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Countertops 101
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Lesson #2 - Solid Surface Prev Next
Solid surface countertops were made famous by DuPont's Corian brand. A solid surface countertop is essentially a 1/2" thick piece of plastic glued on a 1" thick wood base with a color/pattern embedded in the plastic. Solid surface has many advantages over laminate, the most important ones are: a seamless top, integrated undermount sink and fancy edge designs (and I know you can have an undermount sink and fancy edge design with laminate, but it rarely comes out good, and for the added price, doesn't make sense). With solid surface, the sink is completely connected to the countertop; there is no seam. If you ran your finger across the edge of the sink, you would feel nothing; the sink is part of and underneath the countertop (you can, of course, use a stainless steel sink, but then there would be a seam). Water can be easily pushed into the sink from the rest of the countertop. Likewise, even with a 20 foot long countertop you will not have any seams anywhere on the top. The top is smooth and continuous. In addition, since the solid surface material is completely sealed in a resin the countertop is extremely resistant to stains and mold and does not need to be re-sealed every year. Plus with an integrated sink and seamless edges there are no nooks for bacteria to grow. Solid surface tops tend to be warm and soft to the touch. However, like plastic, they will melt if a hot surface is put on them for more than a brief period of time and they will stratch if you use sharp knives to cut food on them. If they do scratch, though, they are easy to repair; just use fine sandpaper and sand out the scratch.

Solid surface tops are available from many different manufacturers, such as: DuPont, Formica and Wilsonart plus through lots of independent generic players. They come in a large variety of colors and patterns. The price depends to a large extent on the color you pick and the edge design. In general, brand name solid surface countertops start at about $60 per square foot with template and installation plus cutouts, edge design and sink and go up from there. A generic will run about 10-40% less than a name brand mostly because generics tend to charge the same price for all colors and edge designs. Solid surface countertops are generally only sold with template and installation. Thus, an installer will first go to your house and build a template (model) of what the countertop will look like, taking into consideration the fact that the walls may not be perfectly straight. To build the template, the installer will need to directly access the top of the base cabinets, thus, if there is an existing countertop it will need to be removed. Once done, the template will be used to build the actual countertop out of the material you chose and then the installer will return to the house to attach the countertop to the cabinets. It generally takes two weeks from template to installation, during which time there will not be a countertop or sink for you to use (unless you place one on temporarily). Below is a picture of an integrated undermount sink, and some standard edge designs.

Integrated undermount sink

Typical edge designs