When Should You Replace Your Lab Countertops?

Feb 29, 2024 7:33:13 AM / by WSI Team

In harsh environments where experiments and high-stakes work occur, lab countertops can take the biggest beating. 


Chemicals, liquids, heat, commercial cleaners, abrasions and heavy lab equipment are all part of a day in the life of a typical lab countertop.


High quality lab countertops are a significant investment, so it’s important that they last as long as possible in your lab environment. You may even hope that they stand the test of time. Eventually, however, they may need to be repaired or replaced completely. 

That poses the question: When should you replace your lab countertops? For many materials, there are key signs that indicate they are in need of a replacement.



Epoxy Resin



 The level of wear and tear your countertops endure depends on the material that you have used for your countertopslab countertops and the type of work you do in your lab. This also impacts what the signs are that it’s time for a change.  


 Let’s look at some of the most typical materials that are used in lab environments and when it is time to replace them:


Epoxy resin worksurfaces are durable, non-porous, monolithic products that are resistant to attack by most chemicals, and are heat, flame and moisture resistant.  Epoxy resin countertops are seldom compromised, but occasionally things happen that create a need for replacement.


Damage Indicating Replacement


  • Joint Failure and Fractures: These are typically caused by harsh chemicals,  like liquid nitrogen and dry ice. These can become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria, particularly for labs that use liquids and biological specimens. They can also compromise the physical integrity of the laboratory work surfaces.
  • Excessive Scratching: Deep scratches usually result from harder metals, abrasives and heavy or sharp items digging into the surface. Sharp laboratory equipment and tools in your science lab can scratch a surface, causing a discoloration that is difficult to mask. Replacement is a subjective decision.
  • Chemical Stains and Blistering: Chemicals left to dry on the surface usually lighten or bleach the surface, but can also roughen and even cause blistering or cracks on the top surface.  Like scratches, chemical stains are permanent and, if they have caused too much damage, the work surfaces may need to be replaced.  


How To Prolong Life


With periodic care and maintenance throughout their life, these countertops can last into the long term.  Clean spills and chemicals off the surface promptly, use acetone or household cleaners with a soft cloth, and restore finish by occasionally applying finish oil or Murphy’s oil. Never use wax or a polish containing wax, abrasive pads, powders or liquids (such as Soft Scrub) on epoxy resin work surfaces.


Inspect joints and sinks weekly or bi-weekly for cracked or pitted joints and fill immediately with two-part Smooth-On epoxy adhesive to prevent leaking and migration of chemicals or other harmful liquids that may damage the supporting casework.



Phenolic Resin



Phenolic resin worksurfaces are durable and completely free of pores, making it nearly impervious to any and all materials that may be spilled on them. They are resistant to nearly everything...chemicals, moisture, bacteria and fungus.

Damage Indicating Replacement



  • Exposure to Fire: When phenolic resin is exposed to fire or temperature over 400 degrees for a long period of time, these worksurfaces lose strength and can  fail.
  • Excessive Scratching: Scratches resulting from abrasive materials cause a dulling of the surface and may impact the smooth, pore-free surface.  This can affect the imperviousness of these worksurfaces to chemicals,  moisture, bacteria and fungus. While rare, replacement is necessary when testing shows the surface has been compromised.



How To Prolong Life


Clean spills up immediately with a soft towel, such as a chamois cloth, and a mild cleaning agent. Take care of chemical spills, splashes and splatters immediately, especially if the agent is toxic or corrosive. Once the chemical is cleaned up according to its specific protocol, it’s important to use the correct cleaning products for the counter after that.

Do not use harsh abrasives, scrubbing pads or powdered cleaning agents, because they may damage the non-porous surface.



Stainless Steel



Stainless steel countertops have a non-porous surface that is resistant to chemicals, moisture, bacteria, mold and other

lab countertops

common germs. Best of all, it is flame retardant.

Damage Indicating Replacement



  • Pitting Corrosion: This occurs when the passive layer on stainless steel is attacked by chemicals,  most commonly the chloride ions found in salt and bleach. The integrity of the stainless steel is compromised and over time cracking can occur, damaging the substructure underneath.
  • Stress Corrosion Cracking: This is a relatively rare form of corrosion because it requires a very specific combination of tensile stress, temperature and corrosive chemicals for it to occur. But when it does, all of the resistance benefits are compromised, as well as the substructure which is usually wood.



How To Prolong Life


Make sure not to use chemicals that can corrode or damage the passive layer on stainless steel, such as sea water, salts and bleach.

You can use warm water and a mild detergent or vinegar with a soft cloth or paper towel to clean the surface.  Chemical spills should be cleaned up according to their required protocols.



ESD and Chemical Resistant Laminate



Widely used in the electronics industry and clean room applications, ESD laminate work surfaces are made of high pressure laminate with a carbon layer for dissipation of static. 

Chemical resistant laminate worksurfaces are similar, but have a resin coating for chemical resistance.


Damage Indicating Replacement



  • Surface Punctures and Deep Scratches: Damaging these laminates with sharp objects or abrasives can affect the ESD and chemical resistance properties. Once the coatings on these laminates have been compromised, ESD protection may be lost or chemicals can absorb into the substructure creating damage.
  • Delamination: Heat, moisture and hitting seams or edges can create delamination, where the laminate starts to separate from its substructure. Sometimes it can be repaired, but the risk is that the ESD or chemical resistance properties have been  compromised.



How To Prolong Life


Do not damage surfaces with abrasives, sharp objects, high heat or flames. Check worksurfaces regularly for damage, wear and tear. ESD worksurfaces will need to be tested regularly with a megohmmeter to make sure it meets required standards.


Clean ESD surfaces periodically, using a plain cotton rag with a good ammoniated detergent. For chemical resistant laminate use warm water and mild soap.

Signs That Any Countertop May Need To Be Replaced


If you have a lab countertop constructed of a material not mentioned above on your lab tables or workstations, there are some general signs that you should be aware of that signal it’s time for replacement. 

These signs include:


  • Significant chipping, cracking, or breakage
  • Deep scratches or gouges that compromise the surface integrity
  • Warping or buckling of the countertop material
  • Staining or discoloration that cannot be removed with standard cleaning methods
  • Degradation of chemical resistance, leading to increased vulnerability to corrosive substances
  • Loss of structural integrity, such as sagging or bending under weight
  • Excessive wear and tear, especially in high-traffic or high-use areas of the countertop


It’s also important to consider that many companies simply outgrow or change how they use their labs over time.  Technology changes, new chemical compounds created, new processes and experiments conducted, and/or additional research and development may all impact the type of countertop you now need.

When considering a reconfiguration or redesign, it is always a good idea to consider whether the work surface material currently being used still applies for the work being done now.


Our article, Top 5 Materials You Should Consider For Your Lab offers suggestions on the most effective countertop materials designed for common lab conditions.


laboratory furniture

Topics: Work Surfaces, Laboratory Furniture

WSI Team

Written by WSI Team

Employees of Workstation Industries who write on different topics to inform and educate.

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