Laminates get a bad reputation when pitted up against solid wood worktops. So, let’s try to give an unbiased take on laminates. Unlike some furnishing suppliers we produce both. By produce, we really mean totally end to end. From the licensed and managed woods where we harvest materials, we transport them to our warehouse for maturing and pre-cutting. Then, we join staves, and bond the laminate worktop into the final product before our two man delivery team brings it to your door!
So, if anyone can comment it’s us at House of Worktops. Shall we dive in?
As is with most of life, there are advantages and disadvantages to both laminates and solid wood, and your lifestyle taste and preferences are going to rank these differently.
Laminate table tops
Formed from a thin layer of the ‘dressing wood’ over a pressboard, or medium to high-density fibreboard underwood, they are far more varied than natural wood. Often heavily stained, varnished or boasting scratch-resistant polymer coatings, they often attempt to imitate popular hardwoods like oak, teak and walnut. The notion of an imitation laminate worktop has unfairly led to them being seen as tacky or tasteless, but a well planned and fabricated laminate surface can be convincing to anyone inexperienced with carpentry or antique furniture. They are not limited to mimicking wood; marble, slate and homogenous matt finishes are also available.
The extra protection offered by a polymer coating may seem at first to extend the life span of the surfaces, but it is more of a necessary mitigation against damage; a laminate worktop can be deeply scratched or singed by the bottom of hot saucepans. The options for recovery are limited; any attempt to sand down the laminate would remove the thin layer of dressing wood, leaving you with a bare MDF worktop.
Solid wood construction is both limited to and enriched by its construction materials. Although oiling is common and sometimes coloured waxes are used, this is always done thoughtfully in the spirit of revealing the natural grain, rather than obscuring or hiding the wood. This puts far more importance on the wood in question; perhaps walnut is just too dark or beech to pale to fit in with the rest of your kitchen.
Once a wooden worktop is installed, it is not the end of your DIY. Your work surfaces will need regular oiling, once every six to eight weeks with light buffing. Although the wood has long since stopped growing, it will change over time, with each oiling deepening it. As it ages over the coming decades, UV light may also alter its shade.
It’s complicated. The upfront costs are clearly in the laminate’s favour and makes it the clear choice, but long-term, solid wood wins. For low maintenance, choose laminate but if you want character, pick wood. It seems to be a question of permanence; are you going to have this for so long you’re going to forget the initial price and enjoy caring for it? Or is just a means to an end? Something to make dinner on, that you’re happy to replace when its useful time is up?