Wood and plastic laminates are a popular option for countertops because of their low cost and design options because they can be produced in bulk, they can be pre-fabricated or custom-fitted for your kitchen. They also offer more choices on color, finish, shape, and design. But they are also one of the least durable, especially compared to stone and marble countertops. Because they have relatively soft finishes, they are easily damaged by moisture, heat, impact, and other external factors.
Stains can easily be removed from laminate countertops, but scratches and burns are much harder to deal with. Simply put, there is no way to remove a scratch or burn from your countertop. However, there are ways to cover up the scratch, and better yet, prevent further damage.
Scratches on plastic countertops are more disfiguring than those on wood, because the inside color is exposed against the surface. An exception is the color-through laminate where the dye is applied evenly throughout the thickness. If your countertop is a color-through, small scratches will be hardly visible and do not have to be covered up.
For top-dyed countertops, you can cover up small scratches with a seam filler. This is usually available from laminate factories and distributors, and is available in different colors. To get a perfect match, get the seam filler from your manufacturer and ask for the exact shade of your countertop. If your countertop was custom-made, you can blend different colors to find the right shade. Apply the filler in thin layers, about 1/16 inch per coat, until the scratch is completely covered. Note that some fillers may lighten or darken upon drying.
For deep scratches, you can use a porcelain repair kit. You can find them in home supply and hardware shops. Look for those that contain colored epoxy to match the color. It may be harder to find an exact match, but you can check with your manufacturer to see if they sell their own kits.
There are also seam fills available for wood laminate countertops, but it's easier to find a matching color. You can also use a wood stainer to get a more accurate match. Make sure the fills are made specifically for wood; some will not bond properly or seep through the grain. After filling in the scratch, you can apply a coat of lacquer or other clear finish.;This will protect the fill from the elements while it dries.
Wood fills are usually available from hardware and home supply stores. You can buy just the fill itself, or an entire repair kit including wood dye or stainer. If your countertop is pre-fabricated, ask your dealer or manufacturer if they offer repair kits for your specific model.
If there are missing pieces or the wood is chipped or uneven, the best solution is to cover it up with a patch. First, cut away the damaged area to create a clean, straight edge. Scrape off the adhesive from the exposed area, then apply a fresh coat of adhesive or contact cement. Cut the patch about one inch larger than the hole on all sides, then apply adhesive on the back. Press the patch over the damaged area and let it dry for 15 minutes. Remember to position it carefully, as you cannot move the patch after it has made contact with the adhesive. There are also thinner patch sheets available, which come with adhesive backings. These are ideal for large but shallow scratches.
The best protection is to use the countertop properly. Many people mistake wood laminate for butcher block, which is a similar material made of solid wood throughout. Butcher blocks can double as chopping boards, but laminates cannot. Most scratches on laminate countertops come from sharp utensils.
One common myth is that wood laminate can be protected with a second finish, usually lacquer or polyurethane. This will protect against impact, but not from surface damage. It can even make scratches more disfiguring because the scratch is more visible against the glossy surface. To protect the surface, put protective sheets or racks under hot objects before placing them on the countertop.