Plastic Laminates

Uses: Kitchen/Laundry/Bath Countertops, Backsplashes, Door Panels,Cabinet Exteriors, Tabletops

Laminate KitchenPlastic laminate is the most widely used surfacing material for builders and remodelers, due to its durability, wide range of colors and patterns, and its moderate price.

Plastic laminates are produced in hundreds of colors and patterns including metal, granite, marble, wood, and even leather. Surface textures range from smooth or grained to shiny or matte. Your choices are almost unlimited.


Fabrication & Finish

Plastic Laminate is made of melamine-impregnated decorative surface papers combined with phenolic-treated kraft paper (saturated with resin).

The sheets are usually bonded to a substrate such as 45# density particleboard.

Plastic laminates are extremely versatile and unlike most other materials, can conform to almost any shape of countertop.

Countertops are identified in three parts: The Backsplash, The Deck (countertop itself), and The Nose (or front edge). The choices you make for one may, or may not, influence possible choices for the other two.

Backsplash Diagram The three basic backsplash styles for laminated countertops are: Set on, where a loose splash is glued onto the deck; Attached, where a separate splash is fastened behind the deck; and Coved, where a continuous sheet of plastic laminate rolls from the flat deck to the vertical splash.



  • Set on (standard)
    The standard backsplash for laminated counters is called a "set on backsplash," which is a loose backsplash 4" high, that actually sits on top of the counter, and is glued to the deck.
Backsplash Diagram
  • Attached
    Where a backsplash is fastened behind the deck, it is referred to as an attached backsplash.
    Typically, both the standard and the attached backsplash have a square edge at the top that matches the front edge of the countertop deck. When the front edge of the countertop is beveled or rolled (rounded) the top of backsplash can be made to match.
    A line of caulk is used where the backsplash and countertop meet, in order to seal out water.
    If the "set on" or "attached" backsplash is used in the sink or other water resident areas, a silicone or other water resistant adhesive should be used to seal the joint between the splash and the top, and checked regularly to insure the seal is still in place.
  • Cove Backsplash
    A cove backsplash is formed when a continuous sheet of plastic laminate rolls from the flat deck up the vertical backsplash. This provides a seamless back to the countertop.



Laminate countertops can be given a square edge or a rolled edge. The rolled edge type is available in many different profiles. The square edge type can be beveled on the edges, have wood inserts, or brass inlays to create a rich custom look.

Laminate Corners

A Wood Edge is a laminate top with a 3/4"x 1 1/2" solid piece of hard wood on the front edge (Oak, Maple, Cherry and Hickory). A wood edge provides a natural look to any custom top. Wood Edge countertops can have various edge profiles with a set on or cove backsplash.

Laminate Bevel Edge is a laminate top with a laminate decorative molding designed for a sleek and seamless look. For a dramatic effect use a molding that contrasts with the top or for a monolithic look, select a molding that matches the top. Bevel backsplashes are also available with a set on or cove splash

Full-Wrap Bull nose Edge is where the heat-formed laminate extends around the full radius of the rounded edge and the no-drip bump is eliminated. The result is a more streamlined appearance, in a few more colors.



Kraft paper leaves a dark line at the edges, unless it runs wall to wall or is trimmed with a decorative material such as wood or stainless steel. Because particleboard is porous, it will swell when wet. If this happens at a seam in the countertop, the laminate will raise or buckle at the seam, and may split. Therefore, seam placement becomes critical and the fewer seams, the better.

Laminate sheets are available in 3', 4' and 5' widths and lengths of 8', 10' and 12'. (The largest sheet size is 5' x 12'). Exceed these dimensions and you need a seam.

  • Do not accept a countertop that has a wide, uneven or readily visible seam.

Wide seams require a filler, can collect dirt, and may eventually permit water under the surface.


Installation Considerations

Each countertop installation is unique, and a template must be made to use as a pattern. Before the template can be made, all base cabinets must be permanently anchored in place before measurements can begin.

A fabricator who will assume responsibility for a proper fit should install countertops. Improper installation of kitchen countertops may void the manufacturer's warranties and result in damage to your fine surface or other areas of your kitchen, such as cabinets, drawers, sinks, and fixtures.

Be sure to allow sufficient lead-time for the project to be completed. It generally takes 3 to 4 weeks to complete the installation after measurements are taken.

NOTE: Completion time can take longer during peak season for new home building. Because the underside of the countertop is unfinished particleboard and porous, under-mount sinks cannot be used on plastic laminate countertops. Available sink options are drop-in/self-rimming or above the counter sinks.



Typically, just the top surface of the laminate has the coloring. However, you can buy laminate that has coloring that goes all the way through and these are less likely to show scratches, and they eliminate the brown line often associated with laminate edgings.

