|How are solid surface countertops made?|
Solid surface countertops get their name from the fact that their material is solid throughout the entire thickness. Solid surfaces make use of acrylic, polyester, or a combination of the two. Both are types of heavy-duty plastic commonly used in other household fixtures such as tubing and bathroom ware. Acrylic is usually considered superior in durability and quality compared to polyester.
The first step in solid surface countertop construction is setting up the foundation. A countertop foundation is a frame-like structure that has supports on each corner of the countertop. Usually made of hardwood, the foundation prepares the counter itself to take a countertop. It is made up of several thin sheets of hardwood held together by special wood glue. You will have to temporarily clear your counter of all its contents, so that it can be sanded, buffed, and smoothed to make sure that the foundation lies flat and even.
The foundation plays a great role in the countertops overall durability and resistance, so do not scrimp on this part. Choose the toughest foundation that your budget will allow, and have it installed by a professional. In the long run, the added cost of a quality foundation is well made up for by the savings you will get in maintenance and repair.
The substrate is the filling that makes up the inner layers of a solid surface countertop. It is the next most important part of the countertop, next to the foundation. The substrate is made up of layers of lightweight wood. Plywood is a popular option, but they crack very easily and need constant maintenance and occasional replacement. Choose a hardwood variety for a longer-lasting substrate.
The solid surface is the top layer of plastic that serves as the countertop itself. They are usually placed on top of the substrate and kept intact with special adhesives designed especially for solid surfaces. When installing the solid surface, remember to leave about half an inch between the substrate and solid surface to accommodate expansion, which is a solid surface countertops natural response to heat.
After installing the solid surface, you can apply a special finish to the top and sides of your countertop. This will help keep all the layers together. To get a glossy look and sleek feel, you can sand the surface with a 320 to 360 grit sandpaper. Although this is optional, almost all countertops are finished this way, because glossing also creates a barrier over the solid surface to prevent it from absorbing stains. Most manufactures sell their solid surface countertops in specific gloss levels, ranging from levels five to 18.
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