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How Are Laminate Countertops Made? E-mail
Laminate is a synthetic material, usually with plastic as its main component. The word laminate literally means sandwiching a material between two sheets of another material. The same principle applies to the construction of laminate countertops – the countertop material is sealed inside two layers of plastic, fused together by heat.

The primary tool used in making laminate countertops is an industrial-grade laminating machine. Laminating machines are made up of a powerful heat source and two large rollers, ranging in length from six to 12 feet, held together by two panels on either end. Some laminating machines have more than two rollers, which allow more than one laminate sheet to be produced at once. Mobile laminators, which resemble large irons, are used in the initial sealing.

Laminate countertops are made in different ways, depending on the type of plastic and the material fused with it. Traditional laminate countertops used melamine plastic, but manufacturers have introduced plastics reinforced with glass fibers and carbon. Melamine is usually combined with formaldehyde to produce the hard, durable plastic used in low-end laminate countertops. The sandwiched material is usually a thinner sheet called kraft paper, although newer models make use of thin melamine boards.

Kraft countertops

Kraft countertops have three basic components: kraft paper, decorative paper, and a melamine plastic coating. Several layers of kraft paper are ironed together and sealed into a single thick sheet with a heavy-duty adhesive. A sheet of decorative paper is secured on top with more adhesive. Some manufacturers also run kraft sheets through the laminating machine before the adhesive dries to make the decorative layer stick firmly and make the sheet more stiff and compact. The sheet is then placed between two layers of plastic laminate and run through the heated laminating machine rollers. The rollers press the sheets together into an almost solid slab, while the heaters fuse the edges together to seal the kraft paper inside the plastic.

Melamine countertops

A more expensive but more durable alternative to traditional kraft countertops is the pure melamine countertop. These are made of solid plastic throughout, although construction starts with separate sheets as well. Instead of kraft paper, sheets of melamine plastic are fused together. These sheets are usually thinner than the ones used as laminate in kraft countertops. A more powerful iron or mobile laminator is often used for melamine sheets, because the surfaces have to melt and blend into each other to form a solid surface. Some manufacturers prefer to add sheets one by one to make sure there are no hollow spots. This takes a lot of time and consumes a lot of power, so countertops made this way may be more expensive. The laminate is usually a reinforced plastic containing carbon or fiberglass.

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