This page is part of the affordable kitchen remodeling series, created to help homeowners design an elegant kitchen that fits their budget. You can access the entire series here.
Are you yearning for stone or wood countertops in your kitchen but just can’t fit it in your budget? Remodeling is ridiculously expensive but one of the easiest ways to save money is with plastic laminate.
When you think of plastic laminate countertops I hope you don’t picture Grandma’s stained kitchen countertop that’s faded from the sun and peeling up at the corners. They have have come a long over just the last 10 years and they may be the perfect choice for your remodel. Here are 10 reasons you give them serious consideration.
1. They Mimic Natural Stone Perfectly
The 3 kitchen below are all using Wilsonart laminates that look like granite, but there are many color options that look like marble, quartz, and even wood grains as well.
2. Laminate Countertops Cost Half The Price Of Granite
If you’ve ever gotten a quote for granite countertops you were probably in a bit of sticker shock when the price came back.
Even if you have a small kitchen and choose an inexpensive stone, your quote is likely to be $2,000 minumim. You can quickly cut that in half by choosing plastic laminate instead.
3. Plastic Laminate Won’t Hurt Your Resale Value
A lot of homeowners factor in how the countertops will effect the resale value of the home. To be blunt, I think this is a silly consideration.
Choosing a particular pattern is a very personal decision. Even if you bust the budget and purchase an expensive variety of granite, the person looking to buy your home may hate it, negating any resale value you were worried about when picking out your countertop.
If you plan on selling your home in the near future, the best thing to do is buy a timeless pattern that you enjoy and that won’t offend potential buyers because it’s cherry red or an outlandish shade of blue.
Laminate won’t add value to your home, but an attractive pattern won’t hurt it either. As long as the kitchen is modern and in good condition you won’t be scaring off buyers.
4. Laminate Counters Are Highly Heat resistant
You may be surprised to learn that modern plastic laminate countertops can withstand high temperatures; so much so that Consumer Reports gave both them and granite the same rating of ‘Excellent’ when they tested them. If you’re a member of consumerreports.org you can see it for yourself here.
I still recommend using a trivet, discoloration from heat can happen quickly and one of the downsides of laminates is that burns can’t be repaired.
5. Laminates Are Nearly Impossible To Stains
The same Consumer Reports study mentioned above also tested them to see how well they handled stains.
Not only did they pass the test with flying colors but they got the highest possible rating of ‘Excellent’, while the much more expensive kitchen work surface quartz, was ranked lower with a ‘Very Good’.
6. They Kill Germs
This doesn’t mean that you can leave raw chicken on the countertop, but it does help kill some of the invisible pathogens that make us sick. Hospitals and commercial kitchens homes have been relying on technology like this for decades to help reduce the spread of germs and cross contamination.
7. They’re More Impact Resistant Than Any stone
Stone has a bad habit of chipping or even cracking under the right conditions. Even the most desirable granite, quartz, and Dekton’s get low grades when it comes to impact resistance. Accidents happen and they just don’t like it when you drop heavy pots or ceramic bowls on them.
Laminate on the other hand can take a literal pounding. The won’t even flinch if you drop a cast iron skillet on them or if your spouse decides it’s a good place to drop their tools.
8. Laminate Countertop Edges Can Be Bullnose Or Ogee
Back in the 1990’s the only option you had for the edges of your laminate countertop was a square one. This created a few problems. First was that it was boring and second was that at every corner you would end up with a clearly visible black line that ran all the way down the worktop.
But that wasn’t even the worst of it. The edging was the weakest part of the install because it was where water was most likely to get in. Over time moisture breaks down the adhesive that bonds the laminate to the wood backing board and eventually it starts to lift.
Technology has advanced to the point that we have a few different options for edge details, and some of them have no seams at all thanks to a process called post-forming, that literally molds the laminate to the wood backer. Both major manufacturers, Wilsonart and Formica, have multiple edge options for you to consider.
9. You Can Have An Undermount Sink
It wasn’t that long ago that your only sink option for laminate countertops was a ‘drop in’.
But thanks to innovation on the part of the countertop and sink manufacturers you can have an undermount sink.
I do have some reservations about undermount sinks. My main concern is that there is now an exposed edge coming in direct contact with water every single day.
My experience tells me that over time I should expect mildew to form along that edge and that the laminate will eventually peel away. But maybe I’m just an old man that isn’t evolving with the times, and this set-up is perfectly safe and problem free. Time will tell.
The most widely used sinks for this application are made but a company called Karran. You can check out their product catalog here.
10. They’re Easier To Maintain Than Stone
One of the most common concerns with natural stone is that it’s important to maintain them properly to keep them looking new. About once a year you have to seal them with a topical sealer. It’s not expensive to buy but it can be a bit of a hassle as it’s another chore for your to-do list. If you don’t seal them you run a much higher risk of stains taking up permanent residence in your kitchen.
With laminates there is no sealing required. You literally set it in place and forget about it. Of course you shouldn’t let spills sit on the surface of the counter overnight, but if an accident happens it’s likely just going to wipe right up anyway.
Where To Find The Best Looking Laminate Countertops
Looks are very subjective but I have a couple links for you that will get you on your way to finding high end plastic laminate countertops that won’t break your remodeling budget.
Start with Formica’s high pressure laminates. They have a lot of beautiful options for your kitchen and when they discontinue a pattern they sell it at a discount. Discounted patterns are clearly marked here on their website.
After you’ve exhausted your options there head on over to the HD section of Wilsonart’s website for a large selection of modern laminate countertops. What I really enjoy about Wilsonart’s site is that you can see a lot of their products installed in real kitchens instead of just renderings.
Can Laminates Be Used In Bathrooms?
Yes, you can definitely use laminate in the bathroom. There are lot’s of fantastic prefab bathroom vanities that use plastic laminate counters. You can have one custom made by your contractor too.
I wouldn’t consider using it in the shower for two reasons, however. The first is that it’s always going to be wet and eventually that water will find its way between the laminate and the surface it’s mounted to.
The second is that there are too many other afforable options for shower walls that are time tested to last 50 or more years. Tile is inexpensive and easy to lay, solid surface isn’t expensive and it’s perfect for bathrooms, and drop-in showers are very affordable and can transform your bathroom in a day. There are much better options to use in the shower than laminates.
If you need ideas for your bathroom I have 10 tile designs right here for you to draw inspiration from.
Are There Better Options Than Laminates?
While plastic laminate fits into smaller budgets perfectly, you may decide to spend a little extra on the counters. If that’s the case you have to at least consider granite and quartz. They’re two of the best selling options for good reason. Here’s our comparison of the two so you can make the best choice for your kitchen remodel.
If you want something that you won’t see in all your friends kitchens have a look at wood. You’ll be surprised how easy they are to take care of and how big of an impact they make on even the most boring kitchen. They’re pretty cheap too, just stay away from the ones they sell at IKEA. You can buy much better quality ones here that don’t cost all that much more.
Click here to learn how to design an elegant kitchen that fits your budget.