Because of their layered construction, laminate countertops are the weakest and least durable of all countertop types. Between each layer are several hollow spaces that the laminating machine missed or where the adhesive had not seeped in. These spaces become weak spots in the final product. A typical laminate countertop will have weak spots every few inches.|
Because of these weak spots, laminate countertops have a lower threshold for impact, pressure, heat, and most of the common causes of countertop breakage. Much of their strength depends on the laminate cover once you break this layer, you open your countertop to a world of potential damage.
Types of cracking
Laminate countertop cracks can be external or internal. External damage refers to cracks or breaks on the outer layer itself, exposing the kraft or melamine layers inside. The inner layers are particularly brittle, so external damage on a laminate countertop tends to spread fast. A laminate countertop that incurs external damage will continue to be usable for a few months up to a year, after which it may need to be replaced.
Internal cracks are made when a heavy object falls so fast that the force goes right through the laminate and does not spread until it reaches the inner layers. The crack occurs in the inner layers and leaves the laminate with little or no blemish. Internal cracks are hard to identify because there are no signs of damage on the outside. Assuming normal countertop use, the outer laminate can usually hold the countertop together despite the cracked interior for one to three years longer.
Cracks in laminate countertops are most commonly caused by impact, extreme temperatures, or misuse. Impact can come from falling objects, such as plates or utensils, or from forceful contact with knives and other metal utensils.
Extreme heat comes from placing hot dishes or pots on the countertop straight from the stove. Heat-generating appliances such as microwave ovens or toasters can also heat your countertop enough to cause cracks. Laminate countertops can also crack in extreme cold, although this is rare. Cracks caused by cold usually happen when a house is left vacant for most of the winter, leaving the countertop to gather cold. Drastic fluctuations between hot and cold can weaken a laminate as well, making it more vulnerable to cracking.
The most common cases of countertop misuse involves denting the surface with knives. Unlike more durable countertop types such as granite and engineered stone, laminate countertops cannot double as chopping boards. Many people do their chopping and slicing directly on the countertop, not knowing that the surface is plastic and very easy to damage. Other cases of misuse are letting children sit on the countertop, subjecting it to a lot of unnecessary weight, and leaning heavily on the edges.