What Are Laminate Countertops, and What Projects Do They Work Well For?

Bry'Ana Arvie
Written by Bry'Ana Arvie
Updated June 20, 2022
A contemporary white kitchen with laminate countertop
Photo: jodiejohnson/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Laminate countertops give homeowners stylish countertops at a budget-friendly price

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Laminate countertops have come a long way in terms of durability and design, from simple to high-end, while remaining affordable. If your kitchen could use a refresh—whether it’s a glossy white surface or a chippy mid-century look—laminate offers a range of designs and colorways at a price that’s easy on the budget. Read on for more about laminate countertop pros and cons, installation, maintenance, and costs. 

How Are Laminate Countertops Made?

Laminate countertops consist of a combination of resin-soaked kraft paper as the bottom layers that are glued onto a particleboard base. Then the top layer is the decorative layer with a solid or pattern design. 

Solid colors get an additional, more durable layer of resin to protect against wear and tear. For patterned layers, they’re not soaked in resin directly. Instead, they’re stacked with transparent overlay paper saturated with resin for protection. 

Once all the layers are ready, each layer required for a laminate sheet goes into a press that uses intense heat to bind all of them together.

Laminate countertops are known for their lightweight yet durable quality, as well as being an aesthetically versatile surface.

Pros of Laminate Countertops

A modern kitchen with grey cupboards, oak cabinets and laminate countertop
Photo: Alphotographic/E+/Getty Images

Here are some noteworthy pros of laminate countertops that’ll cover most homeowners’ basic needs:

Easy to Install

Laminate countertops are lightweight compared to natural stone and can be a DIY project for handy homeowners. Countertop installation entails the following general steps:

  1. Remove the existing countertop.

  2. Measure the countertop area and dry-fit the laminate material.

  3. Secure the new countertop to the cabinets with adhesive.

  4. Install backsplash and seal (or caulk) along the wall joint.

Budget-Friendly Design Options

Since laminate is made in a factory, there are endless design options for you to choose from. Plus, if you love the look of natural stone kitchen countertops but not the price tag, you can get look-alikes with laminate.  

Low Maintenance

No sealing or special products are required with laminate. And cleaning requires minimal effort; just wipe with soapy water and go. 

Cons of Laminate Countertops

While laminate countertops do offer nice advantages, there are some key downsides that you should consider:

Durability 

Laminate countertops are far more durable than when they first came out over 50 years ago. But, they’re still less durable than some of the natural stone kitchen countertops. 

They’re not scratch- and heat-resistant. So, it’s best to use a cutting board when you’re cutting something in the kitchen. And to avoid burning your surfaces, don’t place hot pots directly on them.

Resale Value

If it’s not your forever home, buying laminate countertops won’t increase your home’s resale value. 

Laminate Countertop Maintenance and Repair

Because laminate countertops are prone to signs of wear-and-tear like dents, dings, and scratches. You can make spot repairs with epoxy putty or a laminate repair paste; however, more extensive marking or damage may require a full countertop replacement.

If you want to restore your laminate countertop’s shine, you can do that with an easy, homemade mixture of water and vinegar (1 tablespoon of vinegar for every 2 cups of water).

Are Laminate Countertops Worth the Cost?

Here’s a breakdown of what each countertop material costs: 

  • Laminate countertops cost $10–$40 per square foot

  • Marble costs $40–$100 per square foot

  • Granite costs $40–$60 per square foot

  • Quartz comes in at $50–$200 per square foot

When they are well-maintained, laminate countertops typically last for about 20 to 30 years before needing to be replaced. Not quite as long as the lifespan of marble or granite, but you’ll certainly get your money’s worth for everyday use.

Let’s look at how laminate stacks up against some of the most in-demand countertop materials:

Laminate vs. Marble Countertops

Marble is a natural stone with a unique, classic style that can add charm to your countertops. 

Choose marble over laminate for:

  • Appearance: No slab of marble is similar, so it gives your home a one-of-a-kind look.

  • Durability: Marble is more stain- and heat-resistant than plastic laminate. Plus, it naturally stays cool and always remains below room temperature.

  • Longevity: While an investment, marble can last for decades.

But, while it’s stain-resistant, marble is prone to dull spots, known as etching, when it comes into contact with acids like lemon and vinegar over time. This can lead to scratches showing through. 

Marble is beautiful to look at, but it also requires pretty high maintenance to keep that way. Since it’s a porous surface, you’ll need to periodically seal it to prevent discoloration and scratching. Also, to keep it looking polished, marble requires cleaning products designed specifically for it. 

Laminate vs. Granite Countertops

Granite is a natural stone straight out of the ground that’s rich in design and quality. 

Choose granite over laminate for:

  • Appearance: It offers homeowners distinct patterns, colors, and veining that they can’t find anywhere else.

  • Durability: It’s resistant to heat stains, and scratches. 

  • Longevity: Granite is far more expensive, but it can last a lifetime. 

But resistance doesn’t equal immunity. Etching can still occur if it hasn’t been properly sealed when it comes into contact with acidic foods, and it’s more noticeable on lighter granite countertops. 

Both granite and laminate countertops can be cleaned with warm, soapy water. But granite does require more maintenance with yearly resealing to prevent etching. 

Laminate vs. Quartz Countertops

Quartz is an engineered stone that’s aesthetically pleasing and can brighten up any home. 

Choose quartz over laminate for:

  • Appearance: Since 90% of quartz is made from ground-up quartz particles it has a more realistic look to it than laminate. 

  • Durability: It’s one of the hardest materials in the world and is more resistant to heat, stains, and scratches than laminate.

  • Lifetime Value: While pricey, quartz has incredible strength and durability which means it can last a lifetime.  

Some of quartz and laminate similarities are that they don’t require frequent sealing and you only need warm, soapy water to clean them. 

So, if you’re looking for an affordable countertop surface that can still make your kitchen look timeless, even if it’s not a long-term investment, then laminate might be right for you. 

Contact your local laminate countertop pro for inspiration and customized advice.

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