Laminate Samples

Shiny laminates or solid colors are more likely to show damage than matte or patterned surfaces.

Before you order a counter top, be sure to ask to look at a large sample. Some patterned countertops look vastly different from the small sample chip you'll see in the store.

Plastic laminates are produced in hundreds of colors and patterns including metal, granite, marble, wood, and even leather. Surface textures range from smooth or grained to shiny or matte. Your choices are almost unlimited.



Plastic laminates are durable but not indestructible.

They are impact resistant, fairly easy to maintain, and with proper care they will keep their good looks for many, many years. However, since the material is softer than solid surface, engineered or natural stone some precautions are necessary.



Because the typical structure is made up of layers, it is impossible to repair surface chips, scratches and cuts.

Do not use the surface as a cutting board. Ceramic or abrasive objects can also damage the surface if dragged across the countertop. Abrasive cleaners can scratch and dull the surface.

Damage caused by abrasion or scratching is irreversible, but can sometimes be masked by applying lemon oil or self-stripping waxes, such as Pledge or Plexus™ Plastic Cleaner.



Seams are the most vulnerable area of plastic laminate counter-tops. If the seam is not properly matched or sealed, water may penetrate the substrate, causing the substrate to swell or crumble and the laminate layers to peel or break apart. This situation cannot be repaired, and the countertop must be replaced.



Do not use the countertop for a "hot pad". Prolonged exposure to temperatures of 140°F (60°C) or higher may cause the laminate to separate from the core material, or cause it to melt.



Never use cleaners containing acid, alkali, or sodium hypochlorite. These cleaners will mar, etch, corrode, and permanently discolor the laminate surface. Also, make sure that bottles, rags, and other materials contaminated with these cleaners never contact the laminate surface.

Examples of cleaners containing acid, alkaline, or sodium hypochlorite include, but are not limited to:

drain cleaners
metal cleaners
oven cleaners
ceramic cook top cleaners


rust removers
tub and tile cleaners
toilet bowl cleaners
some countertop cleaners

Harsh chemicals can lighten the color of laminate permanently, but applying lemon oil or self-stripping waxes, such as Pledge or Plexus™ Plastic Cleaner, can sometimes mask the damage.

Paints, glues, and other adhesive materials can be removed with solvents like denatured alcohol, paint thinner, lacquer thinner or acetone (fingernail polish remover).

CAUTION: Some solvents are extremely flammable; follow all warnings on the solvent container.



To remove stains, use full strength Fantastik®, Formula 409®, or other mild household cleaner and allow it to draw out the stain. Blot with a clean, damp cloth, and rinse with clean water.

  • Stubborn Stains
    Some stains may require repeated cleanings before the stain disappears such as:

food stains
glass rings
food dyes


water marks
coffee or tea stains

Stains which may not disappear even after repeated cleaning, include:

wood stains
indelible inks


food pricing label ink
marking pens

  • Permanent Stains
    Some materials and liquids, such as dyes and pharmaceutical products, will permanently stain laminate. Examples include:

hair dyes and rinses
silver nitrate
laundry bluing
tannic acid


Mercurochrome®, povidone-iodine
dermatological tar compounds
marking pens

Stubborn stains may be reduced by applying a paste of baking soda and water on the area to pull out the stain. The paste will be slightly abrasive, so do not rub. Wipe up the paste with a clean, damp, non-abrasive cotton cloth, and then rinse with clean water.

Regular applications of a self-cleaning wax can help minimize future staining.


Bacteria Resistance

A recent study conducted by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based organization that develops educational materials and research for the retail food industry measured the bacteria-resistance capacity of six common countertop materials.

Each surface was contaminated with E. coli (nearly 2 billion of the microorganisms), washed and rinsed with soap and water and then sanitized with a vinegar-and-water solution. The results are shown in the table below.

Surface Microorganisms
Eliminated by Cleaning

Stainless Steel
Ceramic Tile


79, 432,823
498, 884
293, 765
32, 810
2, 080

Dr. O. Peter Snyder Jr., who conducted the study, says, "We hope our research will help consumers make healthy decisions when selecting a countertop surface for their kitchens."

Maintenance Use a soft, non-abrasive cloth and a mild household cleaner. Always rinse laminate surfaces after cleaning.

Failure to rinse after cleaning is a major cause of damage to a laminate surface. If even a small amount of cleaning solution remains on the surface, moisture from cups or dishes can reactivate it and result in permanently etched scars.

When in doubt about the suitability of a particular cleaner, detergent, or other substance, consult with its manufacturer to make sure it is recommended for use on decorative laminate surfaces.