When solid surface countertop material rolled onto the market in the late 1960s, it changed kitchens forever. Now there was an alternative to stone, laminate, and tile countertops that was soft, easy to work on, and repairable. Homeowners adopted solid surface in great numbers, too, because of its attractive price point.
Not all solid-surface countertops are made with the same ingredients. They typically are categorized as being either acrylic or polyester solid-surface materials, depending on the predominant ingredients.
01 of 08
What Solid Surface Is
The term solid-surface material refers to a class of synthetic building material that began with the creation of Corian by the Dupont Corporation in 1967. By the 1980s, solid-surface material was in widespread use as a countertop material.
Easy to fabricate and care for, solid-surface countertops are still an excellent choice for many applications—more durable and attractive than most laminates and considerably less expensive than natural or composite stone.
02 of 08
Solid Surface Counter Composition
Solid-surface material is defined as a substance that combines alumina trihydrate (ATH) as filler with acrylic or polyester resins, along with added pigments.
With polyester or acrylic solid surface materials, each type has some advantages and disadvantages. Polyester solid surface is high-gloss yet fairly brittle. Acrylic solid surface has more of a flat, matte texture and is relatively durable.
Most solid-surface manufacturers do not make the resin content obvious. You will need to search the technical specifications to learn if a particular manufacturer's solid-surface material is based on acrylic or polyester.
03 of 08
Polyester Solid-Surface Countertops
- If you want a high-gloss finish, you may want to go with polyester. This material imparts brilliant color and texture when sanded and polished.
- Polyester solid-surface material is more brittle than acrylic. However, most of the danger of breakage occurs during transportation and fabrication, not consumer usage.
- Fabricators may have a more difficult time ensuring a solid seam with polyester materials than with acrylic. Polyester requires that the ends be abraded so that the adhesive can properly stick. While competent fabricators should be able to do this, seam failure sometimes does occur with polyester countertops.
- Polyester is a less expensive material than acrylic, so countertops typically are slightly more affordable.
04 of 08
Acrylic Solid-Surface Countertops
Continue to 5 of 8 below.
- Acrylic solid surface counters have less visual depth than polyester counters. The surface has a flat, matte finish.
- Exhibits greater tensile and flexural strength than polyester.
- If you want a lower gloss, choose acrylic countertops. Acrylic shows off its best side when polished to lower glosses.
- Seams are virtually invisible and unlikely to ever fail.
- Acrylic solid surfaces lend themselves more to thermoforming and can be bent to tighter curves. For this reason, acrylic offers more options for integral sink/countertop products.
- Acrylics are less susceptible to fading and discoloring from UV light.
05 of 08
All solid-surface countertops—no matter the brand, no matter the blend—will scratch. That is why you need to religiously use cutting boards on this material.
Major solid surface brand Avonite notes: "Solid surface scratches...because the items that are deposited on it are harder than it is." Then again, this idea applies to any kind of countertop material, not just solid-surface. And solid-surface material can usually be repaired by wet sanding, unlike most other materials.
Using the Barcol indentation test, polyester and acrylic exhibit some differences in their susceptibility to scratches, though the distinction is so minor that they are functionally insignificant. Both polyester and acrylic solid-surface materials stand up equally well to boiling water (212 degrees Fahrenheit), a minimum standard for residential kitchen counters.
06 of 08
Damage From Solvents
One more important difference is that acrylic countertops can be damaged by solvents such dental glues, ketones, acetones, nail polish removers, thinners, etc., and they should not be installed in areas where these materials might be used. This mostly applies to commercial spaces (dental offices, nail salons, etc.), but a homeowner who uses these solvents in craft activities will be better off with polyester countertops.
07 of 08
What to Consider Before Buying Solid Surface Counters
Although it is still possible to purchase polyester-based solid-surface countertops, the preference is gradually shifting to acrylics, which now accounts for about 80-percent of the market.
Acrylic solid surfaces are less brittle and therefore less susceptible to chipping and cracking during fabrication. Professionals like the fact that acrylic surfaces form very tight, secure seams that rarely fail. The better performance—and the large number of manufacturers offering acrylics—is the reason most builders lean toward acrylic countertops.
Polyester solid-surface countertops are preferable where a deep, translucent finish is required, or where you need a countertop that is resistant to solvents such as nail polish remover or acetone.
08 of 08
Solid Surface Counter Brands
- Corian (Dupont)
- Samsung Staron