01 of 05
Same Fillers, Different Resins
Not all solid surface counters are made with the same ingredients. Some are considered acrylic and some polyester.
Both words are shorthand for complex formulas of resins + fillers. While fillers--essentially the "body" of the material--will be similar between the two (usually a white fine powder called alumina trihydrate), the quantity of acrylics or polyesters within the resins will differ.
Solid surface manufacturers don't make the resin content obvious; it's something... you may need to search for in technical specifications.
02 of 05
Is One More Durable Than The Other?
All solid surface counters, no matter the brand, no matter the blend, will scratch. That is why you need to religiously use cutting boards on this material.
Avonite puts it succinctly when they say, "Solid surface scratches...because the items that are deposited on it are harder than it is." This axiom applies to any kind of counter material, not just solid surface.
Using the Barcol indentation test, polyester and acrylic, while not exactly the same, are close enough that differences... are functionally insignificant. Both stand up equally well to boiling water (212 degrees F), a minimum standard for residential kitchen counters.
One difference is that acrylic counters should not be installed in spaces where solvents (dental glues, ketones, acetones, nail polish removers, thinners, etc.) are used. These substance will damage acrylic surfaces. This mostly applies to commercial spaces (dental offices, nail salons, etc.), it is good to know that polyester is preferable in residential areas where these substances may be used.
03 of 05
Polyester: Points To Help You Decide
- If you want a high-gloss finish, you may want to go with polyester. This material imparts brilliant color and texture when honed.
- Polyester 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, it is another potential failure point.
- Brand examples: Avonite Studio Collection, Swanstone.
04 of 05
Acrylic: Points To Help You Decide
Continue to 5 of 5 below.
- Less visual depth than polyester.
- Exhibits greater tensile and flexural strength than polyester.
- If you want a lower gloss, choose acrylic. Acrylic shows off its best side when polished to lower glosses.
- Solid seams.
- Plan on thermoforming? Solid surfaces can be "baked" in industrial ovens and curved to create fantastic 3D shapes. Acrylic solid surfaces lend themselves more to thermoforming and can be bent to tighter radii.
- Brand examples: Avonite Foundations, Staron.
05 of 05
Which Should I Choose?
The world of solid surfaces is slowly shifting from polyesters to acrylics; 80% of the market is now acrylic. Formica is one such company that is in transition. It is possible to still purchase polyester-based solid surfaces (Swanstone and Avonite Studio Collection are two examples).
Acrylic solid surfaces are less liable to chipping and cracking during fabrication. During use, if cracks do occur, they likely will occur along the seams. That is one reason why acrylic's superior seaming... properties push it to the top of the market.
You'll find both polyester and acrylic adherents, touting the cause of one over the other. I believe that one reason for the polyester-to-acrylic shift is because it benefits the manufacturers: with a more stable product, fewer warranty claims and complaints result (Countertops are not exempt from class action suits. While unrelated to the acrylic vs. polyester issue, Wilsonart paid out $23 million in 2004 for defective solid surface veneer tops).