Four reasons to love your laminate countertops

ConsumerReports.org

Some home buyers turn up their noses at laminate kitchen counters but laminate has its advantages. For starters, the counters are easy to maintain and in Consumer Reports' tests of 14 materials, laminate resisted stains, heat, and impact almost as well as materials that cost much more. And they come in a wide variety of colors and designs.

When asked, 71 percent of prospective home buyers said that granite and natural stone countertops are desirable or essential, according to a new study from the National Association of Home Builders. On the flip side, 40 percent of those asked said they would be unlikely to buy a home with laminate countertops, although that number dropped to 25 percent for first-time buyers. The foodies on Chowhound have an ongoing debate over whether they should openly embrace their love of laminate. Here's why it might work for you.


The price is right.
Laminate is inexpensive and usually costs a lot less than most other materials. It's about $10 to $40 a square foot installed. Look at the largest samples available and try them out in your kitchen. The Design Center on Formica's website invites you to design your own kitchen so you can see what the counters would look like. Keep in mind that unlike pricier materials, laminate can be replaced at a fraction of the cost.

[Looking to replace your countertops? Click to find the right contractor for the project now.]

They last. Countertops take a lot of wear and tear so you'll want some idea of how they'll age before choosing a material. In Consumer Reports' countertop tests we stained, sliced, scratched, scorched, and nicked 14 materials from leading brands and found enormous differences in materials but little variation among brands. That's why we rated materials, not brands. Stains and heat weren't a problem for laminate in our tests, but it was easily scratched by knives and isn't repairable so if you choose it, always use a cutting board.

It's not granite. For years some have predicted that granite was on its way out, saying it's been overused and will become as outdated as avocado green appliances. But the NAHB study showed that granite countertops are as desirable now as they were in 2007. On the up side, while granite became more popular, laminate got better looking. Formica's new Anniversary Collection features 12 graphic patterns with a mid-century modern flair, including Dotscreen's microdots and Halftone's printing screen vibe. They're $12 per square foot installed.

It's lost its edge. Cool colors and patterns have been added but until recently that ugly dark line along the laminate countertop edge remained. Formica loses the dark seam by adding a decorative edge. The bullnose is rounded at the top and bottom while the ogee edge has an S-shaped curve. Wilsonart also offers decorative edges for its laminate countertops and integrated sinks are also an option.

Before you start shopping, look at our countertop Ratings and think about the pros and cons of each material. Once you choose, have the fabricator take the final measurements—and responsibility for their accuracy. Your contract should list counter thickness and finish, as well as fees for sink and faucet cutouts, edges, back splash, and removal of the old counters.

If you're considering counters for a remodeling project, see Consumer Reports guides to updating your kitchen and remodeling your bathroom.


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