Using the terms "high-end" or "luxury" in conjunction with countertops made from laminates may strike you as an oxymoron. After all, laminate countertops have long been considered an inexpensive, bargain choice when it comes to a countertop material. Even the surge in mid-century modern design trends, with their fondness for laminates, hasn't completely wiped out the reputation of laminate as a cheap countertop choice. Generally speaking, it is still countertop materials such as granite or engineered quartz that are thought to add real estate value to a home, while laminates are thought to be decidedly low-end.
Finally, though, the laminate countertop industry has begun to change that by offering laminate counters designed to appeal to buyers and remodelers interested in higher-end kitchens and bathrooms.
Most luxury laminates fall into the category of high-pressure laminates (HPLs). High-pressure laminates are second-generation descendants of the original plastic laminates, and they often include special properties such as very high resistance to wear, fire, and chemicals. Some grades of HPL can be shaped into ornate edging treatments.
HPLs are produced with multiple layers of kraft paper bonded with phenolic resin and topped with printed decor layer, which is then fused under high heat and pressure to form a rigid laminated sheet. The high temperatures used in the manufacturing process create very strong bonds that make for a very durable product.
Here are three of the best laminate countertops.
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Wilsonart HD (High Definition) Laminates
Wilsonart has always been a dependable name in laminate countertops, and their HD® product line features laminates with greater visual depth and up to fives times the wearability of standard laminates. These products also incorporate antimicrobial protection. To identify these luxury laminates, look for Wilsonart products identified as including AEON technology.
The HD line includes 36 different options in a variety of stone- and wood-look patterns. With design patterns as much as 60 inches across, it is relatively easy to create countertops that realistically mimic natural stone and wood.
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Absolutely the most recognized name in laminate counters, Formica has shaken off many of its associations with the past with its new 180fx™ series. There are 32 different patterns offered, including large-scale images of real, natural stone and a wood-grain walnut. The large patterns allow for full countertops that don't have the pattern repeats that defeat the realism of many stone-look and wood-look laminates.
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Pionite is a brand from Panolam Surfacing Systems, who is also the parent company of Nevamar, one of the biggest names in laminates.
Pionite HPL (High-Pressure Laminate) performs well in commercial applications, but you'll find that it works well in your home, too. While Pionite does offer the usual solid colors and woodgrains, this division of the Panolam Surfacing Systems company also has an enticing Abstracts series that mimics certain natural stones, as well as some patterns that look simply...abstract. Patterns and colors aside, these products are also available in a variety of finishes, ranging from textured matt finishes to sleek, shiny glosses.
With hundreds of variations, Pionite HPL includes the greatest range of options among the luxury laminates offered by the major manufacturers.