What Types of Kitchen Laminate are Available?

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When you're remodeling your kitchen, finish materials are an important consideration. What will you be putting on your floors and countertops? Have you thought about what style of kitchen cabinets you want? And are you aware of the latest trends in types of kitchen laminate? Because there's a whole lot more going on these days than ugly, peeling materials that fade fast and look totally fake. Welcome to the wide world of kitchen laminate products.

Here's how laminate products are made: sheets of paper are fused together with heat and a coating of melamine, which acts as a sealant. Images are printed on the top sheet of paper, and can vary from faux stone to solid colors to bright patterns. The end product is thin, usually about the thickness of a driver's license, but it's extremely durable thanks to the melamine, and it can resist years of hard wear, even on high-traffic flooring and heavily-used countertops.

Laminate comes by the sheet, and also in prefabricated panels. Sheets of laminate can be carefully cut and pressed into place, or contractors can take advantage of prefabricated panels for faster and easier installation. Contractors are usually required for complex installations involving curved edges, recessed sinks, and other tricky bits, because they have the tools and the experience to place the laminate correctly. Materials costs can vary, depending on the style, but generally laminate rings in at about $1.50-$3.00 per square foot for the most basic, and upwards of $20 for more high-grade products, while installation costs depend on the application and the setting.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate used in flooring is thicker, with a tough melamine layer to protect it from dropped pans, heavy foot traffic, and the other hardships that kitchen floors have to endure. Here's another place where laminate can really shine, as faux finishes can include a variety of tile, stone, and wood looks for the kitchen that are surprisingly realistic and natural.

One huge advantage to installing laminate flooring is that it's very easy to maintain, requiring less work than actual wood, tile, or stone floors. It can be wiped down with gentle cleaning materials, rather than requiring painstaking cleaning and scrubbing as with stone and tile, or careful management with wood soap like with wood floors.

Laminate Counters

Similar to laminate flooring, counter materials are made thick so they can withstand hard use. You'll still need a cutting board with them to protect the surface, but they hold up well under a variety of conditions and they resist staining. And you can get finishes including plain colors, bright counters with embedded foil features, fake stone and tile, mock glass finishes, and more.

Modular counter units are available for standard kitchens, and it's also possible to cut a laminate counter to size so it will fit in a custom project. You may need to work with both a contractor and a plumber on the placement to get everything installed correctly. In the case of a counter with an embedded range, an electrician or gas expert will also need to be involved.

Laminate Cupboards

Laminate often shows up as a veneer for cupboards, where manufacturers use thin laminate sheeting to get the right look and feel. It's a great material for cupboards because of its durability and ease of use; you can just wipe it down if spills occur, and it comes in a range of finishes. Want counters to have a '60s modern look with bright blocks of color? Various wood finishes? Laminate can offer all that and more.

Laminate Walls

Yes, you can even use laminate products on your walls. In fact, they make great splashbacks. Patterns like wallpaper and other materials are available, along with textured materials, in what is known as thermoplastic laminate. This material stands out, but it's every bit as durable and easy to maintain as other laminate types.

Now that you know more about the types of laminate available on the market, you may also be interested in the fact that numerous green laminates are available. These are made with post-consumer materials, and like other laminate products, the sealing processes ensures limited release of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that could make the environment in your kitchen unpleasant.

A contractor can discuss the various laminate products available for a given project and what the best choice for your needs might be. Don't be afraid to ask for samples to look at and take home; sometimes you need to see the product in situ to really determine if it's going to be right for the job. And remember to take good care of your laminate once it's installed.

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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