Solid surface countertops are found in many industrial and laboratory settings because of their versatility, durability and easy maintenance.
These qualities are a product of the way solid surface countertops are constructed and the materials used to create them.
What are solid surface countertops made of? Solid surface countertops are made from a non-porous, homogeneous material that maintains the same composition throughout the countertop. Solid surface is similar to a plastic in that it is often made from a resin and features a filler material. The make-up is generally around 66% minerals and 33% binding resins.
Resin materials can vary, from acrylic to polyester and plastic. The mineral portion of the mixture depends on the desired final look and may include minerals like marble and granite. The mineral portion also typically includes aluminum trihydrate, which is a fine white powder that is responsible for the smooth appearance that solid surface counters feature.
How Solid Surface Countertops Are Made
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.
This mixture chemically cures and is heated to 140 degrees F or more to form a solid material that can be customized to a specific size and shape.
Depending on the desired resistance to conditions found in a space, the material may be heated to around 320 degrees F and cooled in order to improve the countertop’s heat resistance.
It’s important to note that this material can also be molded to create sinks and other fixtures commonly found in manufacturing and laboratory spaces.
Finishes can include gel coating, gloss, matte and textured appearances.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Solid Surface Countertops
Like any countertop, solid surface countertops come with advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed when considering whether this type of material is right for your application.
Advantages Of Solid Surface Countertops
Solid surface countertops are in high demand today largely because of their aesthetics. Because they generally feature invisible seams, several pieces can be molded to fit perfectly together and used across a large area of countertop space.
They can also be created using a variety of fillers to mimic natural, high-end materials or to create vibrant colors and textures for a customized look.
However, solid surface countertops also feature several practical advantages, making them a great choice in many manufacturing and laboratory environments. These advantages include:
- A non-porous surface, which keeps bacteria, mildew and stains away
- Resistance to impacts due to its homogeneous makeup, faring better than multi-layered countertops like laminate
- Easy maintenance, since solid surface countertops do not require extensive care for cleaning (often only soap and water or a mild cleaner)
Solid surface countertops are also easier to repair than many materials. When minor damage occurs, it can be easily fixed by sanding the damaged area out with sandpaper or an orbital sander.
Disadvantages Of Solid Surface Countertops
Solid surface countertops do not offer the same level of resistance to many of the harsh conditions found in laboratories as other materials like phenolic resin and epoxy resin. For example, they are:
- Not heat resistant, and may discolor or crack when they come in contact with open flames and other heat sources
- More prone to scratches since this material is softer than others like epoxy resin, especially when glossy finishes are used
- May show imperfections more when you choose a natural stone finish versus a color finish, since the color pigment goes through the entire surface
Depending on which resin material you choose, you may have more advantages or disadvantages. For example, polyester-based surfaces are more fragile than acrylic resin and it can be more difficult to achieve a seamless solid seam. On the other hand, polyester is typically more inexpensive than acrylic and can absorb vibrant colors and glossy finishes better.
The Best Choice For Your Workspace?
Solid surface countertops offer several advantages thanks to the materials used and how they are constructed.
From a non-porous surface that keeps mildew, bacteria and stains away, to its seamless look that can be customized with a variety of colors and finishes, there is a lot to appreciate about this workstation top.
However, if your workspace regularly sees the use of harsh chemicals, high heat and sharp tools, another countertop material might be a better choice.
Some of the most popular materials used in extreme environments to consider include:
- Phenolic resin, which offers high resistance to bacteria, chemicals, fungus, moisture and scratches
- Epoxy resin, which offers high resistance to bacteria, chemicals, fungus, moisture and scratches, as well as holds up well against continuous heat exposure above 350 degrees F
- Chemical laminate, which is a budget-friendly choice that offers protection against exposure to acids, bases, salts, halogens, organic chemicals, solvents and biological materials
The best countertop manufacturer will work with you to determine which material is best for your application, as well as help you customize your preferences based on your needs. Our article, Solid Surface Countertops | Pros And Cons, offers more information about this popular choice in labs today, while our article, Top 5 Materials To Consider For Your Lab Countertops, offers some alternatives to consider when making this important decision for your workspace.