Types Of Industrial Workbench Tops

Sep 30, 2019 11:00:00 AM / by Albert Cappello

The material you choose for your industrial workbench tops plays a crucial role in how well your laboratory or manufacturing space functions.

It’s an important business decision … after all, you don’t want to overspend for a material you don’t need, but you also don’t want to pick a surface that won’t withstand the elements in your workspace that could end up costing you more money in the long run.

When choosing which top that is the right investment for your space, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What chemicals are used in my workspace?
  • Do I need a workbench top that provides abrasive or moisture resistance?
  • Do my workers use sources of heat?
  • What level of cleanability do I need?
  • What is my budget? 

Answering these questions before you begin searching for the top industrial workbench options for your space will better prepare you for the various types currently on the market. Until then, here’s a glance at some of the workbench tops you’ll want to consider.


Phenolic Resin


Phenolic resin countertops are manufactured by layering natural kraft paper that has been saturated with phenolic resin and processed under high heat. 

This process produces a solid, lightweight top that is durable and long-lasting … an important trait for laboratory and manufacturing workbenches.

Some of the best applications for phenolic resin tops is in biological, chemical, clinical and analytical labs, or labs where performing experiments and tests depend on non-contamination.

That’s because some of the benefits this material provides include:

  • Highly resistant to bacteria, chemicals, fungus and moisture
  • Moderately to highly resistant to corrosion
  • Moderate duty
  • Protects against scratches
  • Can withstand continuous heat exposure up to 350 degrees F
  • Holds up well to impact and stress fractures
  • Mid-price

Although phenolic resin tops can withstand continuous heat exposure up until a certain point, it is not flame retardant. In other words, this type of material isn’t recommended for use where an open flame is present.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a highly chemically resistant workbench top that is available at a reasonable price, this is the one for you. 


Epoxy Resin


Epoxy resin is another good choice in spaces that use harsh chemicals, though unlike phenolic resin, can be used around open flames. 

That means places like hospitals, research and development labs, industrial testing and microbiology labs may benefit from this type of work surface. 

Benefits include:

  • Easy to clean
  • Highly resistant to bacteria, chemicals, fungus, corrosion and moisture
  • Heavy duty
  • Protects against scratches
  • Can withstand continuous heat exposure above 350 degrees F
  • Holds up well to impact and stress fractures
  • Flame retardant

However, with these attractive benefits comes price. Epoxy resin tops are the most expensive, in part because of the limited number of manufacturers that produce this durable top that is perfect for extreme lab conditions.

Bottom line: If you’re looking to make a significant investment that will last in a harsh environment, epoxy resin workbench tops can handle the challenge.


work surface chemical resistant chart

Stainless Steel


Stainless steel countertops are constructed using low carbon steel made of chromium and nickel. This chromium makes the top resistant to rust and corrosion, while the nickel element makes it stain and heat resistant.

That means this is a great choice for pharmaceutical labs, biological science labs, clean rooms, hospitals and other workspaces where results depend on non-contamination. 

Benefits of stainless steel workbench tops include:

  • Highly resistant to bacteria and fungus
  • Moderately resistant to chemicals and corrosion
  • Moderate to heavy duty
  • Highly resistant to water and moisture
  • Can withstand heat exposures above 1,500 degrees F, but may discolor at prolonged high temperatures
  • Modern look

Stainless steel workbench tops come with disadvantages as well, however. They don’t resist well to scratches and can dent easily on impact. They are also one of the more expensive options, with epoxy resin the only other material more expensive.

Bottom line: The biggest benefit of stainless steel is its ability to withstand very high heat. If high heat sources are a concern to you, stainless steel might be your best option.


Chemical Resistant Laminate


Chemical resistant laminate is made by applying a melamine resin over decorative surface paper, which is then bonded to a core of kraft papers impregnated with phenolic resin. This produces a decorative work surface that is both functional and durable. 

This type of workbench top is a great choice for spaces where results depend on non-contamination, but do not require as high of resistance in other areas, like heat.

Benefits include:

  • High chemical resistance
  • Heat exposure up to 275 degrees F
  • Designer looks
  • Mid-price

As mentioned above, chemical resistant laminate tops do not hold up as well to bacteria, corrosion, fungus, water, moisture and scratches. However, the price is right with this type of surface. Plus, it provides a more designer look than the other options. 

Bottom line: Chemical resistant laminate should only be used for dry applications, as it can damage more easily than other options available.


Other Types


In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are a handful of other options, depending on your application. 

High pressure laminate tops, for instance, are generally the most economical option. However, unlike chemical resistant laminate tops, they must be used in a chemical-free setting. 

Butcher block tops are another option, but they are traditionally used in woodworking and basic assembly applications. That’s because while this type of material is sturdy, it’s also porous and can dent easily. 

ESD laminate surfaces are popular for applications where parts and materials are sensitive to static and need protection. This type of workbench top can be expensive, but is a must in workspaces where static charge can impact both the product and worker safety.

Bottom line: There’s a lot of options available to you that range greatly in price, from high pressure laminate tops on the lower end of the scale, to ESD laminate on the higher end. Keep in mind it’s important to choose the best material that meets your lab’s needs so that you can get the most out of your investment in the long run.


Final Note


It’s important to keep in mind that as you choose your material, you’ll need to consider what’s on the horizon for your company. Technology is constantly changing, and new experiments or projects you take on may require additional changes to your lab or manufacturing space. 

That’s why before making a final decision, take into consideration what future work may come your way that would warrant a change in workbench top material.


countertops for lab

Albert Cappello

Written by Albert Cappello

Albert Cappello is the CEO of Workstation Industries, Inc. WSI is a manufacturer of Industrial, Technical and Laboratory Furniture based in Southern California.

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