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Countertops 101
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Lesson #1 - Laminate Prev Next
Laminate countertops represent the entry price level. Laminate countertops are made by gluing a sheet of laminate (which is basically plastic) onto wood. The sheet is very thin, only about 1/32 of an inch thick and has the color/pattern on the top side. The sheet is usually glued onto particleboard, because particleboard does not expand and contract as much as regular wood with the change in humidity. Thus the laminate sheet is less likely to peel off the wood base. Also particleboard is heavier than regular wood and the extra weight helps to keep the countertop in place. Laminate countertops come in two varieties: postform and self-edge.


Postform countertops refer to pre-made lengths of laminate countertops with a 4 inch backsplash and a 1 1/2 inch front edge included. Postform countertops are made by basically gluing and melting onto the wood the laminate sheet. With postform the edges are all rounded. There are no sharp corners or black stripes. You have a smooth curve in the front, the back bottom and the back top. Postform tops are sold at hardware stores in lengths of 8, 10 or 12 feet in a few common colors. They are also sold with a miter cut, which is a cut at a 45 degree angle and is used when you have an L-shaped countertop. You would place two miter cuts together and attach them. Postform countertops are the cheapest available, especially if you will be doing the installation work yourself. You typically buy a piece longer than you need and cut the extra amount off at the house or order one the right size and just cut the hole for the sink, faucet and/or cooktop. The main advantage of postform is its price, however, you cannot use postform if you have an island or peninsula, since the backsplash is already attached. With a peninsula or island, you cannot have a backsplash. Also, postform does not come in lengths longer than 12 feet. Thus postform is somewhat limited. Postform tops typically sell in the $18 - $20 per linear foot range for most standard colors.


Self-edge countertops are countertops that are made to order. With self-edge the installer typically would first build a template of the countertop or, if it's a simple design, go off the blueprints or use your drawing if you do not need installation, and then build the wood base and a separate backsplash. Once built, a laminate sheet is glued to the top, front, back and each side. With self-edge there are no rounded edges. Depending on the laminate used, there will also be a black strip visible at all the corners. Self-edge tends to run about twice the price of postform (countertop only), but, you can get any shape you want. With template and installation, a self-edge countertop will run about $30 per square foot. Below is a picture of the side view of a postform top, a self-edge top and 2 postform pieces with miter cuts attached
Postform Top Miter Cut Self-Edge Top