than sent to a landfill. Manufacturers are also reducing the use of metal-based pigments in the printed paper. If the laminate is to be adhered to the substrate at the site, nontoxic contact adhesives should be used. Plastic laminate products can emit gasses after installation, so the fumes must be allowed to dissipate before the space is occupied. Because plastic laminate is a thermosetting plastic, it cannot be recycled, although components of the plastic laminate sandwich may include recycled content.