Although solid surface countertops are very durable, they are still prone to damage and cracking. Cracks usually appear on the edges and corners, and seldom on the main surface. A cracked solid surface countertop can be a great eyesore and ruin the entire look of your kitchen or bathroom.|
Solid surface countertops, especially the laminated kind, can crack when exposed to high concentrations of pressure. Pressure may come from the environment and other external factors, such as extreme heat andĀ extreme cold. Just like any solid material, solid surface countertops expand when exposed to heat. Solid surface countertops in humid areas are constantly exposed to warm and humid weather, and tend to gather moisture within the interior. This causes the whole countertop to expand, very gradually the change is almost unnoticeable. Once the countertop has expanded beyond its normal capacity, cracks begin to appear on the surface.
A solid surface countertop may also shrink, especially in dry and cold weather. If the countertop shrinks to a size smaller than than its inner layer, cracks will start forming on the inside and spread to the outer layers as the countertop continues to shrink. Solid surface countertops are safest at 25 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidities of 45% to 55%.
Techniques to avoid cracking
The good news is that cracks on solid surface countertops can easily be prevented. It is important to remember the six factors that contribute to a countertop's heat and cold resistance: preconditioning, proper substrate selection, good adhesive bonds, proper inside corner fabrication, seam placement, and proper installation.
Before construction, it is best to expose your solid surface countertop to the conditions that emulate the climate in your area for at least 48 hours. If you live in a hot, humid area like California or Ohio, position your countertop in front of a fireplace or another hot area prior to installing. This will make it more resistant to the conditions most likely to affect it during its use. You can order preconditioned countertops from manufacturers or dealers, or you can have them preconditioned by your contractor.
The substrate is the inner material that serves as the filling for laminated solid surface countertops. Avoid plywood substrates they shrink and expand more easily and cannot withstand frequent and sudden temperature fluctuations. They are also weak against water damage. Constant exposure to water can make them rot and disintegrate.
Right adhesive bond
Your choice of adhesive bond determines how well and how long your solid surface countertop will hold together. Look for a strong, heavy-duty adhesive bond that can firmly keep your substrate and countertop together. A stronger and more rigid bond will dramatically decrease the chances of your countertop cracking. Some good choices are wood glue, PVC, and white glue. These are very resistant to water and heat and also double as cushions against impact and pressure. They also minimize shrinking and expansion.
Inside corner fabrication
The corner cutouts of your solid surface countertop should be as large as possible. Choose rounded or rolled corners with a radius of at least one-eighth of an inch. Another thing you can do is sand the edges of your countertop regularly, once every few weeks, to keep it free from chips and smooth out any bumps on the surface.
Make sure the seams are firm and well glued together. You may want to get a spare bottle of adhesive so that you can retouch the seam when you need to. Make sure the seams are positioned in spots that get the most support. Ask your contractor about seam layout options.
Proper installation is one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of solid surface countertopĀ cracking. Make sure that your sink fits perfectly into its slot, leaving no room for water leaks. If the sink does not fit, do not try to squeeze it in. Also make sure that your countertop is within a safe distance from pipes, electrical boxes, and panel edges.