When Should You Replace Your Lab Countertops?

Jun 26, 2017 2:20:03 PM / by Albert Cappello

In lab environments, the lab countertops take the biggest beating. Chemicals, liquids, heat, commercial cleaners, and abrasions from moving equipment around are all part of a day in the life of a typical lab countertop.

 Companies and institutions spend a lot of money creating their labs, and they need them to last as long as possible. So, how do you know when it is time to replace your existing lab countertops?

 There are typically two reasons that your lab countertops need to be replaced...wear and tear that has impacted their effectiveness and reconfiguring or redesigning your lab.


Wear and Tear

 The level of wear and tear your countertops endure depends on the material that you have used for your 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

 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 lab countertopsbecome 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. They cause a discoloration on the surface 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 a long time.  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.


  work surface chemical resistant chart

Stainless Steel

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

lab countertopsDamage 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.



Many companies outgrow or change how they use their labs over time.  Technology changes, new chemical compounds are created, new processes and experiments are conducted, and/or additional research and development is required. All of these situations can create the need for changes in labs.

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

You can read about the top 5 materials you should consider for your lab and when to use which one here.


Prevention is Better Than Replacement

Lab countertops today need to stand the test of time and last as long as possible. With proper usage, care and maintenance, your investment will serve your business well and more than pay for itself.  

By taking proper care of them, you can extend their usage for years to come.



modular laboratory furniture


Topics: Work Surfaces, Laboratory Furniture

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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