Want to buy solid surface countertop online? Yeah, right: good luck there. Up until recently, that was the fate of anyone looking to do just that. But then a unique company called SolidSurface.com came along and shook up that paradigm.
To test out this innovation, I ordered countertop from them and documented the process and eventual product in this review.
(Note: If you have a good handle on solid surfaces and just want to know what it is like to deal with and order from SolidSurface.com, skip to section #4 of this review).
1. Background: The Solid Surface Juggernaut
This Is Solid Surface: Solid surface, invented by DuPont under its Corian brand name, was truly innovative when it was invented in 1967. This heavy-weight, solid, homogeneous, non-porous material looked much like stone. But unlike stone, it was workable. You would cut it with an ordinary router, sand it down, and buff it smooth. Also unlike natural stone, it was affordable.
DuPont's Monopoly: One problem, though: DuPont tightly controlled Corian, and Corian was solid surface. When DuPont's patent expired, other companies rushed in to produce this superior kitchen and bath countertop surface.
The Impenetrable Network: Even though the DuPont monopoly no longer existed, an industry-wide juggernaut still kept solid surface firmly and safely in the hands of the industry--an industry that encompassed both solid surface manufacturers, as well as others down the home improvement and construction food chain: contractors, fabricators, installers, designers.
In other words, ordinary homeowners found it impossible to get their greedy mitts on source solid surface materials. And in one sense, it was for a very good reason. Ordinary homeowners, not having solid surface experience, would undoubtedly botch up their fabrication and installation.
2. SolidSurface.com Says, "Solid Surface For the Masses!"
Internet marketer Kyle Carpenter formed SolidSurface.com in 2007 with his father Edwin Carpenter as a way of moving discontinued, overstocked, and damaged products from people who didn't want it (fabricators, installers) to people who did want it (other fabricators and installers, as well as DIYers).
In fact, one of the company's taglines is, "Solid Surface, For Everyone!"
The majority of the products are drop-shipped directly from suppliers, with SolidSurface.com acting as a broker. The remainder comes from the company's Tucson, AZ warehouse.
3. Ordering From SolidSurface.com
I ordered a partial overstock sheet of Corian Night Sky from SolidSurface.com, using its online ordering system. The site is excellent at allowing you to set parameters for your search, and I was able to narrow down the search to the right width and length--but without having to purchase too much product.
- Customer Service: When I called with questions about shipping, the telephone-based customer service at SolidSurface.com proved to be friendly and informative about the shipping part of my question but less so regarding the differences between brands and brand quality. Instead, I was told, essentially, Everything we carry is top quality and no brand is better or worse than another one. It was not the answer I wanted, yet it was not unexpected, either.
- Home Shipping: For DIYers who do not want to drive to their nearest port's freight terminal facility, it boils down to this: partial solid surface sheets get UPS-shipped directly to your home; larger sheets go to the freight terminal, where you must pick them up.
- Expediency: Within two days, SolidSurface.com had already shipped out the material. They send an automated response to your order, with a link that opens directly to UPS tracking. Within one week, the product was delivered to my house, signature required. I was delighted with the transparency and expediency of the shipping process.
- Packing: The solid surface was incredibly well-packed in two layers of sturdy cardboard stapled at the ends.
4. Product Quality
In a generic sense, SolidSurface.com is transparent about the quality of its overstock materials, which it calls "surplus, drop-off, fall-off, or remnants," saying that they
may contain light scratches, scrapes and/or chipped corners. These imperfections can usually be sanded out, or trimmed off.
The most major defects were a couple of deep gouges and a 2" x 0.75" chip on the corner.
Minor defects were the innumerable light scratches all over the surface.
5. Unpredictability of Product
Since the material I ordered--overstocks--are outcasts, one could never expect a perfect sheet of Corian. This review must be couched in that fact, and in the fact that SolidSurface.com sells full sheets, too.
Gouge That Reduces Overall Size
My Corian was advertised as 25.75" wide. But this measurement includes that 0.75" gouge. The gouge renders about 1" of width useless, as that section needs to be cut off (0.75" plus router wastage).
While I will not quibble over an inch or so with remnant solid surface material, what I do find odd is that SolidSurface.com does not make note of this in their product descriptions.
Because I over-ordered the material, I was well covered despite this missing chunk. But what if the chunk extended four or five inches into the material? Or: if SolidSurface.com does impose a size limit on missing material, why not mention that on the site?
What SolidSurface.com could do, though, to prepare customers for imperfections--and make it less of a mysterious process--is to develop a notation system so that details can accompany each item.
Carpenter's company deals with lots of products and the cost-benefit ratio may be too low to provide full details on individual products.
But the sense of elation that I experienced at each step of the purchase process was extinguished at that final moment when I opened the box.
- Bad: Product unpredictability in the area of overstock. It is more about knowing what to expect--and thus planning the rest of your remodel accordingly--than about feeling ripped off.
- Good: Ease of ordering is the company's strongest suit. Where else can a DIYer buy solid surface so easily? Nowhere.
I urge you to read SolidSurface.com's testimonials for a true picture of what it is like to order from this company. Tons of praise, as well as some complaints about shipping times and product quality.
I also urge SolidSurface.com to keep posting all reviews.
In the spirit of Amazon reviews, it's better to keep the dialogue going, good or bad, rather than censor the conversation. Note that the testimonials do not run chronologically. Rather, the 5-star reviews are posted on top, with bad reviews at the end.
I would order from SolidSurface.com again for partial sizes.