Solid surface countertops are a hot commodity in workspaces, thanks to their easy maintenance and attractive aesthetics.
If these advantages have you sold and you’re ready to order, it’s important to take one final look and ensure that the material you are purchasing is right for your workspace. After all, especially in labs and manufacturing environments, selecting the right countertop material is essential to maintaining a productive workspace and avoiding costly repairs.
Before you order solid surface countertops online, make sure you:
- Consult with the manufacturer or one of its distributors
- Evaluate your work environment
- Review your budget
- Consider your total cost of ownership
Consult With The Manufacturer Or One Of Its Distributors
Most manufacturers and retail stores that sell countertops prefer that you contact them so that they can discuss project specifics with you. Few allow you to order solid surface countertops online, although it is possible in some cases to order samples on the web.
Solid surface countertops are made from a non-porous, homogeneous material that maintains the same composition throughout the countertop. Because of this, they generally feature invisible seams and can come in large pieces or be molded to fit perfectly together. It’s important to consider what type of shipping and installation accommodations you will need, which can be addressed by the manufacturer as well.
The best manufacturers and distributors will also work with you to determine whether solid surface countertops are the right choice for your workspace. Keep in mind that you may require more from your countertops in a workspace than you would if you were ordering them for a home environment, such as a kitchen or bathroom.
Evaluate Your Work Environment
Do you regularly use harsh chemicals? Are open flames common in your workspace? Do your employees use heavy or sharp equipment?
These are all important questions to ask before you order solid surface countertops.
Solid surface countertops offer a lot of advantages. In addition to easy maintenance and the fact that they can be customized by shape, color and pattern, solid surface countertops are also easy to repair. Even though they fare better when impacted compared to multi-layered countertops like laminate, if damage does occur, they can be easily repaired by sanding the damaged area out with sandpaper or an orbital sander.
However, solid surface countertops are not right for every environment. They are not resistant to many of the harsh chemicals commonly found in laboratories and are not heat resistant. In fact, solid surfaces can discolor or crack when they come in contact with heat.
Solid surface countertops can also scratch easily, and because of this, their aesthetics can suffer, especially when glossy finishes are used.
The best manufacturers and distributors will review with you the requirements of your lab or manufacturing space to ensure that you are selecting the right material for your countertop. They may instead suggest other top materials like phenolic resin or epoxy resin, which tend to hold up better against the harsh conditions found in labs like chemicals and corrosion.
Review Your Budget
Solid surface countertops can range greatly in price, but generally fall in between $50 and $200 per square foot. If you are expecting your total costs to fall closer to the lower end of that range, it’s a good idea to understand what types of customizations you can expect.
This is another reason why it’s important to consult with a manufacturer or distributor, since knowledgeable representatives can work with you to maximize the customizations you want that fall within your budget.
While some customizations may come standard with a purchase or for a modest upgrade cost, others may cost significantly more. Here are some additional factors that may influence the average cost of the solid surface countertops:
- Heat resistance: Depending on the desired resistance to conditions found in a workspace, the material can also be heated to around 320 degrees F and cooled in order to improve the countertop’s heat resistance.
- Pigments: When solid surface countertops are constructed, the minerals and binding resins are mixed with a powdered filler (typically aluminum trihydrate) and pigments. Fillers and pigments can mimic the appearance of granite, marble and stone. They can also create colorful designs that range from beige hues to warm golds, rich blues and vibrant reds.
- Special finishes: Finishes can include gel coating, gloss, matte and textured appearances.
- Edging finishes: Certain edges of the countertops like square or eased tend to be less costly than specialty edging finishes like French cove or beveled.
- Added features: Adding items like sinks and backsplashes made out of the same material can increase the cost of your overall purchase.
Shipping costs can also add to your final project cost. Shipping distance is an important consideration, because the longer the distance, the more you may pay. Typically, the shipping cost will be quoted to you separately.
You can read more about the price of solid surface countertops in our article, How Much Do Solid Surface Countertops Cost?
Consider Your Total Cost Of Ownership
Solid surface countertops offer a durable option for many work environments. However, before you order solid surface countertops, it’s a good idea to run a final price check that includes the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
TCO is an estimate that factors in not only the purchase price, but the total expected cost of maintaining a product over the course of its lifespan. That means that when evaluating whether solid surface countertops are the right choice for your workspace, you should consider factors like:
- Whether solid surface countertops may be more susceptible to damage in your lab, and if that will impact whether replacement countertops or upgrades are needed in the future
- If repairs will take place in-house by your staff or if you will need to outsource any repairs to a professional (prompting additional costs)
- If the cost of shipping when ordering from one company will negate any cost-savings benefits of choosing that company
- Whether a delay in shipping when ordering from one company will cause downtime in your workspace
Consulting with a manufacturer ahead of time will also provide an opportunity for you to inquire about warranties and better understand what is covered and for how long.
Like any major addition to your lab, solid surface countertops are an investment. Doing your homework ahead of time and developing a relationship with your countertop manufacturer can go a long way in ensuring your investment meets the needs of your workspace in the long term.